The Beginning is the Term

Any discussion of Aristotle’s logic should begin with an explanation of his extremely subtle notion of a term. Aristotle’s logic is a logic of terms. Terms, not predicates, or sentences, or propositions (not even judgments) are its building blocks. I intend to show here that Aristotle’s notion of a term is the source of his conflation of methodology and epistemology. It is the gist of his essentialism. Explaining this claim will be the focus of the next five chapters.

Literally “term” is “an end”, a sentence end (horos, in Greek, terminus in Latin, means an edge, a limit or an end). This literal meaning suggests a structural definition: it suggests that the only thing necessary for identifying terms is pinpointing a position in a sentence. It tells us that a sentence is the composition of two ‘ends’ and a middle (the middle being a special binder, the copula). This definition is highly misleading, however, exactly because it seems to suggest that anything that can grammatically occupy a sentence’s beginning or end is a legitimate term. This is not the case in Aristotle’s logic.


Natural Kind Borderline Case Complement Class Modern Logic Hypothetical Entity 
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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2008

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