Aristotle, On Interpretation, Chapter 1

Aristotle, On Interpretation, Chapter 1

by William C. Michael

In this lesson, we study the first chapter of Aristotle’s treatise On Interpretation, the second book of the Organon. For tutorial resources on this lesson, please see the Academy YouTube channel. This lesson is studied in the Academy’s Classical Reasoning I course. The text below is adapted from Thomas Taylor’s translation of Aristotle’s Prior Analytics

Aristotle (384–322 BC)

In the first place, it is necessary to determine what Noun and Verb are; and in the next place, what Negation, Affirmation, Enunciation, and a Sentence are.

Those things, therefore, which are spoken, are symbols of the passions of the soul; and those things which are written are symbols of the passions in the voice. And as there are not the same letters among all men, so neither are there the same spoken words, or articulate sounds.

The passions of the soul, however, of which these are primarily the signs, are the same among all men; and the things of which these are the similitudes are also the same. Concerning these, therefore, we have spoken in the treatise “On the Soul”; for these belong to another discussion.

But as in the soul, a conception is at one time without truth or falsehood, but at another time it is that in which one of these is necessarily inherent; thus also it is in speech, or articulate sound. For the false and the true are conversant with composition and division.

Nouns and verbs, therefore, are assimilated to the conception which is without composition and division; such, for instance, as “man”, or “white”, when something is not added; for then it is neither true nor false. Of which this is an indication, that the word tragelaphos signifies, indeed, something, but not yet any thing true or false, unless “to be” or not “to be” is added, either simply, or according to time.


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William C. Michael

Mr. William C. Michael is the founding headmaster of the <a href=”">Classical Liberal Arts Academy</a>. He graduated from Rutge