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The Differentia and the Per Se Accident in Aristotle

by H e r b e r t G r a n g e r (Vermillion)
When Aristotle distinguishes between definition and demonstration
in the Posterior Analytics, he holds that one distinction between them
concerns predication. In a demonstration a predicate is shown to
belong or not to belong to a subject, while in a definition the
definition's elements, the genus and differentia, are not combined
through the predicative relation: for example, the genus animal is not
predicated of its differentia biped, nor is biped predicated of animal
(Post. Ana. II 90b 3437). This prohibition against predication is also
found in the Topics and Metaphysics (Top. VI 144a 31-b3, Met. III
998 b 2227). Nevertheless, there is considerable evidence that
Aristotle also thought of the relationship between the definition's
genus and differentia s predicative in nature. Specifically, he seems to
regard the differentia s a per se accidental predicate of its genus. In
this paper I shall defend this Interpretation. I shall proceed by present-
ing first a brief account of the per se accident; then, in light of this
account I shall argue that the differentia is a type of per se accident;
finally, I shall take up a discussion of some important questions
concerning the prohibition against predication and the differentia s
a per se accident.
The Per Se Accident:1
In the Metaphysics Aristotle gives bis only definition of the per se accident: it be-
longs to its subject per se or in virtue of itself (kath' hauto) but is not an element in the
essence of its subject, "s having its angles equal to two right angles attaches to the

1
My account has greatly benefited from two recent discussions of the per se accident:
Vernon E. Wedin, Jr., "A Remark on Per Se Accidents and Properties," Archiv fr
Geschichte der Philosophie 55 (1973): 30-35; William Graham, "Counterpredic^bil-
ity and Per Se Accidents," Archiv fr Geschichte der Philosophie 57 (1975):
182 187. My account is also indebted to Jonathan Barnes' comments on what I take
to be the per se accident: "Property in Aristotle's Topics," Archiv fr Geschichte der
Philosophie 52 (1970): 136-155 (hereafter cited s "Property"); Aristotle's
'Posterior Analytics' (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975): 115, 119 (hereafter cited s
Arist. 'Post.Brought
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Differentia and Per Se Accident in Aristotle 119

triangle"* (Met. V 1025a 30-32, cf. Phys. l 186b 18-23). In Posterior Analytics 1.4
he gives an account of per se predicates in which they are divided into two types: those
that are part of the essence of their subjects, s line is to triangle and point to line; 3
those that have the subjects of which they are predicated s elements in their essence,
s straight and curved belong to line and s odd and even, prime and compound,
square and oblong4 belong to number (Post. Ana. I 73 a 34-b 5; cf. 74b 7-10, 84a
11 17). Since the per se accident is non-essential to its subject, it is the latter type of
per se predicate. l take the examples given here of this predicate to be examples of the
per se accident (cf. Phys. I 186b 18-23). Other examples include snub, which belongs
to nose, male and female, which belong to animal, equal, which belongs to quantity,
and bandy-shaped, which belongs to leg; the examples that show up most often are
snub and odd.5

