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The Byzantine Reception of


Aristotle’s Theory of Meaning
KATERINA IERODIAKONOU

Résumés
Français English
Les érudits byzantins ont composé, principalement à des fins éducatives, des paraphrases
et des commentaires sur la logique aristotélicienne et, en particulier, sur le De
interpretatione. Certaines de ces œuvres trahissent clairement leur origine ancienne et
d'autres témoignent soit de traditions anciennes perdues, soit des tentatives des Byzantins
d'expliquer le texte d'Aristote. Mon but est de présenter les commentaires byzantins sur
les premiers chapitres du De interpretatione, dans lesquels nous trouvons des traces de la
théorie de la signification d'Aristote. Je commence par rassembler le matériel textuel
pertinent du XIe au XVe siècle, ensuite, je discute des points de vue byzantins sur quatre
sujets qui ont un intérêt philosophique et historique   : les mêmes pensées sont-elles
partagées par tous ? En quoi les ressemblances, les symboles et les signes diffèrent-ils ?
Les noms sont-ils par nature ou par convention   ? Les parties des noms composés
signifient-elles ?

Byzantine scholars composed, primarily for educational purposes, paraphrases and


commentaries on Aristotelian logic and, in particular, on Aristotle’s De interpretatione.
Some of these works clearly betray their ancient provenance and others are testimony
either to lost ancient traditions or to the Byzantines’ own attempts to make sense of
Aristotle’s puzzling text. My aim is to present the Byzantine comments on the first
chapters of the De interpretatione, in which we find traces of Aristotle’s theory of
meaning. I begin by collecting the relevant textual material from the eleventh to the
fifteenth century and, then, I discuss the Byzantine views on four topics that seem to be of
some philosophical and historical interest: Are the same thoughts shared by all people? In
what way do likenesses, symbols and signs differ? Are names by nature or by convention?
Do parts of composite names have meaning?

Entrées d’index

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Mots-clés : De interpretatione, signification, symboles, signes, ressemblances, pensées,


noms, Psellos Michel, Magentenos Léon, Gennadios Scholarios Georges
Keywords : De interpretatione, meaning, symbols, signs, likenesses, thoughts, names,
Psellos Michael, Magentenos Leo, Gennadios Scholarios George

Texte intégral

Introduction
1 Five lines at the beginning of Aristotle’s De interpretatione are commonly
considered as the core of the Aristotelian theory of meaning:

“Now spoken sounds are symbols of affections in the soul, and written
marks symbols of spoken sounds. And just as written marks are not the
same for all men, neither are spoken sounds. But what these are in the first
place signs of – affections of the soul – are the same for all; and what these
affections are likenesses of – actual things – are also the same.” (De int. 1,
16a3-8; trans. J. L. Ackrill)1

2 This central passage in ancient philosophy is rather concise and famously


difficult to interpret. The commentators of late antiquity studiously tried to
unravel its claims and explicate it by producing detailed scholia of which only
some have survived. The commentaries on the De interpretatione written by
Alexander of Aphrodisias, Porphyry, Iamblichus and Syrianus are unfortunately
lost, although we are able to partly reconstruct them on the basis of Ammonius’
and Boethius’ extant commentaries on this treatise2. In addition, the following
late-antique commentaries have also survived: very few scholia by Olympiodorus
in codex Urbinas graecus 35, edited by Leonardo Tarán3; a commentary by the
much disputed seventh century commentator Stephanus, who seems to depend
upon Ammonius but also upon an independent source4; finally, an anonymous
commentary in codex Parisinus graecus 2064, also edited by Leonardo Tarán
who argues, against Adolf Busse, the editor of Ammonius’ commentary, that this
is not by Olympiodorus but by some scholar in the Alexandrian school of the late
sixth or seventh century who was influenced, too, by Ammonius5.
3 But the late-antique commentaries on Aristotle’s De interpretatione are not at
the centre of my attention here; rather, I am interested in showing that these are
not the only Greek commentaries on this Aristotelian treatise. For the De
interpretatione was undoubtedly one of the ancient works that Byzantine
scholars customarily included in their philosophical curriculum, which typically
started with the study of Porphyry’s Isagoge and continued with Aristotle’s
Categories, the De interpretatione and the Prior Analytics 1.1-7. This suggests of
course that in Byzantium, too, there was a need for composing commentaries on
Aristotelian logic primarily for educational purposes. Indeed, we have Byzantine
writings commenting, in particular, on the De interpretatione, of which some
clearly betray their ancient provenance whereas others are testimony either to
lost ancient traditions or to the Byzantines’ own attempts to make sense of
Aristotle’s puzzling text. In what follows, I begin by presenting the relevant
textual material from the eleventh to the fifteenth century and, then, I examine
four topics relevant to the Aristotelian theory of meaning, which are discussed in
these works and seem to be of some philosophical and historical interest.

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The Byzantine Commentaries

Michael Psellos (1503), Ammonii Hermei


commentaria in librum Peri hermeneias.
Magentini archiepiscopi Mitylenensis in
eundem enarratio (ed. Aldus Manutius),
6
Venice
4 Michael Psellos (1018-1076) was one of the most erudite and prolific thinkers
of the Byzantine Middle Ages7. He taught all branches of philosophy and greatly
contributed to the revival of philosophical studies in Byzantium. More
specifically, he provided philosophical instruction by closely reading and
commenting on Aristotle’s logical treatises, which he thought should be given a
propaedeutic role before dealing with more philosophical issues, but which he
also saw as an intellectual exercise that enables one to dispose of heretical views.
Psellos had a close familiarity with most of the ancient Greek commentators and
drew extensively, for instance, from Alexander of Aphrodisias, Ammonius,
Olympiodorus and John Philoponus. In fact, he seems to have been well
acquainted with the whole corpus of Greek philosophy, which at the time was
somewhat larger than it is now, so he read and used philosophical works that
have since been lost.
5 There are at least 37 codices of Psellos’ paraphrase of the De interpretatione,
dating from the twelfth to the sixteenth century, and the attribution to Psellos is
well attested. Its characteristics, namely that it aims at making Aristotle’s
wording clearer, that it is not long – Ammonius’ commentary is 272 pages in its
CAG edition, while Psellos’ text is approximately 90 pages –, that it is in a
continuous flow and that the author speaks as if he were Aristotle himself,
classify it as a paraphrase rather than as a commentary8. Aldus Manutius’ edition
of this paraphrase suffers from a great number of misreadings, displacements of
passages and unnecessary additions9.

John Italos (1956), Questiones Quodlibetales


(ed. P. Joannou), Ettal, Buch-Kunstverlag Ettal
6 John Italos (c.1025-?) was a student of Psellos and occupies a special place in
the history of Byzantine thought for having been put on trial and condemned by
the Orthodox Church on the charge of having advocated the systematic use of
logical reasoning in clarifying central theological issues10. He wrote
commentaries on Aristotle’s logical treatises, in particular on the Topics, and two
small treatises on dialectic and on the Aristotelian syllogisms. He also composed
a collection of ninety-three answers to philosophical questions posed to him by
his students, the Quaestiones quodlibetales, among which there are some that
concern Aristotle’s De interpretatione. Unfortunately, none of them focuses on
the topics raised in the first chapters.

Michael of Ephesus: codex Parisinus graecus


1917

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7 We know next to nothing about Michael of Ephesus’ life, except that he most
probably belonged, together with Eustratios of Nicaea, in princess Anna
Komnena’s circle of Byzantine scholars, who had in the twelfth century the task
of producing commentaries on Aristotle’s works11. Michael’s comments on the
Sophistici elenchi, the Nicomachean Ethics, part of the Metaphysics, some
treatises from the Parva naturalia and from Aristotle’s biological works have
survived. There are also unedited scholia on the De interpetatione attributed to
him in the margins of codex Parisinus graecus 1917. According to Michele Trizio,
who has studied them closely, they seem to reproduce sections of Psellos’
paraphrase12.

Leo Magentenos (1503), Ammonii Hermei


commentaria in librum Peri hermeneias.
Magentini archiepiscopi Mitylenensis in
eundem enarratio (ed. Aldus Manutius), Venice
8 Leo Magentenos possibly lived in the late twelfth early thirteenth century and
wrote commentaries on Aristotle’s logical works13. Only parts of his
commentaries have appeared in critical editions and, consequently, have not
been systematically studied. In the case of his commentary on the Sophistici
elenchi, Sten Ebbesen has claimed that Magentenos did little more than rework
older collections of scholia and compose a brief general introduction14. In the
case of his commentary on the Topics15, though, he seems to have added
explanatory material that is not known from other sources.
9 There are two works on Aristotle’s De interpretatione attributed to Leo
Magentenos: an unedited collection of scholia in codex Vaticanus graecus 244,
and a commentary edited by Aldus Manutius that is printed right after Psellos’
paraphrase. The two works exhibit many similarities, but the commentary in the
Aldine edition seems superior. Its authenticity has been contested by Adolf Busse
in his preface to Ammonius’ commentary, but Börje Bydén has recently
suggested that Busse’s grounds are weak and there might be positive reasons for
thinking that it is after all authentic. Although this issue cannot be settled until
we have access to more logical works by Magentenos, in what comes next, I refer
to the commentary in the Aldine edition as Magentenos’ commentary.16 It is of
similar size to Psellos’ paraphrase, but not in a continuous flow; it seems to be
indebted to Ammonius’ commentary, but also draws on other sources.

