Author: Aristotle  | Date: 350 BC


Again, see if he has placed what is a ’state’ inside the genus ’activity’, or an activity inside the genus ’state’, e.g. by defining ’sensation’ as ’movement communicated through the body’: for sensation is a ’state’, whereas movement is an ’activity’. Likewise, also, if he has said that memory is a ’state that is retentive of a conception’, for memory is never a state, but rather an activity.

They also make a bad mistake who rank a ’state’ within the ’capacity’ that attends it, e.g. by defining ’good temper’ as the ’control of anger’, and ’courage’ and ’justice’ as ’control of fears’ and of ’gains’: for the terms ’courageous’ and ’good-tempered’ are applied to a man who is immune from passion, whereas ’self-controlled’ describes the man who is exposed to passion and not led by it. Quite possibly, indeed, each of the former is attended by a capacity such that, if he were exposed to passion, he would control it and not be led by it: but, for all that, this is not what is meant by being ’courageous’ in the one case, and ’good-tempered’ in the other; what is meant is an absolute immunity from any passions of that kind at all.

Sometimes, also, people state any kind of attendant feature as the genus, e.g. ’pain’ as the genus of ’anger’ and ’conception’ as that of ’conviction’. For both of the things in question follow in a certain sense upon the given species, but neither of them is genus to it. For when the angry man feels pain, the pain has appeared in him earlier than the anger: for his anger is not the cause of his pain, but his pain of his anger, so that anger emphatically is not pain. By the same reasoning, neither is conviction conception: for it is possible to have the same conception even without being convinced of it, whereas this is impossible if conviction be a species of conception: for it is impossible for a thing still to remain the same if it be entirely transferred out of its species, just as neither could the same animal at one time be, and at another not be, a man. If, on the other hand, any one says that a man who has a conception must of necessity be also convinced of it, then ’conception’ and ’conviction’ will be used with an equal denotation, so that not even so could the former be the genus of the latter: for the denotation of the genus should be wider.

See, also, whether both naturally come to be anywhere in the same thing: for what contains the species contains the genus as well: e.g. what contains ’white’ contains ’colour’ as well, and what contains ’knowledge of grammar’ contains ’knowledge’ as well. If, therefore, any one says that ’shame’ is ’fear’, or that ’anger’ is ’pain’, the result will be that genus and species are not found in the same thing: for shame is found in the ’reasoning’ faculty, whereas fear is in the ’spirited’ faculty, and ’pain’ is found in the faculty of ’desires’. (for in this pleasure also is found), whereas ’anger’ is found in the ’spirited’ faculty. Hence the terms rendered are not the genera, seeing that they do not naturally come to be in the same faculty as the species. Likewise, also, if ’friendship’ be found in the faculty of desires, you may take it that it is not a form of ’wishing’: for wishing is always found in the ’reasoning’ faculty. This commonplace rule is useful also in dealing with Accident: for the accident and that of which it is an accident are both found in the same thing, so that if they do not appear in the same thing, clearly it is not an accident.

Again, see if the species partakes of the genus attributed only in some particular respect: for it is the general view that the genus is not thus imparted only in some particular respect: for a man is not an animal in a particular respect, nor is grammar knowledge in a particular respect only. Likewise also in other instances. Look, therefore, and see if in the case of any of its species the genus be imparted only in a certain respect; e.g. if ’animal’ has been described as an ’object of perception’ or of ’sight’. For an animal is an object of perception or of sight in a particular respect only; for it is in respect of its body that it is perceived and seen, not in respect of its soul, so that ’object of sight’ and ’object of perception’ could not be the genus of ’animal’.

Sometimes also people place the whole inside the part without detection, defining (e.g.) ’animal’ as an ’animate body’; whereas the part is not predicated in any sense of the whole, so that ’body’ could not be the genus of animal, seeing that it is a part.