As a per se predicate that is non-essential to its subject and whose


subject is an element in its own essence, the per se accident would be

2
This example, which is also used elsewhere to illustrate the per se accident (Parts of
Ani. I 643 a 31 32), does not, s we shall see, seem to fit one important characteristic
of the per se accident: the per se accident is a necessary attribute of its subject
inasmuch s it occurs in relation to its subject s the member of an exclusive
disjunction composed of opposing disjuncts, one of which must belong to the subject.
Since 'having its angles equal to two right angles' is a property of triangle, and so is
counterpredicable with triangle (Top. I 102 a 18 19), it need not belong to the above
kind of disjunction to belong necessarily to triangle (cf. Graham: p. 184). In the
important discussion of the per se predicate in Posterior Analytics I. 4, 'having its
angles equal to two right angles' is used s an example of a per se predicate that
belongs to its subject, triangle, "s such" (hei auto, Post. Ana. I 73 b 31 ff.). But
Aristotle does not indicate here whether it is a per se accident of triangle or a per se
predicate essential to triangle.
I do not know what to make of 'having its angles equal to two right angles' s an
example of the per se accident. W. D. ROSS took it to mean that the property and per
se accident are synonymous: Aristotle's 'Metaphysics', 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1924), I: 349. They are not, however, since there are clear cases of per se
accidents that do not possess the characteristic of counterpredicability: snub, for
instance.
With the exception of a few short phrases translated by me, the passages quoted in
this paper are from the Oxford translations.
3
"Line" and "point" are odd candidates for predicates of "triangle" and 'line"
respectively, but they are Aristotle's examples. For a review of some attempts to
account for them, see: Barnes, Arist. 'Post. Ana.\ p. 114.
4
Compound numbers are non-primes; oblong numbers are non-squares: Barnes.
5
Arist. 'Post. Ana.', p. 115.
Snub: Phys. I 186b 22-23, Soph. Ref. 173b 10, 182a 2, Met. VII. 5. passim: odd and
even: Post. Ana. I 73a 40, b 21; odd alone: Soph. Ref. 173b 8. Post. Ana. I 84a 14.
Met. VII 1031 a 6; male and female: Met. VII. 5, passim. X 1058a 31-32; equal: Mci
VII 1030b 22; bandy-shaped: Soph. Ref. 182 a 2.

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logicully dopendem on its subject or would entail its subject,6 while its
suhjcct would bc logically independent of il. It would also follow from
its bcing t bis kind of per se prcdicate that its subject should be
prcdicatcd of it s an essential predicate: number s an element in
ocld's essence should be regarded s an essential predicate of odd (e.g.,
Top. VII 153a 15-18).
Also, in Posierior Analytics 1.4, Aristotle holds that the per se predicate is a necessary
attribute of its subject (Post. Ana. I 73b 16-24; cf. 74b 5-12). According to Aristotle,
the per se predicate essential to its subject belongs necessarily to its subject in an
"absolute" sense: it must belong to its subject because it is part of the essence of its sub-
jc'ct. On the other hand, the per se accident belongs necessarily to its subject in the way
appropriate to "opposites": it belongs necessarily to its subject inasmuch s it belongs to
un exclusive disjunction composed of opposing disjuncts, one of which must belong to the
subject. For example, odd and even s per se accidents of number belong necessarily to
number inasmuch s any given number must be odd or even: if it is not odd, it must be
even, and if it is not even, it must be odd. Aristotle's examples in his discussion
odd and even, straight and curved and many of those listed above suggest that the
disjuncts are opposed s contraries.7 For Aristotle the kind of sentence in which aper se
accident would occur would seem then to be something like "Every number is either odd
or even."8 Now, snub, one of the most cited examples of the per se accident, does
not have a contrary and thus would not be the member of the apparently required type of
disjunction. But perhaps Aristotle merely demands that the per se accident occur in a
limited disjunction in which the disjuncts jointly exhaust some topic shapes of the
nose - and oppose one another insofar s they are mutually exclusive - snub, aquiline
and so forth.9

When I maintain that one thing, A, entails another, B, I mean that something's being
an A entails that it is a B. For example, the per se accident, odd, entails its subject,
number: something's being odd entails that it is a number.
The disjuncts are, however, treated s contradictories because relative to the topic
they concern for instance, odd and even relative to number there are, besides the
two opposing disjuncts themselves, no other possible terms that might apply to the
given subject.
Cf. Barnes, Arist. 'Post. Ana.', p. 115. Although "Every number is either odd or even"
is a general sentence, it is still a predicative sentence for Aristotle; for he views all
sentence types in terms of the Singular subject-predicate sentence (e.g., Cat. I b
10-15, 3a 34-b 7, Pr. Ana. I 24b 16-17); cf. J. L. Ackrill, Aristotle's 'Categories'
and 'De Interpretatione' (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963): 76, Barnes, "Property,"
pp. 147-148.
This, too, is Wedin's position: p. 34, n. 9. Graham argues that a per se accident need
not belong to this or any other type of disjunction so that he may hold that the
property is a type of per se accident (Graham: p. 184). He fails, however, to take into
account Posterior Analytics I 74 b 5 12.
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Differcntia and Per Se Accident in Aristotle 121