Nikephoros Blemmydes (1865), Epitome logica


(ed. J. Wegelin), Patrologia Graeca 142,
675-1004
10 The introduction to logic, written by the Byzantine polymath Nikephoros
Blemmydes (1197-1269)17, seems to have been the most circulated logical
compendium during the whole Byzantine era. It contains chapters relevant to the
De interpretatione, but Blemmydes’ discussion of the topics raised at the
beginning of the Aristotelian treatise is very brief and rather superficial.

George Pachymeres (1548), Epitome logica,

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18
Paris
11 George Pachymeres (1242-c.1310) was a learned scholar and one of the most
prolific commentators of Byzantine times19. The first book of his Philosophia, in
which he presented in twelve books a survey of all of Aristotle’s works, is
dedicated to logic and includes sections on the De interpretatione, but there are
no relevant comments to its first five lines20. Pachymeres also composed a full-
fledged commentary on the De interpretatione, which constitutes part of his
extensive commentary on the Organon that is still unedited (e.g. codex
Vindobonensis phil. graecus 150)21.

George Scholarios Gennadios (1936), Oeuvres


Complètes, tome VII : Commentaires et
résumés des ouvrages d’Aristote (eds L. Petit,
X. A. Siderides & M. Jugie), Paris, Maison de la
Bonne Presse, p. 238-348
12 George Scholarios Gennadios was the first patriarch of Constantinople after its
capture by the Turks in the fifteenth century22. His principal interests were
theological, but he also composed philosophical writings, translated many
scholastic works (for instance, by Thomas Aquinas and Peter of Spain) and
commented on Aristotle’s physical and logical treatises. What clearly
differentiates him from the other Byzantine commentators is the degree to which
he was influenced by Western medieval authors, especially in his extensive
logical commentaries on Ars Vetus, i.e. his commentaries on Porphyry’s Isagoge,
on Aristotle’s Categories and on the De interpretatione.
13 Sten Ebbesen and Jan Pinborg have convincingly argued that large chunks of
Scholarios’ comments on Porphyry’s Isagoge and Aristotle’s Categories are mere
translations from Radulphus Brito, the late thirteenthand early fourteenth
century scholastic philosopher and theologian who taught Aristotelian logic at
the University of Paris23. Moreover, John Demetracopoulos has suggested that in
the De interpretatione commentary, which constitutes the longest Byzantine
commentary on this Aristotelian treatise, Scholarios closely followed Thomas
Aquinas. Nevertheless, it should also be stressed that, in this particular work,
Scholarios seems to have taken into serious consideration Ammonius’
commentary as well as Psellos’ paraphrase, even though he disagrees with both of
them in certain issues; concerning the authenticity of chapter 14, for instance,
Scholarios regarded it as a genuine exercise compiled by Aristotle himself for his
students24.

Topics in the Byzantine


Commentaries
14 But do Byzantine scholars have anything of interest to tell us about the traces
of Aristotle’s theory of meaning in the first chapters of De interpretatione? In
this section, I focus on four specific topics that are given some attention in
Psellos’ paraphrase and Magentenos’ commentary, and I refer only incidentally
to Blemmydes’ and Scholarios’ comments. For both Psellos and Magentenos were

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at a fairly early stage of the Byzantine commentary tradition and had direct
access to the ancient commentaries, when they composed their writings on this
Aristotelian treatise.

Are the same thoughts shared by all people?


15 At the beginning of his De interpretatione paraphrase, Psellos (in De int.
1.9-24)25 covers familiar Aristotelian territory: there are four items, he says, that
should be discussed in the present investigation, namely things (pragmata),
thoughts (noêmata), spoken sounds (phônai) and letters (grammata). Spoken
sounds and letters are by imposition (thesei), whereas things and thoughts, i.e.
the soul’s affections (pathêmata), are by nature (phusei). To support this claim,
Psellos uses an argument that he finds in Ammonius, according to which things
and thoughts are shared by all people, whereas spoken sounds and letters may
differ:

“Of these four items, Aristotle says that two are by nature and two by
imposition. He divides those by nature from those by imposition using the
following rule: that which is the same for all people, he says, is by nature,
and what is not the same for all is not by nature but by imposition. And he
is right in this. For, since the nature of the universe is one, it obviously
makes the things said to belong to one species everywhere similar; but if
some things be different from one people to another, these would not be
products of nature. Now, since things and thoughts are the same among all
people (for everywhere the species of man or horse or lion is the same, and
similarly the thought concerned with man or stone or any other thing is the
same), while vocal sounds and letters are not the same among all people
(for Greeks use different vocal sounds from Phoenicians, as do Egyptians:
‘different is the tongue of different peoples’ says the poet, and, moreover,
each people writes its own vocal sounds with different letters), then it is for
this reason that <Aristotle> insists that things and thoughts are by nature,
but that vocal sounds and letters are by imposition, not by nature.”
(Ammonius, in De int. 19.1-18; trans. D. Blank)26.

16 Psellos follows Ammonius’ argument closely. But what is interesting to note is


that, when Psellos states that thoughts are by nature, he adds the hypothetical
clause ‘if indeed they are the same for all people’ (in De int. 1.12)27. Does this
hypothetical clause imply some doubt whether thoughts are always shared by all
people? Not necessarily. It could simply mean that thoughts are considered by
nature granted that they are the same for all people; since Psellos himself
believes that it is true to say that they are the same for all people, it is thereby
shown that thoughts are by nature. Besides, nowhere else in his paraphrase does
Psellos make any other remark suggesting such a doubt.
17 On the other hand, we find in Magentenos’ commentary (in De int. 3.53-55)28
the explicit statement that Alexander of Aphrodisias objected to the view that
thoughts are the same for all people, because actually people often have different
thoughts for the same things. Interestingly enough, Magentenos also gives a reply
to this objection, a reply that he even adopts himself, namely that in the case of
many different thoughts only the true one (to alêthes) among them should be
considered as a thought in the proper sense, or else, as the proper thought
(kuriôs noêma). This is not the only passage in which Magentenos refers
explicitly in his commentary to Alexander. However, although the other
references are mere repetitions of what we already find in the Greek commentary
tradition, Magentenos is the only commentator who provides us with
information about Alexander’s objection to Aristotle’s claim that thoughts are the

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same for all people. Is Magentenos, here, a reliable source?


18 Richard Sorabji has pointed out that in Boethius’ second commentary on the
De interpretatione, Alexander is reported to have understood Aristotle as
claiming that the thoughts in spoken sounds are symbols, rather than likenesses,
of the soul’s affections, just as spoken sounds are symbols of thoughts and letters
are symbols of spoken sounds29:

“And Alexander tries to explain the passage in this way. He meant, he says,
that things that are in spoken sound signify thoughts of the mind and
proves this with another example. For what is in spoken sound signifies
affections of the soul in the same way as what is written signifies spoken
sounds. (35.21-31; trans. A. Smith)30.

19 That is to say, according to Alexander, and contrary to the Neoplatonist


commentators31, thoughts seem not to be identical to affections of the soul;
rather, he takes what is in spoken sounds to be thoughts, or else concepts, which
suggests that thoughts or concepts are merely symbols of the soul’s affections.
Hence, Alexander’s distinction between thoughts in spoken sounds and the soul’s
affections allows him to claim that thoughts are not shared by all people.
20 Furthermore, Boethius mentions two other Aristotelians who, earlier than
Alexander, raised objections to the claim that thoughts are the same for all
people. Alexander’s teacher Herminus claimed that thoughts signified by spoken
sounds are not the same for all people, since in equivocation it happens that the
same spoken sound signifies more than one thought. In reply to this, Porphyry is
said to have insisted that Aristotle’s assertion was not false when applied to
equivocation: the speaker thinks about and expresses a certain thought, but if the
listener thinks about something different, the speaker should simply clarify what
he wanted to signify and the listener should accept it, so that they both agree on
one thought (39.25-40.28; cf. Ammonius, in De int. 24.12-21)32. In addition, the
second century Aristotelian commentator Aspasius raised a more serious
objection, by questioning whether it makes sense to claim that thoughts can be
the same for all people when there is admittedly such diverse opinion on the just
and the good (41.13-42.6).
21 So, there is no good reason, I think, to reject Magentenos’ testimony, according
to which Alexander raised an objection to Aristotle’s claim that thoughts are the
same for all people. Besides, Magentenos’ reply that only the true thought among
the many different ones should be considered proper reminds us of Porphyry’s
defense of the Aristotelian view; the true thought turns out to be the one that
both the speaker and the listener are willing to agree on. But before we leave
Magentenos’ account of this topic, it is also worth mentioning that among his
relevant unedited scholia in codex Vaticanus graecus 24433, we do not find
Alexander’s objection or the reply to this objection. In fact, in a scholium on
folium 93v, Magentenos stresses that it is obvious that thoughts are the same for
all people and gives the following example: the thought, or else, the concept of
fire or that of water are the same for all people, namely that fire is combustible
and hot while water is cold and liquid34.
22 Finally, let us examine what Scholarios has to say on this topic in his lengthy
commentary on the De interpretatione. For it is interesting that Scholarios, too,
acknowledges that there is a puzzle when it comes to the soul’s affections. Can
they be said to be the same for all people, even though the spoken sounds used as
their signs are not the same? Scholarios disregards this concern, by giving the
following example (in De int. 1.103-108)35: when the Greeks and the Latins look
at a stone, although they use different spoken sounds, their souls are affected in
the same way and they have the same thoughts. Note, here, how the Latins creep

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into Scholarios’ example, substituting the Phoenicians and the Egyptians


mentioned by the other commentators.
23 Moreover, later on in his commentary, Scholarios returns to this topic and
discusses the same objection attributed by Boethius to Aspasius, namely that
people may have diverse opinions about the same things. Scholarios replies to
this objection, by pointing out that there is no disagreement among people when
it comes to simple thoughts; it is only about composite thoughts that people’s
opinions may differ, for it is only composite thoughts that are either true or false
(in De int. 1.257-268)36. Unfortunately, Scholarios’ reply only shifts the problem,
since it leaves unanswered the question whether simple thoughts can actually be
said to be the same for all people. Still, his comments, just like those by all the
other commentators, bear witness to the growing awareness of the issue that,
contrary to Aristotle’s claim, thoughts may not be shared by all people, and hence
they should not perhaps be regarded as being by nature.

