Aristotle, On Interpretation

LCL 325: 116-117

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16 a καὶ τὸ ἀληθές. τὰ μὲν οὖν ὀνόματα αὐτὰ καὶ τὰ ῥήματα ἔοικε τῷ ἄνευ συνθέσεως καὶ διαιρέσεως 15νοήματι, οἷον τὸ ἄνθρωπος ἢ τὸ λευκόν, ὅταν μὴ προστεθῇ τι· οὔτε γὰρ ψεῦδος οὔτε ἀληθές πω. σημεῖον δ᾿ ἐστὶ τοῦδε· καὶ γὰρ ὁ τραγέλαφος σημαίνει μέν τι, οὔπω δὲ ἀληθὲς ἢ ψεῦδος, ἐὰν μὴ τὸ εἶναι ἢ μὴ εἶναι προστεθῇ, ἢ ἁπλῶς ἢ κατὰ χρόνον.


II. Ὄνομα μὲν οὖν ἐστὶ φωνὴ σημαντικὴ κατὰ συνθήκην ἄνευ χρόνου, ἧς μηδὲν μέρος ἐστὶ σημαντικὸν κεχωρισμένον· ἐν γὰρ τῷ Κάλλιππος τὸ ἵππος οὐδὲν αὐτὸ καθ᾿ ἑαυτὸ σημαίνει, ὥσπερ ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τῷ καλὸς ἵππος. οὐ μὴν οὐδ᾿ ὥσπερ ἐν τοῖς ἁπλοῖς ὀνόμασιν, οὕτως ἔχει καὶ ἐν τοῖς 25συμπεπλεγμένοις· ἐν ἐκείνοις μὲν γὰρ τὸ μέρος οὐδαμῶς σημαντικόν, ἐν δὲ τούτοις βούλεται μέν, ἀλλ᾿ οὐδενὸς κεχωρισμένον, οἷον ἐν τῷ ἐπακτροκέλης τὸ κέλης οὐδὲν σημαίνει καθ᾿ ἑαυτό.

Τὸ δὲ κατὰ συνθήκην, ὅτι φύσει τῶν ὀνομάτων οὐδέν ἐστιν, ἀλλ᾿ ὅταν γένηται σύμβολον, ἐπεὶ δηλοῦσί γέ τι καὶ οἱ ἀγράμματοι ψόφοι, οἷον θηρίων, ὧν οὐδέν ἐστιν ὄνομα.


Τὸ δ᾿ οὐκ ἄνθρωπος οὐκ ὄνομα. οὐ μὴν οὐδὲ κεῖται ὄνομα ὅ τι δεῖ καλεῖν αὐτό· οὔτε γὰρ λόγος οὔτε ἀπόφασίς ἐστιν. ἀλλ᾿ ἔστω ὄνομα ἀόριστον, ὅτι ὁμοίως ἐφ᾿ ὁτουοῦν ὑπάρχει καὶ ὄντος καὶ μὴ ὄντος.


On Interpretation, II

falsity. A noun or a verb by itself much resembles a concept or thought which is neither combined nor disjoined. Such is ‘man,’ for example, or ‘white,’ if pronounced without any addition. As yet it is not true nor false. And a proof of this lies in the fact that ‘tragelaphos,’ while it means something, has no truth nor falsity in it, unless in addition you predicate being or not-being of it, whether generally (that is to say, without definite time-connotation) or in a particular tense.a

II. A noun is a sound having meaning established by convention alone but no reference whatever to time, while no part of it has any meaning, considered apart from the whole. Take the proper name ‘Good-steed,’ for instance. The ‘steed’ has ho meaning apart, as it has in the phrase ‘a good steed.’ It is necessary to notice, however, that simple nouns differ from composite. While in the case of the former the parts have no meaning at all, in the latter they have a certain meaning but not as apart from the whole. Let us take ‘pirate-vessel,’ for instance. The ‘vessel’ has no sense whatever, except as a part of the whole.

We have already said that a noun signifies this or that by convention. No sound is by nature a noun: it becomes one, becoming a symbol. Inarticulate noises mean something—for instance, those made by brute beasts. But no noises of that kind are nouns.

‘Not-man’ and the like are not nouns, and I know of no recognized names we can give such expressions as these, which are neither denials nor sentences. Call them (for want of a better) by the name of indefinite nouns, since we use them of all kinds of things, non-existent as well as existing.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.aristotle-interpretation.1938