Xenocrates and the Two-Category Scheme

Roberto Granieri 1
  • 1 Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto, 170 St. George St., Toronto, Canada
Roberto Granieri
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  • Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto, 170 St. George St., Toronto, Ontario, M5R 2M8, Canada
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Simplicius reports that Xenocrates and Andronicus reproached Aristotle for positing an excessive number of categories, which can conveniently be reduced to two: τὰ καθ᾽αὑτά and τὰ πρός τι. Simplicius, followed by several modern commentators, interprets this move as being equivalent to a division into substance and accidents. I aim to show that, as far as Xenocrates is concerned, this interpretation is untenable and that the substance-accidents contrast cannot be equivalent to Xenocrates’ per se-relative one. Rather, Xenocrates aimed to stress the primacy of Plato’s binary distinction of beings, as presented at Sophist 255c13–4, over Aristotle’s list of the categories.

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