In what way do likenesses, symbols and signs


differ?
24 Both Ammonius and Stephanus devote some lines in their commentaries
explicating the three terms used by Aristotle in chapter 1 of De interpretatione:
likeness (homoiôma), symbol (sumbol) and sign (sêmeion); thoughts are said to
be likenesses of things, while spoken sounds and letters are symbols or signs of
thoughts, and indirectly of things. Ammonius defends the thesis that there is an
important difference between, on the one hand, likenesses, and on the other
hand, symbols and signs. He also states that there is no difference between
symbols and signs, for these two terms are used by Aristotle interchangeably:

“Likeness differs from symbol in that it wants to image the very nature of a
thing as far as possible and it is not in our power to change it (for if the
painted likeness of Socrates in a picture does not have his baldness, snub
nose and bulging eyes, it would not be called his likeness), while a symbol
or sign (the Philosopher calls it both) is entirely up to us, given that it
arises from our invention alone. For example, both the hearing of the
trumpet and the hurling of a torch can be symbols of when the opposing
troops must join battle.” (Ammonius, in De int. 20.1-9; trans. D. Blank)37.

25 And the same view is presented by Stephanus (in De int. 5.38-6.13).


26 There is nothing on this topic in Psellos’ paraphrase, apart from the sharp
distinction that he draws, as we have previously noted, between the spoken
sounds that are symbols of thoughts and indirectly of things, and the thoughts
that are images (apeikonismata), imitations (apomakseis) and likenesses of
things (in De int. 1.20-24)38. Magentenos, however, follows closely the two
ancient commentators with regard to the difference between likenesses, on the
one hand, and signs and symbols, on the other. Most importantly, though, he
also adds a crucial difference between signs and symbols. He claims that,
although both signs and symbols are by imposition, we talk of signs in cases that
hold universally, for instance we say that smoke is a sign of fire, or that shadow is
a sign of a body that is lit, whereas we talk of symbols only in specific cases, for
instance we say that this particular bird and its particular way of flying are
symbols of war or famine (in De int. 3.49-52)39. Is this difference between signs
and symbols something Magentenos borrows from a lost ancient commentary? Is
it a distinction he himself draws? It is difficult to settle this issue, since the
relevant evidence is missing. Also, it is difficult to figure out whether this is a

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legitimate distinction to draw between symbols and signs, before all the ancient
and Byzantine occurrences of these terms are systematically and carefully
examined.

40
Are names by nature or by convention?
27 According to Aristotle’s definition of names at the beginning of chapter 2 of De
interpretation, names are by convention (kata sunthêkên):

“A name is a spoken sound significant by convention, without time, none of


whose parts is significant in separation.” (De int. 1, 16a19-21; trans. J.L.
Ackrill)41.

28 In this definition, the Neoplatonist commentators immediately detect a


possible disagreement between Aristotle and Plato, who famously argued in his
dialogue Cratylus that names are by nature (phusei). In fact, both Ammonius
and Stephanus painstakingly try to reconcile the two philosophers, by
distinguishing two senses in which names can be understood to be by nature and
two ways in which names can be understood to be by imposition. To say that
names are by nature could mean, according to these commentators, either that
names are products of nature, that is to say that a fitting name has been given by
nature to each thing, just as different senses have been assigned by nature to
different sense objects; or, it could mean that names fit the nature of things
named by them, just as paintings strive to copy as well as possible the form of
their subjects. On the other hand, to say that names are by imposition (thesei)
means, again according to these commentators, either that it is possible for
anyone to name any single thing with whatever name one likes; or, that names
are given by the wise man alone, since he is the only one who has knowledge of
the nature of things, and thus in a position to give a name appropriate to their
nature. Hence, Ammonius (in De interp. 34.15-37.27) and Stephanus claim that
the second sense of ‘by nature’ coincides with the second sense of ‘by imposition’.
For the name that has been imposed by the name-giver as being fitting to the
nature of the thing for which it stands may be regarded as by nature, since it fits
the nature of the thing, but also as by imposition, since it has been imposed by
someone:

“Someone might enquire why Aristotle here says that no noun is by nature.
For Plato in the Cratylus plainly says that names are by nature. It should
be known, then, that ‘by nature’ has two meanings, and so has ‘by
imposition’. A thing is said to be ‘by nature’ if it is brought forth by nature,
as we say that the eye or nose or ear or foot is an accomplishment of
nature. A thing is also said to be ‘by nature’ if it is fittingly named, as when
we say for instance ‘horse’ (hippon) because it goes on its hoofs (ienai tois
posin), and ‘man’ (anthrôpon) because he has his mien up (anô tên ôpa),
that is, eyes able to look upwards, and we give the name ‘Archelaus’ to the
man who has the character of a ruler (hexin archikên), and similarly ‘Basil’
or ‘Vassilis’ to the man who is capable of reigning (basileuein). So ‘by
nature’ has two meanings, either what comes to be from nature or what is
fittingly named in the manner of the examples given. <And what is by
imposition is twofold also, either what is fittingly named>, which is no
different from the second thing signified by ‘by nature’, or what is named
simply and by chance.” (Stephanus, in De int. 9.8-20; trans. W. Charlton,
modified)42.

29 Psellos (in De int. 2.12-21)43, too, tries to reconcile Plato’s and Aristotle’s
positions on this topic. But Psellos seems to be using a different method than the

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one used by the Neoplatonist commentators, a method that is based on the


principle that something is relative now to one thing and now to another (pros
allo kai allo). That is to say, Plato and Aristotle are, according to Psellos, in
agreement, since a name is by nature relative to the knowledge of the nature of
the thing that the wise man, who named it accordingly, has; at the same time, a
name is by imposition relative to the conventional notion ordinary people use to
name this thing. Although this in not exactly the way Ammonius and Stephanus
argue with regard to this topic, Psellos’ method is actually used by the ancient
commentators in many other occasions; for instance, Ammonius (in De int.
85.4-19) uses it to discuss the cases in which there may be no contradiction
between an affirmation and its negation. Thus, when it comes to the issue of
whether names are by nature or by convention, Psellos seems to borrow a
Neoplatonist method in order to defend a Neoplatonist thesis. On the other hand,
Blemmydes (Epit. log. 888Α)44 seems to follow closely the reconciliatory
interpretation of the ancient commentators, but his treatment of this topic is
extremely concise.

Do parts of composite names have meaning?


30 In chapter 2 of De interpretatione, Aristotle states that a part of a composite or
double name has no meaning on its own right.

“For in ‘Whitfield’ the ‘field’ does not signify anything in its own right, as it
does in the phrase ‘white field’. Not that it is the same with complex names
as with simple ones: in the latter the part is in no way significant, in the
former it has some force but is not significant of anything in separation, for
example the ‘boat’ in ‘pirate-boat’.” (De int. 1, 16a21-26; trans. J.L.
Ackrill)45.

31 And he makes a similar statement in chapter 4 of the same treatise:

“I mean that ‘animal’, for instance, signifies something, but not that it is or
is not (though it will be an affirmation or negation if something is added);
the single syllables of ‘animal’, on the other hand, signify nothing. Nor is
the ‘ice’ in ‘mice’ significant; here it is simply a spoken sound. In double
words, as we said, a part does signify, but not in its own right.” (De int. 1,
16b28-33; trans. J.L. Ackrill)46.

32 The idea seems to be that names do not involve combination or separation, and
therefore cannot be considered as true or false. A name signifies a simple
thought, whereas its parts do not signify anything. But Aristotle’s position is
difficult to understand and justify in the case of composite names. In what sense,
for instance, ‘boat’ does not signify something in separation, although it does
seem to do so, or as Aristotle himself admits, it has some force or tendency
(bouletai) to signify something?
33 Contemporary scholars have suggested different interpretations of these
passages, but what I am particularly interested in, here, is what the ancient and
Byzantine commentators have to say about this topic. Let me start with the
relevant passage from Stephanus’ commentary, which heavily depends upon
Ammonius (in De interp. 33.21-34.9):

“It is with resource to spare, and a fortiori, that he establishes that a part of
a noun has no meaning in separation. For in composite nouns, such as
‘Callippus’ and ‘pirate-boat’ the parts when separated give a suggestion or
appearance of signifying something else, for instance in ‘Callippus’ the
‘ippus’ when separated appears to signify the non-rational, whinnying

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animal, and in ‘pirate-boat’ (epatrokelês) the ‘boat’ (kelês) a solitary steed


(for a pirate boat is a kind of robber’s ship: Aeschines refers to it when he
says ‘He embarked in the pirate-boat’). So if in the case of these composite
nouns a part does not signify anything in separation, much less does it
signify anything in the case of simple nouns. For as in the composite the
‘ippus’ does not mean anything, in the same way when torn away like this
from the whole to which it belongs, even if it provides an appearance
(phantasian) [of signifying something], still it signifies nothing when it is
said as a part of that word [‘Callippus’].” (Stephanus, in De int. 8.15-27;
trans. W. Charlton, modified)47.

