Porphyry, Introduction. Chapter 1

Porphyry, Introduction. Chapter 1

by William C. Michael

1. It seems that neither Genus nor Species is simply denominated.

Of Genus

2. For a collection of certain things, subsisting in a certain respect with reference to one thing, and to each other, is called Genus; according to which signification the Genus of the Heraclidae is denominated from the habitude from one thing, I mean from Hercules, and the multitude of those who derive in a certain respect alliance from him; being Thus, denominated, according to abscission from other Genera.

3. After another manner also the principle of the Generation of everyone is again denominated Genus, whether from the Generator, or from the place in which someone is born. Hence, we say that Orestes derived his Genus from Tantalus, but Hyllus from Hercules. And, again we say, that Pindar was by Genus a Theban; but Plato an Athenian: for country is a certain principle of the Generation of everyone, in the same manner as a father.

4. This signification however appears to be one that may be easily adopted. For those are called Heraclidae who derive their origin from the Genus of Hercules; and Cecropidae who derive it from Cecrops; and also those who have an affinity to these.

5. And the first Genus is denominated that whence, the principle of the Generation of any one is derived; but afterwards, the multitude of those who originate from one principle, as for instance, from Hercules; which Genus defining and separating from others, we call the whole collected multitude, the Genus of the Heraclidae.

6. Again, after another manner, Genus is denominated that, to which Species is subjected, being Thus, called perhaps according to the similitude of these. For a Genus of this kind is a certain principle of the things which are under it, and appears also to comprehend all the multitude which is under it.

7. Since therefore Genus is denominated in a threefold manner, the third is that which is considered by philosophers.

8. Which also describing they explain, when they say that Genus is that which is predicated of many things, differing in Species, in answer to the question “What is this?”; as for instance, animal.

Note here that Porphyry summarizes his discussion of the three ways in which the name “Genus” is used and that the third was is the way used by philosophers. By “many things” is simply meant more than one.

9. For of things which are predicated, some are predicated of one thing only, as Individuals, as for instance Socrates, and this man, and that thing; but others are predicated of many things, as Genera and Species, Differences, Peculiarities and Accidents, which are predicated of many things in common, and are not peculiar to any individual thing. But Genus is indeed, such as animal; and Species, such as man; Difference is such as rational; Peculiarity, such as risible; and Accident, such as the white, the black, and to sit.

Here we have a quick example provided for each of the five predicables. Be sure to study each example and develop an idea of what Genus, Species, Difference, Peculiarity and Accident are.

10. Genera therefore differ from things which are predicated of one thing only in this, that they are predicated of many things.

11. But Genera differ from those which are predicated of many things, and in the first place from Species, because though Species are predicated of many things, yet not of things differing in Species, but in number. Thus, man, being a Species, is predicated of Socrates and Plato, who do not differ from each other in Species, but in number. But animal being a Genus, is predicated of man and ox, and horse, which differ also in Species from each other, and not in number only.

By “differing in number”, we mean that there is no difference except that there are two different individuals, #1 and #2.

12. Again, Genus differs from Peculiarity in this, that Peculiarity is predicated of one Species alone, of which it is the Peculiarity, and of the individuals under that Species. Thus, risibility is predicated of man alone, and of the individuals of the human Species; but Genus is not predicated of one Species, but of many things, and which differ in Species.

13. Farther still, Genus differs from Difference, and from Accidents which are common, because though Differences and Accidents which are common, are predicated of many things, and which differ in Species, yet Differences and Accidents are not predicated in answer to the question, “What is this?”, but in answer to the question, “What kind of a thing is this?”. For certain persons enquiring “What is this of which these things are predicated?”, we answer that it is Genus; but we do not answer that it is Differences and Accidents; since these are not predicated of a subject in answer to the question “What is this?”, but rather in answer to the question “What kind of a thing is this?”. For when anyone asks what kind of a thing man is, we say that he is a rational being; and in answer to the question “What kind of thing is a crow?”, we say that “A crow is black.”. Rational however is Difference but black is Accident, but when we ask “What is man?”, we answer “Man is an animal.”; and animal is the Genus of man.