The per se accident has then these basic characteristics: (1) it is a


non-essential predicate of its subject; (2) it has its subject s an element
in its own essence, and thus it entails its subject; (3) it is a necessary
attribute of its subject inasmuch s it occurs in relation to its subject s
the member of an exclusive disjunction composed of opposing
disjuncts, one of which must belong to the subject.
The Differentia s a Type of Per Se Accident:
The Aristotelian definition, which is an account of a species, is a
complex of elements: the genus and the differentia (or differentiae).
The genus encompasses the species, and the differentia, which
Aristotle often speaks of s "added" to the genus, distinguishes the
species in question from the other species of the genus (e.g., cf. Top. VI
139a 28-29, 140a 27-29, 143b 8-9; IV and VI, passim). For
example, man is a species; its genus is animal, and, s Aristotle
sometimes says, its differentia is biped (e.g., cf. Cat. 3 a 23, Top. VI
141 b 3132ff.). Aristotle considers both the genus and differentia to
be predicates of the species (e.g., Top. VI 144a 31b 1), and, s we
have seen, he denies that they are combined by means of the
predicative relation.
Yet some of Aristotle's language clearly suggests that the genus and
differentia are combined through predication and, in particular, that
the differentia is a non-essential predicate of its genus.
When he speaks about definable substances in Metaphysics VIII. 3, he maintains that
a "definitory formula indicates something of something" (Met. VIII 1043b 23-32).
"Something of something" (// kata tinos) is standardly used by Aristotle to signify
affirmative predication (e.g.,cf. Post. Ana. I 72a 14, O Int. 17a 25, 18a 12-13). and so
its use in this passage from the Metaphysics suggests that the definition's genus and
differentia are combined through predication.10 Aristotle also speaks about the genus s
the "subject" (hypokeimenon) of the differentia (Met. V 1024b 34). Furthermore. in
the Topics the differentia is said to "belong to" (hyparchein) its genus flying and
quadruped "belong to" the genus animal (Top. II 111 a 25-27) - and the relationship of
"belonging to " is equivalent in many contexts to the predicative relationship (e.g.. cf. Pr.
Ana. I 24b 1617, 25a l 2). In this same passage from the Topics Aristotle also shows
that the differentia is not an element in the essence of its genus; for the differentia
"belonging to" the genus does not necessarily belong to all the species of the genus: wingcd
and quadruped belong to animal, but not to man. Obviously, if the differentia wcrc

Barnes seems to agree: Arist. 'Post. Ana.\ p. 198. ROSS shows that hc agrccs through
his translation of the passage in question: ". . . a definitory formula prcdicjitcv
something of something . . ."