34 That is to say, Ammonius and Stephanus argue that, even in the case of
composite names, when parts of them seem to signify something on their own,
they do not really signify anything; and the same holds for the case of simple
names, since they signify nothing in being said as parts of those names. Psellos
and Magentenos follow this interpretation in their comments and, I think, they
even make it clearer. They claim that parts of composite names, just like parts of
simple names, are said not to signify something in the sense that they do not
signify something relevant to the thought signified by the composite or, for that
matter, by the simple name. For this is what Psellos (in De int. 2.25-33;48
5.11-20)49 expresses when he explicitly states that parts of composite names have
no appearance of resemblance (phantasian emphereias) to what the composite
name signifies. And this is exactly what Magentenos (in De int. 5.44-50)50 and
Blemmydes (Epit. log. 888B-C)51 also say.
35 However, the Byzantine commentators do not discuss the more intriguing
example in Aristotle’s text, namely ‘goat-stag’ (De int. 1, 16a16). For in this case
the two compounds not only seem to signify something in separation, i.e. a goat
and a stag, but they signify something that is indeed relevant, i.e. it has some
resemblance, to the thought signified by the composite name. In such cases could
the parts of the composite name be understood as signifying something? Aristotle
and his commentators seem to give a negative reply to this question without
specifying the reason why.

Conclusion
36 For many years now the established view among scholars has been that there is
nothing of interest in the Byzantine commentaries of Aristotle’s works in general,
and of his logical treatises in particular. This could be understood in two ways:
37 (i) there are no original interpretations of the Aristotelian logical treatises, that
is to say no interpretations that help us understand Aristotle’s text better; and
38 (ii) there are no intriguing developments of Aristotle’s logical theory, at least
nothing similar to the ones we find in Western medieval commentaries.
39 Does this imply, however, that there is really nothing of interest in the works of
Byzantine scholars? I, on my part, think there is something to be gained from
studying them. For even if they do not present original interpretations or
intriguing developments of Aristotle’s logic, the Byzantine commentaries may
contain information about the historical background and setting in which they
were produced, for instance about the philosophical education and the way logic
was used in Byzantium. Most importantly, they may contain information about
interpretations and developments that the Byzantines borrowed from the ancient
commentary tradition and are otherwise lost to us. In other words, it may be the
case that Byzantine commentaries contain no revelations on logical theory, but I
still consider them valuable, since we learn from them more about the ancient

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commentary tradition and they reveal to us an as yet unknown side of Byzantine


intellectual history. Besides, even if scholars in Byzantium were no great
innovators, the composition of their paraphrases and commentaries required
independent thinking, on their part, either in the form of slightly different
arguments from those found in the ancient texts or interesting additions to
already established views. To put it briefly, the contribution of the Byzantine
commentators to our understanding of the De interpretatione may be modest
but is certainly worth exploring52.

Bibliographie
Agiotis, Nikos (2014), Τα σχόλια του Λέοντος Μαγεντηνού στο Β’ βιβλίο των Ἀναλυτικῶν
προτέρων, PhD dissertation, University of Ioannina.
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Classica et Medievalia 33, p. 263-319.
Golitsis, Pantelis (2008), “Georges Pachymère comme didascale   : Essai pour une
reconstitution de sa carrière et de son enseignement philosophique”, Jahrbuch der
Österreichischen Byzantinistik 58, p. 53-68.
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VII, Paris, CNRS Editions, p. 609-616.
— (2018b), “Pachymérès Georgios”, in R. Goulet (éd.), Dictionnaire des philosophes
antiques, t. VII, Paris, CNRS Editions, p. 627-632.
Ierodiakonou, Katerina (2002), “Psellos’ paraphrasis of Aristotle's De interpretation”, in
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— (2011a), “John Italos”, in H. Lagerlund (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy,
vol. 1, Dordrecht, Springer, p. 623-625.
— (2011b), “The western influence on late Byzantine Aristotelian commentaries”, in M.
Hinterberger and Ch. Schabel (eds), Greeks, Latins, and Intellectual History 1204-1500,
Leuven, Peeters Publishers, p. 373-383.

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Vb, Paris, CNRS Editions, p. 1712-1717.
— (2012b), “The Byzantine commentator’s task: transmitting, transforming or
transcending Aristotle’s text”, in A. Speer and P. Steinkrüger (eds), Knotenpunkt Byzanz.
Miscellanea Mediaevalia 36, p. 199-209.
Italos, John (1956), Questiones Quodlibetales (ed. P. Joannou), Ettal, Buch-Kunstverlag
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Michael of Nicomedeia mentioned by Attaleiates”, Byzantinische Zeitscrift 104, p.
651-664.
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Kotzabassi, Sofia (1999), Byzantinische Kommentatoren der aristotelischen Topik.
Johannes Italos & Leon Magentinos, Thessaloniki, Vanias, p. 109-152.
Magentenos, Leo (1503), Ammonii Hermei commentaria in librum Peri hermeneias.
Magentini archiepiscopi Mitylenensis in eundem enarratio (ed. Aldus Manutius), Venice.
Moore, Paul (2005), Iter Psellianum: A Detailed Listing of Manuscript Sources for All
Works Attributed to Michael Psellos, Including a Comprehensive Bibliography, Toronto,
Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.
Pachymeres, George (1548), Epitome logica, Paris.
Psellos, Michael (1503), Ammonii Hermei commentaria in librum Peri hermeneias.
Magentini archiepiscopi Mitylenensis in eundem enarratio (ed. Aldus Manutius), Venice.
— (1992), Philosophica minora, vol. I: Opuscula logica, physica, allegorica, alia (ed. J.M.
Duffy), Stuttgart / Leipzig, Teubner.
Roueché, Mossman (2016), “A philosophical portrait of Stephanus the Philosopher”, in
Richard Sorabji (ed.), Aristotle Re-Interpreted: New Findings on Seven Hundred Years of
the Ancient Commentators, London, Bloomsbury, p. 541-563.
Scholarios Gennadios, George (1936), Oeuvres Complètes, tome VII: Commentaires et
résumés des ouvrages d’ Aristote (eds L. Petit, X. A. Siderides & M. Jugie), Paris, Maison
de la Bonne Presse, p. 238-348.
Smith, Andrew (2010), Boethius on Aristotle: On interpretation 1–3 (translation),
London, Duckworth.
Sorabji, Richard (2012), “Meaning: Ancient comments on five lines of Aristotle”, in C.
Shields (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Aristotle, Oxford, Oxford University Press, p.
629-644.
DOI : 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195187489.013.0024
Stephanus (1885), In librum De interpretatione commentarium (ed. M. Hayduck), CAG
18.3, Berlin, Georg Reimer.
Tarán, Leonardo (1978), Anonymous Commentary on Aristotle’s De interpretatione,
Meisenheim am Glan, Verlag Anton Hain.
Trizio, Michele (forthcoming), “Michael of Ephesus on De interpretatione”, in S. Coughlin
and J. Trumpeter (eds), Michael of Ephesus: Commentator and Philosopher.
Zografidis, George (2011), “Nicephoros Blemmydes”, in H. Lagerlund (ed.), The
Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy, vol. 1, Dordrecht, Springer, p. 892-895.

Notes
1 « Ἔστι µὲν οὖν τὰ ἐν τῇ φωνῇ τῶν ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ παθηµάτων σύµβολα, καὶ τὰ γραφόµενα
τῶν ἐν τῇ φωνῇ. καὶ ὥσπερ οὐδὲ γράµµατα πᾶσι τὰ αὐτά, οὐδὲ φωναὶ αἱ αὐταί· ὧν µέντοι
ταῦτα σηµεῖα πρώτων, ταὐτὰ πᾶσι παθήµατα τῆς ψυχῆς, καὶ ὧν ταῦτα ὁµοιώµατα
πράγµατα ἤδη ταὐτά. »
2 Ammonius (1897), In Aristotelis De interpretatione commentarius (ed. A. Busse), CAG
4.5, Berlin, Georg Reimer. Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (1880), Commentarium in
librum Aristotelis Peri hermeneias (ed. C. Meiser), Leipzig, Teubner.
3 Leonardo Tarán (1978), Anonymous Commentary on Aristotle’s De interpretatione,
Meisenheim am Glan, Verlag Anton Hain, p. xxv-xli.
4 Stephanus (1885), In librum De interpretatione commentarium (ed. M. Hayduck), CAG
18.3, Berlin, Georg Reimer. The latest contribution to the discussion concerning the

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identity of Stephanus is by Mossman Roueché (2016), “A philosophical portrait of


