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Logoi and Pathêmata

Aristotle and the modal/amodal distinction in modern theories of concepts


Lars Inderelst

«Concept» is a central notion in modern philosophy that also influences other disciplines like psychology and linguistics. The author compares modern theories to the work of Aristotle as the first philosopher with an extensive corpus and one of the predecessors both of classical theory and of modal theories of «concepts». It is surprising that there is no equivalent term for «concept» in his work. Both pathêma and logos are central to his theory of language and thought. Therefore, this book describes which notion in Aristotle’s writing comes closest to «concept» and whether or not it generates a precise theory.

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V. Concept as logos


1. Disambiguating logos1

1.1. General meanings of logos

The first notion in Aristotle that will be compared to modern theories of concepts, namely amodal theories, is the notion of ‘logos.’ Logos is a very common Greek word in texts from Greek philosophers and not surprisingly it is very ambiguous. There are plenty of meanings in ordinary language but also several technical meanings in philosophy. Liddell-Scott’s Greek English Lexicon lists ten core readings of logos: I) computation, reckoning, (II) relation, correspondence, proportion, (III) explanation, (IV) rule, principle, law, (V) continuous statement, narrative, (VI) verbal expression, utterance, (VII) a particular utterance, saying, (VIII) thing spoken of, subject matter, (IX) expression, utterance, speech.2 Most of those meanings are somehow connected to language. Logos stands primarily for different forms of speech or texts but also for the things spoken of. Peters (1967) lists “speech, account, reason, definition, rational faculty, proportion” as relevant meanings of logos in a philosophical context.3 “Speech” is connected to language and might be used for an elaborated rhetorical speech or simply for linguistic utterings in general. “Account” is also linguistic and can mainly be found in philosophical discussions. “Reason” and “rational faculty” are not restricted to language but rather pertain to thought. They are faculties rather than singular or complex instances of language or thoughts. “Definition” is a very specific form of sentence/speech act. “Proportion”, e.g., in a mathematical context seems to be entirely independent of the other meanings.

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