14. Hence, because Genus is predicated of many things, it is separated from individuals which are predicated of one thing only.

15. But because it is predicated of things differing in Species, it is distinguished from things which are predicated as Species, or as peculiarities.

16. And because it is predicated in answer to the question, “What is this?”, it is separated from Differences, and from common Accidents, each of which is predicated of those things of which it is predicated, not in answer to the question “What is this?”, but in answer to the question, “What kind of a thing is this?”, or “In what manner does this subsist?”.

17. The above-mentioned description therefore of the conception of Genus, contains nothing superfluous, nothing deficient.

In paragraphs 14–17, Porphyry summarizes the similarities and differences of Genus, Species, etc. We will study this in greater detail later in this book.

Of Species

18. Species, however, is predicated indeed of every form, according to which signification it is said,

Form is first worthy of imperial sway.

19. That also is called Species, which is placed under the Genus already explained, according to which signification we are accustomed to say that man is a Species of animal, animal being a Genus; that the white is a Species of colour; and that triangle is a Species of figure.

20. If, however, in explaining Genus we make mention of Species, and say that Genus is that which is predicated of many things differing in Species, in answer to the question what a thing is, and that Species is that which is under the aforesaid Genus; it is requisite to know that since Genus is the Genus of some things and Species the Species of something, each of each, it is necessary to use both the definitions of both.

21. They unfold therefore the meaning of Species as follows: Species is that which is arranged under Genus, and of which Genus is predicated in answer to the question “What a thing is?”. They also explain it thus: Species is that which is predicated of many things differing in number, in answer to the question “What is this?”.

22. This explanation, however, pertains to the Most Special Species, and which is Species only, but no longer Genus also; but the other explanations will pertain to Species which are not Most Special.

23. What we have said however will be evident after this manner: In each category, there are certain things which are most General, and again others which are most Special; and between things the most General and the most Special there are others, which are called both Genera and Species. But the Genus which is most General, is that above which there will no longer be another superior Genus; and the most Special Species is that after which there will not be another inferior Species. Between the most General Genus, and the most Special Species also, there are other things which are both Genera and Species, when referred however to different things.

24. But what has been said will become evident in one category. Essence , is indeed itself a Genus. Under this is body. And under body is animated body; under which is animal. Under animal is rational animal; under which is man. And under man are Socrates and Plato, and the individuals of the human Species. Of these however Essence is the “most General”, and that which is alone Genus; and man is “most Special”, and that which is alone Species. But body is a Species of Essence, and the Genus of animated body. Animated body also is a Species of body, but the Genus of animal. Again, animal is a Species indeed of animated body, but the Genus of rational animal. And rational animal, is a Species indeed of animal, but the Genus of man. And man is a Species indeed of rational animal, but is no longer the Genus also of particular men, but is Species alone. Every thing also prior to individuals which is proximately predicated of them, will be Species only, and no longer Genus also. Hence, as Essence which is in the highest place is most General, because there is no Genus prior to it; Thus, also man being a Species, after which there is no other Species, nor any thing which is capable of being divided into Species, but individuals, (for Socrates, Plato, and Alcibiades, and this particular white thing, are individuals) will be Species alone, and the last Species, and as we have said, the most Special Species. But the media will be the Species of the things prior to them; and the Genera of things posterior to them.

25. Hence, these have two habitudes, one to things prior to them, according to which they are said to- be the Species of them, but the other, to things posterior to them, according to which they are said to be the Genera of them.

26. But the extremes have one habitude. For that which is most General, has indeed a habitude as to the things which are under it, since it is the highest Genus of all things; but has no longer a habitude as to things prior to it, being supreme, and the first principle, and, as we have said, that above which there will not be another superior Genus.

27. The most Special Species also has one habitude, as towards things prior to it, of which it is the Species; yet it has not a different habitude, as towards things posterior to it; but it is said to be the Species of individuals, as comprehending them, and again, the Species of things prior to it, as being comprehended by them.

28. The most General Genus therefore is defined to be that which being Genus is not Species. And again, it is that above which there will not be another superior Genus.