Stephanus the Philosopher”, in R. Sorabji (ed.), Aristotle Re-Interpreted: New Findings
on Seven Hundred Years of the Ancient Commentators, London, Bloomsbury, p. 541-563.
5 Leonardo Tarán (1978), Anonymous Commentary on Aristotle’s De interpretatione,
Meisenheim am Glan, Verlag Anton Hain.
6 Psellos’ paraphrase is not mentioned in the title of Manutius’ edition, but we find it
between the works of Ammonius and Magentenos with the title: Μιχαήλου Ψελλοῦ
Παράφρασις εἰς τὸ Περὶ ἑρµηνεἰας. There is an anonymous Latin translation of Psellos’
paraphrase that was published in Venice in 1541: Aristotelis peri hermeneias liber Anicio
Manlio Severino Boetio interprete; Paraphrasi Michaelis Pselli peripatetici, nunc
primum Latinitate donati, illustratus.
7 On Michael Psellos’ life and works, cf. Katerina Ierodiakonou (2012a), “Michel Psellos”,
in R. Goulet (éd.), Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques, t. Vb, Paris, CNRS Editions,
p. 1712-1717. On the disputed date of his death, cf. Anthony Kaldellis (2011), “The date of
Psellos’ death, once again: Psellos was not the Michael of Nicomedeia mentioned by
Attaleiates”, Byzantinische Zeitscrift 104, p. 651-664 ; Cf. also, Paul Moore (2005), Iter
Psellianum: A Detailed Listing of Manuscript Sources for All Works Attributed to
Michael Psellos, Including a Comprehensive Bibliography, Toronto, Pontifical Institute of
Mediaeval Studies.
8 For the distinction between commentaries and paraphrases, cf. Katerina Ierodiakonou
(2012b), “The Byzantine commentator’s task: transmitting, transforming or transcending
Aristotle’s text”, in A. Speer and P. Steinkrüger (eds), Knotenpunkt Byzanz. Miscellanea
Mediaevalia 36, p. 199-209.
9 Cf. Katerina Ierodiakonou (2002), “Psellos’ paraphrasis of Aristotle's De interpretation”,
in K. Ierodiakonou (ed.), Byzantine Philosophy and its Ancient Sources, Oxford, Oxford
University Press, p. 161-163. Together with John Duffy, who has edited in 1992 Psellos’
Philosophica Minora, vol. I: Opuscula logica, physica, allegorica, alia (Stuttgart /
Leipzig, Teubner), we are currently working on the critical edition of Psellos’ paraphrase
to be published in the new series Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca et Byzantina of the
Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science.
10 On John Italos’ life and works, cf. Katerina Ierodiakonou (2011a), “John Italos”, in H.
Lagerlund (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy, vol. 1, Dordrecht, Springer,
p. 623-625.
11 On Michael of Ephesus’ life and works, cf. Pantelis Golitsis (2018a), “Michel d’Éphèse”,
in R. Goulet (éd.), Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques, t. VII, Paris, CNRS Editions,
p. 609-616.
12 Michele Trizio (forthcoming), “Michael of Ephesus on De interpretatione”, in S.
Coughlin and J. Trumpeter (eds), Michael of Ephesus: Commentator and Philosopher.
13 On Leo Magentenos’ life and works, cf. Börje Bydén (2011), “Leo Magentenos”, in H.
Lagerlund (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy, vol. 1, Dordrecht, Springer,
p. 684-685.
14 Sten Ebbesen (1981), Commentators and Commentaries on Aristotle’s Sophistici
Elenchi. A Study of Post-Aristotelian Ancient and Medieval Writings on Fallacies,
Leiden, E.J. Brill, vol. I, p. 302-313.
15 Sofia Kotzabassi (1999), Byzantinische Kommentatoren der aristotelischen Topik.
Johannes Italos & Leon Magentinos, Thessaloniki, Vanias, p. 109-152.
16 A critical edition of Magentenos’ comments on the second book of Aristotle’s Prior
Analytics is currently being prepared by Nikos Agiotis on the basis of his 2014 PhD
dissertation Τα σχόλια του Λέοντος Μαγεντηνού στο Β’ βιβλίο των Ἀναλυτικῶν προτέρων
(University of Ioannina).
17 On Nicephoros Blemmydes’ life and works, cf. George Zografidis (2011), “Nicephoros
Blemmydes”, in H. Lagerlund (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy, vol. 1,
Dordrecht, Springer, p. 892-895.
18 This is the first edition of the first book of Pachymeres’ Φιλοσοφία, which was reprinted
in Oxford in 1666 with the title Γεωργίου Διακόνου Πρωτεκδίκου καὶ Δικαιοφύλακος τοῦ
Παχυµέρους Ἐπιτοµὴ τῆς Ἀριστοτέλους Λογικῆς.
19 On George Pachymeres’ life and works, cf. Pantelis Golitsis (2018b), “Pachymérès
Georgios”, in R. Goulet (éd.), Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques, t. VII, Paris, CNRS
Editions, p. 627-632.
20 Pantelis Golitsis has undertaken to edit the first book of Pachymeres’ Philosophia for
the Corpus Philosophorum Medii Aevi (Commentaria in Aristotelem Byzantina) published

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by the Academy of Athens.


