Aristotle on definition (review)

Journal of the History of Philosophy 46 (3):pp. 478-480 (2008)
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Aristotle on Definition is an exceptional piece of scholarship. Its arguments are carefully justified, sophisticated, and far-reaching. Those interested in Aristotle's theory of definition will find this book a nice compliment to David Charles' Meaning and Essence. Whereas Charles examines Aristotle's theory of syllogistic definitions, Deslauriers focuses mainly on the concept of immediate definitions .It is impossible to do justice to the entire book. In what follows I shall attempt to isolate one of its main lines of argument to give the reader a sense of the book's content.In chapter 2, Deslauriers draws our attention to four types of definition identified in the Posterior Analytics and sets out to explore the differences between them. She focuses on two basic kinds of definition, what she calls "syllogistic" definitions and "immediate" definitions. Syllogistic definitions are accounts that indicate what something is through a middle term and are formulated by rearranging the terms of a demonstrative syllogism, whereas immediate definitions express propositions that cannot be displayed in demonstrations. Instead, they are arrived at and displayed through division by genus and differentiae. According to Deslauriers, Aristotle's account of these two basic kinds of



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Devin Henry
University of Western Ontario

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