29. But the most Special Species, is defined to be that which being Species is not Genus; and that which being Species we cannot divide into Species. Farther still, it is that also which is predicated of many things differing in number, in answer to the question, “What is this?”.

30. But the media of the extremes, are called subaltern Species and Genera, and each of them is admitted to be Genus and Species, with reference however to different things. For the things prior to the most Special Species, in an ascent as far as to the most General Genus, are called subaltern Genera and Species.

31. Thus, Agamemnon is Atrides, Pelopides, Tantalides, and in the last place, of Jupiter.

32. In genealogies however, they refer, for the most part, to one principle, for instance to Jupiter; but in Genera and Species this is not the case; for being is not the common Genus of all things, nor, as Aristotle says, are all things homogenous, according to one supreme Genus. But the first ten Genera are arranged, as in the Categories, as the first ten principles. And though some one should call all things beings, yet, says he, he will call them so homonymously, and not synonymously. For if being were the common Genus of all things, all things would be synonymously denominated beings. But the first principles being ten, the communion is in the name only, and not also in the definition pertaining to the name. The most General Genera therefore are ten .

33. But the most Special Species are indeed contained in a certain number, yet not in an infinite number.

34. Individuals however, which are after the most Special Species are infinite.

35. Hence, when we have descended as far as to the most Special Species from the most General Genera, Plato orders us to rest; but advises us to descend through those things which are in the middle, dividing by specific Differences. But infinites, says he, are to be dismissed; for of these there cannot be any science.

36. In descending therefore to the most Special Species, it is necessary by dividing to proceed through multitude; but in ascending to the most General Genera, it is necessary to collect multitude into one. For Species is collective of the many into one nature, and Genus possesses this power in a still greater degree. On the contrary, things which subsist according to a part, and particulars, always divide the one into multitude. For by the participation of Species, the multitude of men is one man; but in things which subsist according to a part, and in particulars, that which is one and common to many is contained. For that which is particular has always a divisive power; but that which is common has the power of collecting and uniting.

37. With respect to Genus and Species therefore, having explained what each of them is, and since Genus is one thing, but Species many things, (for the division of Genus is always into many Species) Genus indeed is always predicated of Species, and all the superiors of all the inferiors; but Species is neither predicated of the Genus proximate to it, nor of the superior Genera; for neither does it reciprocate. For it is necessary, either that things equal should be predicated of things equal, as the ability of neighing is predicated of a horse; or that greater things should be predicated of lesser, as animal of man; but lesser can no longer be predicated of greater things. For you can no longer say that animal is man, as you can say that man is an animal. But of those things of which. Species is predicated, of those, the Genus of Species are also necessarily predicate the Genus of Genus, as far as to the most General Genus. For, if it is true to say that Socrates is a man, but man is an animal, and an animal is Essence or substance: it is also true to say that Socrates is an animal and an Essence. For since superiors are always predicated of inferiors, Species indeed is predicated of an individual; but Genus is predicated both of Species and an individual; and the most General Genus is predicated of Genus, or Genera; if the media and subalterns are many, and also of Species, and an individual. For the most General Genus is predicated of all the Genera, Species, and individuals contained under it; but the Genus which is prior to the most Special Species is predicated of all the most Special. Species and individuals. And that which is Species alone is predicated of all the individuals of that Species; but an individual is predicated of one particular thing alone.

38. An individual, however, is such as Socrates, this white substance, and this man who approaches, viz. the son of Sophroniscus, if Socrates is the son of Sophroniscus. But things of this kind are called individuals, because each of them consists of peculiarities, of which the collection can never belong to any other thing. For the same peculiarities as those of Socrates, cannot subsist in any other person. The same peculiarities however of man, I mean of man considered as common, can be inherent in many, or rather in all particular men, so far as they are men.

39. Hence, the individual is contained by Species, but Species by Genus. For Genus is a certain whole; but the individual is a part; and Species is both whole and part. It is a part indeed of something else, but not a whole of any thing else, but subsists in other things; for the whole is in its parts.

40. Concerning Genus and Species therefore, we have shown what they are, and also what that which is most General, and that which is most Special are, what things are both Genera and Species, what are individuals, and in how many ways Genus and Species are assumed.

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William C. Michael

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