Pseudo-Plato on Names

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The pseudo-Platonic Definitions seems to ascribe to ὄνοµα, ‘name’, the function of signifying two kinds of predicate. This is problematic, and I propose an emendation of the text, arguing that a definition of ῥῆµα, ‘verb’, has fallen out.


A Journal for Ancient Philosophy



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On A, see Carlini 1972, 145-6, 160; Post 1934, 6-8; Petrucci 2013, 177-82. On P, see Post 1934, 4, 46-7, 74-5; Carlini 1972, 173-5; Menchelli 1991; 2014, 172-7. On O, see Post 1934, 8-14; Luzzatto 2008; Petrucci 2013, 182-201. On L, see Post 1934, 69 (where it is initially introduced as δ). On V, see Post 1934, 78 (where it is labelled ‘R’) and Petrucci 2014.


Post 1934, 4 regards P (which contains excerpts from the Laws) as ‘Too freely paraphrased to be useful. Independent of A and O.’


See Whitaker 1996, 5-7; Sedley 2004.


Cf. Cornarius 1561: quidvis quod non per seipsum dicitur.


Tr. Barnes 1993, modified.


Hutchinson’s (1997) translation of παντὸς τοῦ µὴ καθ᾿ ἑαυτὸ λεγοµένου as ‘everything which is not said of a thing in its own right’ invokes another use of ‘by itself’, according to which for X to hold of Y ‘by itself’ is for X to be essentially predicated of Y (see APo. 1.4, 73a34-7, Metaph. Δ.18, 1022a27-9). This must be understood in the context of Hutchinson’s translation of τοῦ … κατὰ τῆς οὐσίας κατηγορουµένου as ‘what is predicated in the essence’: the outcome is that a name signifies either essential or non-essential predicates. Apart from the illegitimacy, which I pointed out above, of translating κατὰ τῆς οὐσίας as ‘in the essence’, this outcome is open to two of the criticisms I advance in the text below: the function of ‘everything’ is unclear; and it is very odd that a name should be defined only as an expression for predicates of various kinds, to the exclusion of proper names for substances.


See Code 1986, 419 and n. 11.


On the Stoic definitions, see Brunschwig 1984. Apollonius Dyscolus seems to have endorsed a modified version, according to which a name is a part of speech ἑκάστου τῶν ὑποκειµένων σωµάτων ἢ πραγµάτων κοινὴν ἢ ἰδίαν ποιότητα ἀπονέµον, literally ‘which assigns a common or peculiar quality of each of the underlying bodies or objects’ (Uhlig 1883, pp. lxxxiii-lxxxiv). See De pron. [Gramm. Gr. ii.1.1], 105.18-19 Schneider; Synt. [Gramm. Gr. ii.2], 142.1-4, 155.45 Uhlig; Priscian, Inst. [Gramm. Lat. ii], 56.28-57.1 Hertz; Partitiones [Gramm. Lat. iii], 2.481.2-4 Keil; Schol. in Dion. Thr. [Gramm. Gr. i.3], 524.8-12 Hilgard (cf. 358.29-32).


Tr. Barnes 2003. See Barnes 2003, 78-9, 325-7 on individual predicates in Porphyry and Aristotle. A difficulty in connection with Porphyry is that it is unclear whether his predicates are meant to be expressions or entities: see Barnes 2003, 68-70.


Translation after Ackrill 1963.


See Ackrill 1963, 118-9; Whitaker 1996, 58; Weidemann 2014a, 173-4; Frede unpublished.


Ackrill 1963, 76. Whether this is correct as an interpretation of Aristotle is a question that need not concern us here.


Tr. after Barnes 2007, 103.


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