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122 Herbert Ciranger

cssential ti> ihc genus, it would belong to all the species of the gcnus. Also, thc differentia
is said to bo a "quality of the genus" (poiotcta tou genous), hecause, according to
.Austolle, when one mentions, for instanee, the differentia "footed," one indicates an
unimal of a certain quality" (poion ti zion, Top. IV 128a 26-28, Met. V. 14).
Prcsumably. this meuns that the differentia footed, s a quality of the genus animal,
niakcs up a certain kind of animal the footed animal. Now, since a quality is a non-es-
scntial predicate of its suhject (e.g., Post. Ana. I 83a 22-24), it is only reasonable to
assumc that the differentia too is regarded by Aristotle s a non-essential predicate of its
subject, the genus.
Although there is some evidence to the contrary, which I shall turn
to later, there is also very good evidence that Aristotle believes that the
differentia entails its genus or is logically dependent on its genus.11 This
vvould clearly suggest that the genus is an element in the essence of the
differentia. It would not, however, prove it; for the species entails its
property, but its property is not an element in its essence (Top. I 102a
1819). Now, the clearest evidence for the claim that the differentia
entails its genus is found in a passage from the Topics in which Aristotle
discusses the claim, he also makes elsewhere (Cat. Ib 1620, Top. I
107b 19 26), that non-subordinate genera cannot share the same
differentia:
For the general view is that the same differentia cannot be used of two non-subaltern
genera. Eise the result will be that the same species s well will be in two non-subaltern
genera: for each of the differentiae imports [epipherei] its own genus, e.g. 'walking' and
'biped' import with them the genus 'animal' (Top. VI 144b 13 18).
The differentia's importation of its genus seems clearly to be its entail-
ment of its genus.12 This is why the differentia must be restricted to its
own genus and not allowed to be the differentia of different and non-
subordinate genera: for otherwise, it would introduce the species a
combination of the differentia and genus into different and non-sub-
ordinate genera. Although in this context Aristotle does go on to modi-
fy his view concerning the differentia in that he allows it to belong to
non-subordinate genera s long s those genera are subordinate to the
same genus, he quite explicitly maintains that the differentia would
continue to "import" its genus (Top. VI 144b 20-30).
11
l discuss at greater length the evidence for the entailment of the genus by the
differentia in my paper, "Aristotle and the Genus-Species Relation," Southern
Journal of Philosophy 18 (1980): 37-50.
12
Others agree: Ackrill: p. 77, cf. p. 86; G. E. R. Lloyd, "The Development of
Aristotle's Theory of the Classification of Animals," Phronesis 6 (1961): 61; D. M.
Balme, Aristotle's 'De Partibus Animalium' and 'De Generatione Animalium' l (Oxford:
Oxford Univ. Press, 1972): 106.
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Differentia and Per Se Accident in Anstelle 123

Considerations from elsewhere also support the claim that the


differentia entails its genus. In Posterior Analytics 11.13 Aristotle
discusses, among other things, the nature of the items making up the
definition of a species. In the course of his discussion he lays down a
rule for the differentia: it must not have an application extending out-
side its genus. Odd,13 for example, satisfies this criterion, since it
applies to nothing outside the genus number. In other words, the dif-
ferentia is restricted to its appropriate genus, and thus it would be
natural to assume that such a restriction is necessary, s it is in the
Topics, because the differentia entails its genus. In Metaphysics VII. 12
Aristotle discusses definitions derived by the method of dichotomous
division, and he argues that the differentiae in the definition should
form a series in which each differentia subsequent in the series is
subordinate to the differentia prior in the series: footed and biped form
such a series. Moreover, the subordinate differentia entails the
superordinate differentia. This is shown by Aristotle's maintaining that
in the definition one should not mention all the differentiae in the
series, because to do so would be to say the same thing more than once:
mention of the last differentia in the series is sufficient for expressing
all the superordinate differentiae. Clearly, this is possible only because
the subordinate differentia entails all its superordinate differentiae. But
Aristotle also seems here to hold that the differentia entails its genus s
well; for he maintains that the formula comprising the differentiae
makes up the definition of the species and yet in this context makes it
clear that he still regards the genus s an element in the species (Met.
VII 1038a 5-9). This would be possible only if the differentia entails
not only its superordinate differentiae but also its genus.14
Consideration of the differentia within the context of dichotomous
division suggests that it belongs necessarily to its genus, and in the same
13
Not only is odd an important example of a differentia in this discussion. but in the
Topics too it often serves s an example of a differentia (Top. 111 120b 4, IV 122h
19-24, 123a 1-2, 11-13, VI,142b 9-10, 149a 29-31). In three of these cases
from the Topics, odd is used to exemplify important characteristics of the
genus-differentia relation: at IV 122b 18-29 the example of odd and number alone
illustrates the view that a differentia cannot be "inside" its genus; at IV 122b 20-24
it alone illustrates the view that a differentia does not "partake" of its genus; at IV
123a 1-2 it is one of two examples of the view that a genus cannot be "inside" its
differentia. Now, s we have seen, odd is also one of the most citcd examples of the
per se accident. That odd is an important example of bot h the differentia and pci vr
accident supports not only the thesis that the differentia entails its genus but also, l
course, the thesis that it is a type of per se accident.
" Cf. Ackrill: pp. 77, 86.