21 Cf. Pantelis Golitsis (2008), “Georges Pachymère comme didascale : Essai pour une
reconstitution de sa carrière et de son enseignement philosophique”, Jahrbuch der
Österreichischen Byzantinistik 58, p. 53-68.
22 On George Scholarios Gennadios’ life and works, cf. John Demetracopoulos
(forthcoming), “George Scholarios (Gennadios II)”, in H. Lagerlund (ed.), The
Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy, vol. 1, Dordrecht, Springer, 2nd edition.
23 Sten Ebbesen and Jan Pinborg (1981-1982), “Gennadios and Western Scholasticism”,
Classica et Medievalia 33, p. 263-319.
24 Cf. Katerina Ierodiakonou (2011b), “The western influence on late Byzantine
Aristotelian commentaries”, in M. Hinterberger and Ch. Schabel (eds), Greeks, Latins,
and Intellectual History 1204-1500, Leuven, Peeters Publishers, p. 373-383.
25 « ἐπεὶ δὲ οὐ περὶ ἀσηµάντων φωνῶν διαλεγόµεθα νῦν, ἀλλὰ περὶ σηµαντικῶν, ἰστέον
ὅτι τεσσάρων τούτων ὄντων, πραγµάτων, νοηµάτων, φωνῶν, καὶ γραµµάτων,
προσληπτέον γὰρ καὶ τὰ γράµµατα διὰ τὸ συντελὲς ἡµῖν πρὸς ἀπόδειξιν τοῦ θέσει τὰς
φωνὰς εἶναι, τὰ µὲν πράγµατα, καὶ τὰ νοήµατα, φύσει τυγχάνει, εἴ γε παρὰ πᾶσι τὰ αὐτά
εἰσιν· αἱ δὲ φωναί, ἤτοι τὰ ἐν τῇ φωνῇ, φηµὶ δὴ τὰ ὀνόµατα καὶ τὰ ῥήµατα, ἀµφοτέρως
γὰρ λεγέσθω, καὶ τὰ γράµµατα θέσει, διὰ τὸ µὴ παρὰ πᾶσι τὰ αὐτὰ εἶναι· αἱ δὲ φωναί, ἤτοι
τὰ ἐν τῇ φωνῇ, φηµὶ δὴ τὰ ὀνόµατα καὶ τὰ ῥήµατα, ἀµφοτέρως γὰρ λεγέσθω, καὶ τὰ
γράµµατα θέσει, διὰ τὸ µὴ παρὰ πᾶσι τὰ αὐτὰ εἶναι· ἀλλὰ τάς τε φωνάς, ἤτοι τὰ ὀνόµατα
καὶ τὰ ῥήµατα, τὰ ὡς ἐν ὕλῃ κείµενα τῇ φωνῇ, διαφόροις χαρακτῆρσι µερίζεσθαι
λεκτικοῖς, καὶ τὰ γράµµατα ἑτεροίαις γραφικῶν χαρακτήρων διαιρεῖσθαι διατυπώσεσι· τὰ
µὲν οὖν ἐν τῇ φωνῇ τῶν ψυχικῶν παθηµάτων, ἤτοι νοηµάτων, διὰ τὸν φανταστικὸν νοῦν
καὶ τὸ µετὰ διαστάσεως καὶ µερισµοῦ, τὰ πράγµατα τοῦτον ἀποµάττεσθαι, τυγχάνουσι
σύµβολα· τὰ δὲ γραφόµενα, σηµεῖα πάλιν ὑπάρχει τῶν φωνῶν · καὶ ὥσπερ οὐ παρὰ πᾶσίν
εἰσι τὰ γράµµατα τὰ αὐτά, οὕτως οὐδὲ αἱ φωναὶ ὧν ἐκεῖνα σύµβολα, ἀπαράλλακτοι παρὰ
πᾶσι τυγχάνουσιν· ἐπεὶ δὲ αἱ φωναὶ προσεχῶς µὲν σηµαίνουσι τὰ νοήµατα, διὰ µέσων δὲ
τούτων καὶ τὰ πράγµατα ὧν µέν, ἤτοι νοηµάτων πρώτως εἰσὶ σύµβολα, τὰ ἐν τῇ φωνῇ,
ἐκεῖνα τὰ νοήµατα, ὅµοιά εἰσι πᾶσι παθήµατα· ὧντινων δ’ αὖθις πραγµάτων
ἀπεικονίσµατά εἰσι τὰ νοήµατα, καὶ ἀποµάξεις καθαραὶ καὶ παντελῶς ὁµοιώµατα, ἐκεῖνα
πράγµατά εἰσι πᾶσι τὰ αὐτά.  »
26 « τούτων δὲ τῶν τεττάρων τὰ µὲν δύο φύσει εἶναί φησιν ὁ Ἀριστοτέλης, τὰ δὲ δύο
θέσει· φύσει µὲν τά τε πράγµατα καὶ τὰ νοήµατα, θέσει δὲ τάς τε φωνὰς καὶ τὰ γράµµατα.
διακρίνει δὲ τὰ φύσει τῶν θέσει κανόνι τοιούτῳ χρώµενος· τὰ παρὰ πᾶσι, φησί, τὰ αὐτὰ
ὄντα ταῦτά ἐστι φύσει, τὰ δὲ µὴ παρὰ πᾶσι τὰ αὐτὰ ὄντα ταῦτα οὐ φύσει εἰσὶν ἀλλὰ θέσει.
καὶ τοῦτο εἰκότως· µία γὰρ οὖσα ἡ τοῦ παντὸς φύσις ὅµοια δηλονότι πανταχοῦ ποιεῖ τὰ
κατὰ τὸ αὐτὸ εἶδος εἶναι λεγόµενα· εἰ δέ τινα παρ' ἄλλοις καὶ ἄλλοις διάφορα εἴη, ταῦτα
οὐκ ἂν εἴη φύσεως δηµιουργήµατα. ἐπεὶ οὖν τὰ µὲν πράγµατα καὶ τὰ νοήµατα παρὰ πᾶσίν
ἐστι τὰ αὐτά (πανταχοῦ γὰρ τὸ αὐτὸ ἀνθρώπου εἶδος καὶ ἵππου καὶ λέοντος, καὶ νόηµα
ὡσαύτως τὸ αὐτὸ παρὰ πᾶσι περί τε ἀνθρώπου καὶ λίθου καὶ τῶν ἄλλων πραγµάτων
ἑκάστου), φωναὶ δὲ καὶ γράµµατα οὐ παρὰ πᾶσι τὰ αὐτά (φωναῖς τε γὰρ ἄλλαις µὲν
Ἕλληνες, ἄλλαις δὲ Φοίνικες, Αἰγύπτιοι δὲ ἄλλαις χρῶνται· “ἄλλη γὰρ ἄλλων γλῶσσα”
φησὶν ἡ ποίησις· καὶ γράφουσι πάλιν δι' ἄλλων καὶ ἄλλων γραµµάτων ἕκαστοι τὰς ἑαυτῶν
φωνάς), διὰ τοῦτο τὰ µὲν πράγµατα καὶ τὰ νοήµατα φύσει εἶναι διισχυρίζεται, τὰς δέ γε
φωνὰς καὶ τὰ γράµµατα θέσει, καὶ οὐ φύσει.  »
27 « εἴ γε παρὰ πᾶσι τὰ αὐτά εἰσιν. »
28 « ἐπεὶ δὲ τὰ νοήµατα παρὰ πᾶσι τὰ αὐτά, φησίν, ἐνίσταται πρὸς τοῦτο ὁ Ἀλέξανδρος
λέγων, ἐπειδὴ πολλάκις περὶ τῶν αὐτῶν πραγµάτων διάφορά εἰσι νοήµατα παρ᾽ ἡµῖν, καὶ
φαµὲν πρὸς τοῦτο ὅτι ἐκ πάντων τῶν διαφόρων νοηµάτων τὸ ἀληθὲς µόνον ἐν αὐτοῖς
καλοῦµεν κυρίως νόηµα. »
29 Richard Sorabji (2012), “Meaning: Ancient comments on five lines of Aristotle”, in C.
Shields (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Aristotle, Oxford, Oxford University Press,
p. 629-644.
30 « et Alexander hunc locum: … proposuit, inquit, ea quae sunt in voce intellectus animi
designare et hoc alio probat exemplo. eodem modo enim ea quae sunt in voce passiones
animae significant, quemadmodum ea quae scribuntur voces designant. »
31 E.g. Ammonius, in De int. 18.23-26.2; Boethius, in De int. 20.9-45.25. Psellos (in De
int. 1.16-18) seems to follow on this point, too, the Neoplatonist commentators: « τὰ µὲν
οὖν ἐν τῇ φωνῇ τῶν ψυχικῶν παθηµάτων, ἤτοι νοηµάτων, διὰ τὸν φανταστικὸν νοῦν καὶ
τὸ µετὰ διαστάσεως καὶ µερισµοῦ, τὰ πράγµατα τοῦτον ἀποµάττεσθαι, τυγχάνουσι
σύµβολα. »
32 Cf. Sten Ebbesen (1990), “Porphyry’s legacy to logic”, in Richard Sorabji (ed.), Aristotle
Transformed. The Ancient Commentators and their Influence, London, Duckworth,

