[1.3.2] Aristotle’s Categories: the Ten-Fold Division

“What then is Aristotle’s second classificatory system? Quite simply, it is a list of highest kinds, which are also known as categories. That there are highest kinds (or perhaps that there is one single highest kind) can be motivated by noticing the fact that the ordinary objects of our experience fall into classes of increasing generality. Consider, for instance, a maple tree. It is in the first instance a maple and so belongs in a class with all and only other maples. It is also, however, a tree and so belongs in a broader class, namely the class of trees, whose extension is wider than the class of maples. Continuing on, it is also a living thing and so belongs in a class whose extension is wider still than the class of trees. And so on. Now, once this basic pattern is before us, we can ask the following question: does this increase in generality go on ad infinitum or does it end at a class that is the most general possible? Does it end, in other words, at a highest kind?… According to Aristotle, every genus must be differentiated by some differentia that falls outside that genus. Hence, if being were a genus, it would have to be differentiated by a differentia that fell outside of it. In other words, being would have to be differentiated by some non-being, which, according to Aristotle, is a metaphysical absurdity. Although he does not explicitly make this claim, Aristotle’s argument, if cogent, would generalize to any proposal for a single highest kind. Hence, he does not think that there is one single highest kind. Instead, he thinks that there are ten: (1) substance; (2) quantity; (3) quality; (4) relatives; (5) somewhere; (6) sometime; (7) being in a position; (8) having; (9) acting; and (10) being acted upon”

The following OntoUML Diagram presents the main entities of Aristotle’s (384-322 BC) ten-fold division:

Aristotle’s ten fold division
ClassDescriptionRelations
SupremeGenus
_HighestKind
“every genus must be differentiated by some differentia that falls outside that genus. Hence, if being were a genus, it would have to be differentiated by a differentia that fell outside of it. In other words, being would have to be differentiated by some non-being, which, according to Aristotle, is a metaphysical absurdity. Although he does not explicitly make this claim, Aristotle’s argument, if cogent, would generalize to any proposal for a single highest kind. Hence, he does not think that there is one single highest kind. Instead, he thinks that there are ten.”
Supreme genus (highest kind) can be of have 10: (1) substance;(2) quantity; (3) quality; (4) relatives; (5) somewhere; (6) sometime;(7) being in a position; (8) having; (9) acting; and (10) being acted upon.
Genus“every genus must be differentiated by some differentia that falls outside that genus. Hence, if being were a genus, it would have to be differentiated by a differentia that fell outside of it.”is in a recursive association with itself; each level splits the superior level in 2 or more, based on the attributes marked in Differentia; inherits from SupremeGenus
_HighestKind
Species“the essence of any species, according to Aristotle, consists in its genus and the differentia that together with that genus defines the species.” associated with Differentia; inherits from Genus
DifferentiaDifferentia is an attribute, question which is able to differentiate the Species/Category to the next level. associated with 1:1 relation to Genus and Species
ParticularParticular is the real existent, at the bottom of the hierarchy.inherits from Species

A classical example of the ten fold division is the Porphyrian tree – presenting the ontological hierarchy of substance as Highest kind (UML Object Diagram).

Substance as Supreme Genus presented in UML Object Diagram
(Porphyrian tree)

Related posts in theory of Universals: [1.2.2], [1.3.1], [1.3.2], [2.5], [2.7.3], [4.3.1], [4.3.2]

The source of all citations and more about the topic in: Studtmann, Paul, “Aristotle’s Categories“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

First published: 12/02/2019
Updated: separated Supreme Genus and Genus on 27/05/2020; re-designed for OntoUML 08/07/2020

8 thoughts on “[1.3.2] Aristotle’s Categories: the Ten-Fold Division

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