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124 Herbert Grangur

vvay the per se accidcnt helongs necessarily to its subject; for within this
contcxt it occurs in rclation to its genus in the same way the per se
accidcnt, s a neccssary attribute of its subject, occurs in relation to its
subject: s the member of an exclusive disjunction composed of
opposing disjuncts, one of which must belong to the subject. While
critieal in the Prior and Posterior Analytics of the method of
dichotomous division s a proof procedure (Pr. Ana. I. 31, Post. Ana.
. 5), Aristotle does not deny, at least in the relatively early part of his
career, 15 that it can be useful in developing definitions. In
dichotomous division one proceeds initially by dividing exhaustively
the genus of the definiendum by two contrary differentiae (cf. Met. VII
l()37b 20-21, Parts of Ani. I 643a 31-34). One division is then
assumed to apply to the definiendum; this too is divided by two
additional contrary differentiae, and so forth, until no further division
is possible; the genus and differentiae derived thereby are assumed
then to make up the definition. For instance, the genus animal is
divided exhaustively by the contrary differentiae, mortal and immortal.
Now, according to Aristotle, when involved in dichotomous division,
one holds that one or the other of the contrary differentiae dividing the
genus must belong to the genus: for example, "Every animal is either
mortal or immortal," and the animal kind under examination must be
one or the other (Pr. Ana. I 46b 4ff.). Thus when one makes use of
dichotomous division, one treats the differentiae s opposing members
of exclusive disjunctions, one member of which must belong to the
genus. Accordingly, the differentia appears to be a necessary attribute
of its genus in the same way the per se accident is a necessary attribute
of its subject.
The evidence adduced so far provides good support for the view
that the differentia is a per se accident of its genus; for it indicates that
the differentia belongs to its genus in basically the same way the per se
accident belongs to its subject: (1) the differentia is spoken of s if it
were a non-essential predicate of its genus; (2) it entails its genus, and
this suggests strongly that it has its genus s an element in its own
essence; (3) it is a necessary attribute of its genus inasmuch s it occurs
in relation to its genus s the member of an exclusive disjunction
composed of opposing disjuncts, one of which must belong to the genus.
Yet this evidence appears less persuasive when one considers that it is
derived from scattered places within various works. There is,
15
In Parts of Ammais I. 2 and 3 Aristotle is critieal of dichotomous division s a method
for developing definitions
to youofbyspecies; cf. Balme:PARIS-SORBONNE
p. 101 ff.
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Diffcrcntia and Per St> Accident in Aristotle 125