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p. 162-165.
33 I would like to thank Sten Ebbesen for making available to me the relevant passages
from codex Vaticanus graecus 244.
34 « ὅτι δὲ παρὰ πᾶσι τὰ αὐτά εἰσι νοήµατα δῆλον· οἷον γὰρ νόηµα περὶ τοῦ πυρὸς ἢ τοῦ
ὕδατός ἐστιν ἐν τῶ νοῒ ἡµῶν, ὅτι τὸ µὲν καυστικόν ἐστι καὶ θερµόν, τὸ δὲ ψυχρὸν καὶ
ὑγρόν, τοιοῦτο καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσι περὶ τούτων ἐστί. »
35 «   Ἐνταῦθα ἀποσκευάζεται δύο ἀπορίας. Ἡ   πρώτη   ἀπορία   ἐστὶν   αὕτη. Ἐπειδὴ αἱ
φωναί εἰσι σηµεῖα τῶν ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ παθηµάτων καὶ αἱ φωναὶ οὐκ εἰσὶν αἱ αὐταὶ παρὰ πᾶσιν,
τὰ παθήµατα τῆς ψυχῆς δόξειεν ἂν µὴ εἶναι τὰ αὐτὰ παρὰ πᾶσι. Τοῦτο ἀποσκευάζεται τὸ
ἀπόρηµα λέγων, ὅτι τὰ αὐτὰ παθήµατά εἰσι παρὰ πᾶσιν·εἰ γὰρ Γραικὸς καὶ Λατῖνος λίθον
ὁρῴη, τὴν αὐτὴν ὁµοιότητα τοῦ λίθου ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ ἑκάτερος ἕξουσιν. »
36 « Ἔτι εἰδέναι δεῖ ὅτι, ὅτε λέγει τὰ παθήµατα τῆς ψυχῆς εἶναι παρὰ πᾶσι τὰ αὐτά, νοεῖ
τὰ νοήµατα τῆς ψυχῆς εἶναι ταὐτὰ οὐ κατὰ τὴν ταὐτότητα τῆς συλλήψεως τῆς ψυχῆς ὅσον
πρὸς τὴν φωνήν, ὅτι µιᾶς φωνῆς µία ἐστὶ σύλληψις, αἱ δὲ φωναί εἰσι παρὰ διαφόροις
διάφοροι· ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὴν ταὐτότητα τῶν συλλήψεων τῆς ψυχῆς ὅσον πρὸς τὰ πράγµατα,
ἅτινα παρὰ πᾶσιν εἶναι λέγει ὁµοίως τὰ αὐτά. Εἰ δέ τις ἀντιτιθοίη περὶ τῶν διαφόρων
δοξῶν, ἃς περὶ τῶν πραγµάτων τῶν αὐτῶν οἱ ἄνθρωποι ἔχουσιν, ἀποκρινόµεθα, ὅτι περὶ
τῶν ἁπλῶν νοηµάτων φησὶν ἐνταῦθα, οὐ περὶ τῶν συµπεπλεγµένων, ἐν οἷς ἐστι τὸ ἀληθὲς
καὶ τὸ ψεῦδος περὶ ταῦτα γὰρ καὶ αἱ διάφοροι δόξαι συνίστανται, οὐ περὶ τὰ ἁπλᾶ·περὶ
γὰρ τοῦ λίθου, ὅτι λίθος ἐστίν, τὴν αὐτὴν ἔννοιαν πάντες ἔχοµεν, ὥσπερ καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ λίθος
ὁ αὐτός ἐστί τε καθ’ αὑτὸν καὶ πᾶσι πρὸς νόησιν πρόκειται.  »
37 « Διαφέρει δὲ τὸ ὁµοίωµα τοῦ συµβόλου, καθόσον τὸ µὲν ὁµοίωµα τὴν φύσιν αὐτὴν τοῦ
πράγµατος κατὰ τὸ δυνατὸν ἀπεικονίζεσθαι βούλεται, καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐφ' ἡµῖν αὐτὸ
µεταπλάσαι (τὸ γὰρ ἐν τῇ εἰκόνι γεγραµµένον τοῦ Σωκράτους ὁµοίωµα εἰ µὴ καὶ τὸ
φαλακρὸν καὶ τὸ σιµὸν καὶ τὸ ἐξόφθαλµον ἔχοι τοῦ Σωκράτους, οὐκέτ' ἂν αὐτοῦ λέγοιτο
εἶναι ὁµοίωµα), τὸ δέ γε σύµβολον ἤτοι σηµεῖον (ἀµφοτέρως γὰρ αὐτὸ ὁ φιλόσοφος
ὀνοµάζει) τὸ ὅλον ἐφ' ἡµῖν ἔχει, ἅτε καὶ ἐκ µόνης ὑφιστάµενον τῆς ἡµετέρας ἐπινοίας· οἷον
τοῦ πότε δεῖ συµβάλλειν ἀλλήλοις τοὺς πολεµοῦντας δύναται σύµβολον εἶναι καὶ
σάλπιγγος ἀπήχησις καὶ λαµπάδος ῥῖψις… »
38 « ἐπεὶ δὲ αἱ φωναὶ προσεχῶς µὲν σηµαίνουσι τὰ νοήµατα, διὰ µέσων δὲ τούτων καὶ τὰ
πράγµατα ὧν µέν, ἤτοι νοηµάτων πρώτως εἰσὶ σύµβολα, τὰ ἐν τῇ φωνῇ, ἐκεῖνα τὰ
νοήµατα, ὅµοιά εἰσι πᾶσι παθήµατα· ὧντινων δ’ αὖθις πραγµάτων ἀπεικονίσµατά εἰσι τὰ
νοήµατα, καὶ ἀποµάξεις καθαραὶ καὶ παντελῶς ὁµοιώµατα, ἐκεῖνα πράγµατά εἰσι πᾶσι τὰ
αὐτά. »
39 « Ἰστέον δὲ ὅτι ὁ µὲν Ἀριστοτέλης τὸ αὐτὸ σηµεῖον καὶ σύµβολον ἐκάλεσεν ὡς θἐσει·
ἔχει δὲ οὐκ ὀλίγην διαφοράν· τὸ µὲν γὰρ σηµεῖον ἐπὶ τῶν πάντως ὄντων παραλαµβάνεται,
οἷον ὅτι πάντως καπνὸς σηµαίνει πῦρ, καὶ σκιὰ σῶµα ἐν φωτὶ εἶναι· τὸ δὲ σύµβολον ἐπὶ
τῶν µὴ πάντως γινοµένων, οἷόν φαµεν τόδε τὸ ὄρνεον καὶ τούτου τὴν τοιάνδε πτῆσιν
σύµβολα πολέµου ἢ λοιµοῦ. »
40 Cf. Katerina Ierodiakonou (2002), “Psellos’ paraphrasis of Aristotle's De
interpretation”, in K. Ierodiakonou (ed.), Byzantine Philosophy and its Ancient Sources,
Oxford, Oxford University Press, p. 173-174.
41 « Ὄνοµα µὲν οὖν ἐστὶ φωνὴ σηµαντικὴ κατὰ συνθήκην ἄνευ χρόνου, ἧς µηδὲν µέρος
ἐστὶ σηµαντικὸν κεχωρισµένον.  »
42 « ζητήσειέ τις πῶς εἶπεν Ἀριστοτέλης ἐνταῦθα ‘φύσει τῶν ὀνοµάτων οὐδέν ἐστιν’· ὁ
Πλάτων φαίνεται ἐν τῷ Κρατύλῳ λέγων φύσει τὰ ὀνόµατα. ἰστέον τοίνυν ὅτι διττὸν τὸ
φύσει, διττὸν καὶ τὸ θέσει. Λέγεται µὲν γὰρ φύσει καὶ τὸ ἀπὸ τῆς φύσεως προαχθέν, ὡς
λέγοµεν ἀποτέλεσµα τῆς φύσεως εἶναι τὸν ὀφθαλµὸν ἢ ῥῖνα ἢ οὖς ἢ πόδα· λέγεται δὲ
πάλιν φύσει καὶ τὸ ἁρµοδίως κείµενον, οἷον ὅταν λέγωµεν φέρε εἰπεῖν ἵππον παρὰ τὸ ἰέναι
τοῖς ποσὶν καὶ ἄνθρωπον παρὰ τὸ ἄνω τὴν ὦπα, τοῦτ' ἔστιν τοὺς ὀφθαλµοὺς ἄνω
δύνασθαι θεωρεῖν· καὶ Ἀρχέλαον τὸν ἕξιν ἀρχικὴν ἔχοντα, ὁµοίως καὶ Βασιλικὸν ἢ
Βασίλειον τὸν δυνάµενον βασιλεύειν. οὕτως µὲν οὖν ἐστιν τὸ φύσει διττόν, ἢ τὸ γενόµενον
ἐκ τῆς φύσεως ἢ τὸ ἁρµοδίως κείµενον ἐπὶ τῶν εἰρηµένων παραδειγµάτων *** ὅπερ οὐδὲν
διαφέρει τοῦ δευτέρου σηµαινοµένου τοῦ φύσει, ἢ τὸ ἁπλῶς καὶ ὡς ἔτυχεν κείµενον. ».
The missing Greek text could be restituted likes this: « <ὁµοίως δὲ καὶ τὸ θέσει διττὸν ἢ τὸ
ἁρµοδίως κείµενον,>  »
43 «   ἔστιν οὖν τὸ ὄνοµα φωνὴ σηµαίνουσά τι ὑποκείµενον, καὶ σύµβολον ἐκείνου
τυγχάνουσα· οὐ κατὰ φύσιν δέ, ἀλλὰ κατὰ συνθήκην, ἤτοι θέσιν· καὶ οὐκ ἐναντιοῦται τῷ
Πλάτωνι ὁ φιλόσοφος, κατὰ φύσιν τὰ ὀνόµατα λέγοντι, κατὰ θέσιν οὗτος διδάσκων αὐτά·
ὁ µὲν γὰρ Πλάτων, ἐπεὶ ἐν τῷ Κρατύλῳ ἐπιστήµονα τὸν ὀνοµατοθέτην εἰσάγει,
ἐπιστηµόνως αὐτὸν καταναγκάζει καὶ ταῖς ὀνοµατοθεσίαις χρᾶσθαι, ὥστε ἡµµένας εἶναι
τῆς φύσεως· καὶ διὰ τοῦτο κατὰ φύσιν τίθησι τὰ ὀνόµατα· ὁ δὲ φιλόσοφος, τοῦτο µὲν οὐκ
ἀποπέµπεται, εἰ χρὴ διαιτᾶν ἀνδράσι σοφοῖς· διδάσκει δὲ ὡς ὁποῖά ποτ’ ἂν εἴη τὰ

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ὀνόµατα, ἐξ ἐπινοίας συντεθειµένα τυγχάνει· πᾶν δὲ τὸ ἀπὸ ἐπινοίας συντεθὲν καὶ


