Aristotle’s Categories is a work of singular importance, both historically and philosophically. On the one hand, it is one of the few works of philosophy that has been read, discussed, and commented upon without interruption since antiquity—indeed, at various times in the past, writing a commentary on the Categories was considered a way of doing philosophy. On the other hand, the Categories is also very much alive in contemporary philosophical discourse, as a quick glance at, say, D Higgins’ Sameness and Substance Renewed (Cambridge, 2001) or E J Lowe’s Four-Category Ontology (Oxford, 2006) can show. Ample reason, then, to study this short treatise in more detail.
To study one of the most influential texts of antiquity.
By the end of the lectures you should have an understanding both of the questions Aristotle tries to answer and of his answers. You should also be able briefly to explain and assess any passage from the Categories.
For the first five chapters (our first two lectures), the reference text will be J L Ackrill’s translation. For the rest of the treatise (our last two lectures), we shall use E M Edghill’s translation. You can find a printable version of both translations on the right-hand side.
- L1: 29 October | Chapters 1–3
- Introduction to Aristotle and his work. The Antepraedicamenta.
- L2: 31 October | Chapters 4–5
- Praedicamenta I: Overview; Substance.
- L3: 5 November | Chapters 6–9
- Praedicamenta II: The other categories.
- L4: 7 November | Chapters 10–15
Ackrill JL (1963) Aristotle: Categories and De Interpretatione, Clarendon Aristotle Series, Oxford: Clarendon Press
If you are serious about either Aristotle or metaphysics in general, you might want to own this—used versions are available for less than 7£.
Barnes J, ed. (1984) The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation, 2 voll., Princeton: Princeton UP
This set includes Ackrill’s translation. Well worth acquiring.
Edghill EM (1928) ‘Categoriae and De Interpretatione’, in: WD Ross, ed., The Works of Aristotle, Oxford: Clarendon Press
The predecessor to Barnes’ collection. You may also download the entire book.
Commentaries, Studies, etc.
Barnes J, ed. (1995) The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle, Cambridge: CUP
Includes an excellent bibliography.
Barnes J (2000) Aristotle: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: OUP
Very clear and a pleasure to read (and also very cheap).
Frede M (1987) ‘Individuals in Aristotle’, in his Essays in Ancient Philosophy, Oxford: OUP
A classic. Just as worthwhile are two other papers included in this volume, viz. ‘The Title, Unity, and Authenticity of the Aristotelian Categories’ and ‘Categories in Aristotle’.
Irwin T (1988)
Aristotle’s First Principles, Oxford: Clarendon Press
See especially sections 26–43.