however, one extended discussion in which Aristotle draws not only an


explicit parallel between the differentia and the per se accident but also
explicitly treats them s items of the same type and, in addition,
suggests clearly that the differentia is a type of per se accident. This
discussion occurs in chapter nine of Metaphysics X.
In this chapter Aristotle considers why some contraries do result in a difference in
species that is, are differentiae - and others do not. Three contrarieties are examined:
male and female, footed and winged, paleness and darkness. The pairs, male and female,
footed and winged, are classified together s "modifications peculiar to the genus," while
the pair, paleness and darkness, is considered "less" peculiar to the genus. Male and
female are contrary per se accidents of animal, and are discussed by Aristotle in those
terms; footed and winged are differentiae, and so their application to animal results in a
difference in species; paleness and darkness are, of course, accidents of animal, and they
do not bring about a difference in species. The contrarieties, male and female, paleness
and darkness, unlike footed and winged, cannot be differentiae because they are
contrarieties that concern the material or bodily aspect of animal and are not in its defini-
tion (logos) or substance, whereas footed and winged are in the definition of animal. In
maintaining that footed and winged are contraries in the definition of animal, Aristotle
does not mean that they are elements in animaKs essence, which, of course, they would
not be, but rather that animal, when considered in itself, contains the contrariety, footed
and winged, in that it can be divided into footed and winged animals every animal is
either footed or winged and that such a contrariety brings about a difference in species.
One important point that comes to light in this chapter's discussion is
Aristotle's classification of the per se accident and the differentia s
"modifications peculiar to the genus" (ta oikeia pathe ton genous). At
the very least, this means that he treats the differentia and the per se
accident s items of the same type. In addition, s "modifications,"
they would be predicates (cf., e.g., Met. IX 1049a 29-30, 1030a
1314), and hence the differentia should, like the per se accident, be
regarded s a predicate of the genus to which it belongs. Furthermore.
and more important, when Aristotle lays out initially in this chapter
the problem about contraries s differentiae, he uses language that
strongly suggests he regards the differentia s a type of per se accident.
In laying out the problem he says that one may ask why with respect to
animal male and female do not bring about the species, man and
woman, because not only is their difference a contrariety but also
because they belong per se to animal, unlike the contrariety, paleness
and darkness:
One might raise the question, why woman does not differ from man in speeics, when
female and male are contrary and their difference is a contraricty; and why a female
and a male animal are not different in species, though this difference bclonps to
animal in virtue of its own nature [kath' hauto tou ziou], and not s paleness or
darkness does . . . (Met. X 1058a 29-33).

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126 H e r b e r t Granger

This statcmcnt strongly suggcsts that male and female appear to be dif-
lerentiue heeause they eonform to two requirements any differentia
must mcct: they are eontraries; they belongper se to their genus. If this
Interpretation is warranted, then the differentia must belong per se to
its genus; and since it is non-essential to its genus, it must be, like male
and tcmale, a per se accident of its genus. Of course, the differentia
must rneet the additional requirement male and female do not meet: it
must be in the definition of the genus and not concern its matter. Thus,
in Metapliysics X. 9 Aristotle seems to distinguish between two kinds of
per se accident belonging to the genus: the differentia, which is in the
definition of the genus; the non-differentia, which concerns the matter
of the genus.16
It has now been established that certain important parallels obtain
between the per se accident and differentia. It has also been shown that
they are even items of the same type predicates "peculiar" to their
genus and that at one point, when they are both under discussion,
they are spoken about in such a fashion that the differentia appears to
be a type of per se accident. In light of these considerations I think I am
reasonably justified in maintaining that the differentia is a type ofperse
accident.

Final Considerations:
Several important questions concerning the prohibition against
predication and the differentia s a per se accident remain to be
considered. Why did Aristotle hold to the prohibition? How did he
come to adopt the view that the differentia is a per se accident? Which
of these positions came first, and did one have to give way to the other?
These, and some related questions, I shall address in the following.
Tne prohibition against predication concerns essential predication, the type of predi-
cation in which the predicate reveals the nature of its subject: animal is predicated in
this fashion of man, and animal and man are so predicated of individual men (e.g., cf. Cat.
2b 29ff., Post. Ana. I 83a 24ff.). That the prohibition concerns essential predication is
indicated in Aristotle's only extended account, which is found in Topics VI. 6, of the
prohibition (Top. VI 144a 28b 3). There, in laying out the various reasons for the
prohibition, he maintains that the genus ought not to be predicated of the differentia,
because to do so would be to treat the differentia s if it were a species or an individual
falling under the genus. Presumably, an analogous explanation also provides one reason