περατωθὲν τῶν κατὰ συνθήκην, οὐ κατὰ φύσιν ἐστίν· οὐδὲν οὖν κωλύει τὸ αὐτὸ, καὶ κατὰ
συνθήκην καὶ κατὰ φύσιν λέγειν, πρὸς ἄλλο καὶ ἄλλο ἐκλαµβανοµένων ἡµῶν, καὶ τὰ
ὀνόµατα καὶ τὰ ῥήµατα. »
44 « θ᾽. Θέσει τὸ λοιπὸν εἰσι τὰ ὀνόµατα καὶ τὰ ῥήµατα. Τέθεινται γὰρ ὑπό τινων· εἰ µή τις
λέγοι φύσει τρόπον ἄλλον ὑπάρχειν αὐτὰ διὰ τὸ οἰκείως ἔχειν πρὸς τὰ πράγµατα οἷς
ἐτέθησαν, καὶ τῇ τῶν πραγµάτων φύσει καταλλήλως τεθῆναι καὶ ἁρµοζόντως.  »
45 « ἐν γὰρ τῷ Κάλλιππος τὸ ιππος οὐδὲν καθ' αὑτὸ σηµαίνει, ὥσπερ ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τῷ καλὸς
ἵππος. οὐ µὴν οὐδ' ὥσπερ ἐν τοῖς ἁπλοῖς ὀνόµασιν, οὕτως ἔχει καὶ ἐν τοῖς πεπλεγµένοις· ἐν
ἐκείνοις µὲν γὰρ οὐδαµῶς τὸ µέρος σηµαντικόν, ἐν δὲ τούτοις βούλεται µέν, ἀλλ' οὐδενὸς
κεχωρισµένον, οἷον ἐν τῷ ἐπακτροκέλης τὸ κελης. »
46 «   λέγω δέ, οἷον ἄνθρωπος σηµαίνει τι, ἀλλ' οὐχ ὅτι ἔστιν ἢ οὐκ ἔστιν (ἀλλ' ἔσται
κατάφασις ἢ ἀπόφασις ἐάν τι προστεθῇ)· ἀλλ' οὐχ ἡ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου συλλαβὴ µία· οὐδὲ γὰρ
ἐν τῷ µῦς τὸ υς σηµαντικόν, ἀλλὰ φωνή ἐστι νῦν µόνον. ἐν δὲ τοῖς διπλοῖς σηµαίνει µέν,
ἀλλ' οὐ καθ' αὑτό, ὥσπερ εἴρηται. »
47 « αὐτὸς δὲ ἐκ περιουσίας καὶ ἐκ τοῦ µᾶλλον κατεσκεύασεν ὅτι τὸ µέρος τοῦ ὀνόµατος
κεχωρισµένον οὐδέν ἐστι σηµαντικόν. εἰ γὰρ ἐν τοῖς συνθέτοις ὀνόµασιν, οἷον φέρε εἰπεῖν
ἐν τῷ Κάλλιππος καὶ ἐν τῷ ἐπακτροκέλης, ἔνθα παρέχουσιν ὑπόνοιαν καὶ φαντασίαν τὰ
µέρη χωριζόµενα ἄλλο τι οἷον ἐν τῷ Κάλλιππος τὸ ἵππος χωρισθὲν σηµαίνειν τὸ ἄλογον καὶ
χρεµετιστικὸν ζῷον, καὶ ἐν τῷ ἐπακτροκέλης τὸ κέλης σηµαίνειν τὸν µονόζυγα ἵππον
(ἐπακτροκέλης δέ ἐστιν εἶδος λῃστρικοῦ πλοίου· µέµνηται Αἰσχίνης λέγων “εἰς τὸν
ἐπακτροκέλητα ἐµβιβάζει”), εἰ οὖν τούτοις συνθέτοις ὀνόµασι τὸ µέρος χωρισθὲν οὐδὲν
σηµαίνει, πολλῷ πρότερον οὐδὲ ἐν τοῖς ἁπλοῖς ὀνόµασιν. ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐν τῇ συνθέσει τὸ
ἵππος οὐδὲν ἐσήµανεν, οὕτως ἀποσπασθὲν τῆς οἰκείας ὁλότητος, εἰ καὶ φαντασίαν
παρέχει, ὅµως οὐδὲν σηµαίνει ὡς µέρος ἐκείνου λεχθέν. »
48 « παντὸς δὲ ὀνόµατος ἢ ἁπλοῦ ἢ συνθέτου ὄντος, ἐπὶ µὲν τῶν ἁπλῶν οὐδόλως τὰ µέρη
κεχωρισµένα δηλοῦσι τί· τῶν δὲ συνθέτων βούλονται µὲν δηλοῦν, ἀλλ’ ὅταν ἀπὸ µηδενὸς
χωρισθῶσι· µετὰ γὰρ τὴν ἀπὸ τοῦ συνθέτου διαίρεσιν ἀσήµαντα τὰ µέρη εἰσίν, ὅσον πρὸς
τὸ σύνθετον· τὸ µὲν γὰρ ἵππος, ὅταν µὴ ἀπὸ τοῦ Κάλλιππος χωρισθῇ, βούλεται µὲν
σηµαίνειν τί, ἤγουν τὸ ὑποκείµενον· ὅταν δὲ χωρισθῇ, ὡς πρὸς τοῦτο τὸ σύνθετον,
ἀσήµαντόν ἐστι· τὸ µὲν γὰρ µετὰ τῆς οὐσίας δηλοῖ καὶ ποιότητα ἢ ἴσως ἀνθρώπου
κατηγορούµενον ὄνοµα· τῷ δὲ οὐδὲν κοινὸν, οὔτε πρὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν ὀνοµαζόµενον
Κάλλιπον, οὔτε πρὸς τὸν καλὸν ἵππον· πλὴν ὁ τοιοῦτος λογικὸς θόρυβος, ἐπὶ τῶν
συνθέτων ὀνοµάτων ἐστίν· ἐπὶ γὰρ τῶν ἁπλῶν, πάσης ἀπηλλάγµεθα ταραχῆς. »
49 « καὶ µὴ πλανηθείς, ὅτι ὥσπερ τὰ µέρη τῶν προτάσεων εἰσὶ σηµαντικά, οὕτω καὶ τὰ
µέρη τῶν ῥηµάτων, καὶ τῶν ὀνοµάτων· τοῦ γὰρ Σωκράτους οὐδεµία τῶν συλλαβῶν
σηµαίνει τί καθ’ ἑαυτήν· ἀλλὰ κἂν τὸν µῦν προχειρίσῃ, κἀντεῦθεν ἀφέλῃς τὸ ‘µ’, τὸ ‘ῦν’
ἀσήµαντόν ἐστιν, ἐπεὶ καὶ εἰ προηγουµένως εἴποις ‘ὗς’, φωνὴν ἂν εἴποις σηµαντικήν,
µηδὲν κατὰ τοῦ σηµαίνειν τοῦ µῦς διαφέρουσαν· ἀλλ’ ἐνταῦθα µὲν ἐπὶ τῶν ἁπλῶν
ὀνοµάτων οὐκ εὐθὺς ἂν ἐφιστάνῃ ὁ ἀκροατής, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἀσήµαντα τὰ µέρη οἴεται·
ἐπὶ δὲ τῶν συνθέτων, αὐτόθεν τῷ διπλῷ πεπλάνηται τῆς φωνῆς· πλὴν εἰ καἱ ταῦτα δοκοῦσι
τί σηµαίνειν, ἀλλ’ οὐ καθ’ ἑαυτά· τί δὲ ἐστι τὸ καθ’ ἑαυτά; ὅτι τὸ Κάλλιππος ὄνοµα κύριον
ὂν ἀπὸ τοῦ καλὸς καὶ τοῦ ἵππος συντέθειται· καὶ καθ’ ἑαυτὸ οὖν τὸ καλὸς καὶ αὖθις τὸ
ἵππος καθ’ ἑαυτό, οὐδεµίαν φαντασίαν ἐµφερείας διδόασι πρὸς τὸν Κάλλιππον. »
50 « ἧς τῶν µερῶν οὐδέν ἐστι σηµαντικὸν κεχωρισµένον. Τοῦτο διαστέλλει αὐτὸ ἀπὸ τοῦ
λόγου· τοῦ γὰρ λόγου σηµαντικὰ τυγχάνουσιν οἷον Σωκράτης περιπατεῖ καὶ τὸ Σωκράτης
καὶ τὸ περιπατεῖ· µετὰ γὰρ τὸν ὅρον ἐκ τοῦ µᾶλλον ἐπιχειρεῖ φάσκων· εἰ τὰ σύνθετα τῶν
ὀνοµάτων οὐκ ἔχουσι τὰ ἑαυτῶν µέρη σηµαντικά, πολλῷ µᾶλλον οὐ καὶ τὰ ἁπλᾶ·ἰδοὺ γὰρ
τὸ Κάλλιππος ἢ τὸ ἐπακτροκέλης, ὅπερ ἔστι νηὸς ληστρικῆς ὄνοµα, οὐκ ἔχουσι τὰ µέρη
σηµαντικά οὔτε γὰρ τὸ ἵππος οὔτε τὸ κέλης, κἂν δοκῶσί τι σηµαίνειν, ἀλλ οὖν ὡς πρὸς
ὅλον τὸ ὄνοµα τὸ σύνθετον καὶ τὸ ἐξ αὐτοῦ σηµαινόµενον οὐδέν τι σηµαίνει· οὐδὲν γὰρ τὸ
ἵππος τὸ Κάλλιππος σηµαίνει οὐδὲ τὸ κέλης πλοῖον ληστρικόν. »
51 «   ιβ᾽. Τὰ µέρη δὲ τοῦ ὀνόµατος καὶ τοῦ ῥήµατος ἀπ᾽ἀλλήλων κεχωρισµένα µένει
ἀσήµαντα. Συσσηµαίνειν µὲν γὰρ ἀλλήλοις λέγεται· σηµαίνειν δέ τι τῶν µερῶν ἕκαστον
καθ᾽ αὑτὸ οὐδαµῶς. Καὶ τὰ µὲν τῶν ἁπλῶν ὀνοµάτων ἤ ῥηµάτων µέρη οὐδὲ κἄν γοῦν
δόκησιν ἔχει τοῦ καθ᾽ αὑτὰ εἶναι σηµαντικά. Τὰ δὲ τῶν συνθἐτων φαντασίαν µὲν παρέχει
τινὰ τοῦ σηµαίνειν, οὐ µέντοι σηµαίνει κατά γε τὸ ἀληθές. Τοῦ γὰρ κάλλιπος ὀνόµατος
µέρος ὃν τὸ ἵππος, οὐδὲν σηµαίνει. Μόνον µὲν γὰρ ὡς ὄνοµα τὸ ἵππος ῥηθὲν σηµαίνει τόδε
τὸ ζῶον. Ὁπόταν δ᾽ὡς µέρος ληφθείη τοῦ κάλιππος, ἀποσπασθὲν τῆς οἰκείας ὁλότητος,
νεκρόν τι κατὰ τὸ σηµαινόµενον γίνεται. Τὸν αὐτὸν δὴ τρόπον καὶ τὰ µέρη τοῦ ῥήµατος
ἀπ᾽ἀλλήλων διακρινόµενα καὶ τῆς σηµασίας χωρίζεται. »
52 I would like to thank Pantelis Golitsis and Ruth Webb for their constructive criticism
that has helped me to improve an earlier version of this article.

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Référence électronique
Katerina Ierodiakonou, « The Byzantine Reception of Aristotle’s Theory of Meaning »,
Methodos [En ligne], 19 | 2019, mis en ligne le 07 février 2019, consulté le 19 juin 2019.
URL : http://journals.openedition.org/methodos/5303 ; DOI : 10.4000/methodos.5303

Auteur
Katerina Ierodiakonou
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens / Université de Genève

Droits d’auteur

Les contenus de la revue Methodos sont mis à disposition selon les termes de la Licence
Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0
International.

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