See also if he has put anything that is blameworthy or objectionable into the class ’capacity’ or ’capable’, e.g. by defining a ’sophist’ or a ’slanderer’, or a ’thief’ as ’one who is capable of secretly thieving other people’s property’. For none of the aforesaid characters is so called because he is ’capable’ in one of these respects: for even God and the good man are capable of doing bad things, but that is not their character: for it is always in respect of their choice that bad men are so called. Moreover, a capacity is always a desirable thing: for even the capacities for doing bad things are desirable, and therefore it is we say that even God and the good man possess them; for they are capable (we say) of doing evil. So then ’capacity’ can never be the genus of anything blameworthy. Else, the result will be that what is blameworthy is sometimes desirable: for there will be a certain form of capacity that is blameworthy.

Also, see if he has put anything that is precious or desirable for its own sake into the class ’capacity’ or ’capable’ or ’productive’ of anything. For capacity, and what is capable or productive of anything, is always desirable for the sake of something else.

Or see if he has put anything that exists in two genera or more into one of them only. For some things it is impossible to place in a single genus, e.g. the ’cheat’ and the ’slanderer’: for neither he who has the will without the capacity, nor he who has the capacity without the will, is a slanderer or cheat, but he who has both of them. Hence he must be put not into one genus, but into both the aforesaid genera.

Moreover, people sometimes in converse order render genus as differentia, and differentia as genus, defining (e.g.) astonishment as ’excess of wonderment’ and conviction as ’vehemence of conception’. For neither ’excess’ nor ’vehemence’ is the genus, but the differentia: for astonishment is usually taken to be an ’excessive wonderment’, and conviction to be a ’vehement conception’, so that ’wonderment’ and ’conception’ are the genus, while ’excess’ and ’vehemence’ are the differentia. Moreover, if any one renders ’excess’ and ’vehemence’ as genera, then inanimate things will be convinced and astonished. For ’vehemence’ and ’excess’ of a thing are found in a thing which is thus vehement and in excess. If, therefore, astonishment be excess of wonderment the astonishment will be found in the wonderment, so that ’wonderment’ will be astonished! Likewise, also, conviction will be found in the conception, if it be ’vehemence of conception’, so that the conception will be convinced. Moreover, a man who renders an answer in this style will in consequence find himself calling vehemence vehement and excess excessive: for there is such a thing as a vehement conviction: if then conviction be ’vehemence’, there would be a ’vehement vehemence’. Likewise, also, there is such a thing as excessive astonishment: if then astonishment be an excess, there would be an ’excessive excess’. Whereas neither of these things is generally believed, any more than that knowledge is a knower or motion a moving thing.

Sometimes, too, people make the bad mistake of putting an affection into that which is affected, as its genus, e.g. those who say that immortality is everlasting life: for immortality seems to be a certain affection or accidental feature of life. That this saying is true would appear clear if any one were to admit that a man can pass from being mortal and become immortal: for no one will assert that he takes another life, but that a certain accidental feature or affection enters into this one as it is. So then ’life’ is not the genus of immortality.

Again, see if to an affection he has ascribed as genus the object of which it is an affection, by defining (e.g.) wind as ’air in motion’. Rather, wind is ’a movement of air’: for the same air persists both when it is in motion and when it is still. Hence wind is not ’air’ at all: for then there would also have been wind when the air was not in motion, seeing that the same air which formed the wind persists. Likewise, also, in other cases of the kind. Even, then, if we ought in this instance to admit the point that wind is ’air in motion’, yet we should accept a definition of the kind, not about all those things of which the genus is not true, but only in cases where the genus rendered is a true predicate. For in some cases, e.g. ’mud’ or ’snow’, it is not generally held to be true. For people tell you that snow is ’frozen water’ and mud is earth mixed with moisture’, whereas snow is not water, nor mud earth, so that neither of the terms rendered could be the genus: for the genus should be true of all its species. Likewise neither is wine ’fermented water’, as Empedocles speaks of ’water fermented in wood’; for it simply is not water at all.


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Chicago: Aristotle, "5," Topics, trans. W. A. Pickard-Cambridge Original Sources, accessed April 22, 2024,

MLA: Aristotle. "5." Topics, translted by W. A. Pickard-Cambridge, Original Sources. 22 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: Aristotle, '5' in Topics, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 22 April 2024, from