ROSS, I believe, comes close to this classification, but he fails to identify the differentia
s a type of per se accident because he believes that the per se accident and the
property are synonymous: I: 349, II: 303.
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Differentia and Per Se Accident in Aristotlc 127

the diffcrcntia ought not to bc predicated of the genus.17 This explanation for the
Prohibition makes sense only if Aristotle. is thinking of predication s essential
predication; for an item's generic and specific predicates are among its essential
predicates (e.g., Cat, 2b 29ff.). That the prohibition concerns only essential predication
does not, however, mean that the incompatibility of the prohibition and the view that the
differentia is a per se accident of its genus is merely an apparent one. For, s I have noted,
the per se accident has its subject s an element in its essence, and hence its subject would
seem to be one of its essential predicates. Accordingly, the differentia s aper se accident
of its genus would seem to have its genus s an essential predicate. Nevertheless, since the
prohibition concerns only essential predication, Aristotle certainly might have held
simultaneously to the prohibition and the view that the differentia and genus were com-
bined through non-essential predication that the differentia was a non-essential or an
accidental predicate of its genus. It is not at all unlikely that Aristotle would have tried to
construe the relationship between genus and differentia s predicative in nature, since the
subject-predicate relationship held such a tight grip on his thought: for instance, all
sentence types, whether Singular or general, are treated s if they were of the
subject-predicate form (cf., e.g., Cat. l b 10-15, 3a 34-b 7,18 Pr. Ana. I 24b 16-17);
the substance-accident and the matter-form relationships are also explicated in terms of
the subject-predicate relationship (e.g., Met. IV 1007a 34-b 1; Phys. l 190a 33-b 3,
Met. IX 1049a 27-36, VII 1029a 23-24, VIII 1043a 5-6, III 995b 36).
Now, there is an additional important motivation for the prohibition, besides
Aristotle's fear that the differentia and genus would be treated s species or individuals
falling under one another. This, too, is found in Topics VI, and consists in Aristotle's
maintaining that the genus and differentia are logically independent of one another. Aris-
totle is warranted in maintaining this position, which I shall call the "non-entailment
Position," because an authentic genus and differentia are, in fact, logically independent.19
He shows that he holds the non-entailmen,t position when he maintains that knowledge of
the genus alone or the differentia alone does not yield knowledge of the species, a com-

17
In the Topics Aristotle does not give this s a reason for prohibiting predication of the
differentia of the genus. There he holds that the genus has a wider extension than the
differentia and thus the differentia ought not to be predicated of the genus (Top. VI
144 a 28-31). This probably means that he has in mind essential predication (cf. Top.
VI 143 b 21-23); for an essential predicate has a wider extension than its subject (cf.
Top. VI 144 a 3031, b 6). But one example Aristotle uses in his Statement of the
prohibition in the Posterior Analytics indicates clearly that he has in mind essential
predication when he prohibits predication of the differentia of the genus: the genus
figure and the differentia plane are not to be predicated of one another, for plane is
not a figure nor is figure a plane (Post. Ana. II 90b 37). Unless predication in this
context were essential predication, there would be no danger of figure's being takcn
for a kind of plane, when plane is predicated of it.
Cf. Ackrill: p. 76; Barnes, "Property," pp. 147-148.
19
Cf. Arthur N. Prior, "Determinables, Determinatesand Detcrminants."Part I. A/im/^8
(1949): 1-20; John R. Scarle, "Determinables and the Notion of Rescmblancc."
Proccedings of the, Aristotelian Society 33, Suppl Vol. (1959): 141-158

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128 H e r h r t G rnger

htMiition l the genus aiul difterentia (Top. VI 141h 2934). For if they were not
loicallv indcpcndcnt, and one or ihc other ot them cntailcd the othcr one, then
knowlcdgc ot one of them ulonc would introduce knowlcdgc of thc other and so
kiunvledgo l the species. Now, the -entailment position requires the prohibition
agutnst essential predication; for if the genus, for example, were an essential prcdicate of
thc ditterentia, then not only would the differentia appear to be a species of the genus, it
would also entail the genus. A similar result would occur if the differentia were an
essential predicate of the genus.
Yet, s I showed earlier in this paper, Aristotle also adopts a position
in which the genus and differentia are not logically independent, a
position in which the differentia entails its genus. I shall call this the
'entailment position." I think the entailment rather than the non-
entailment position is the later view; for the non-entailment position
shows up most clearly and almost exclusively in the early work the
Topics,20 and although the entailment position shows up most clearly in
the Topics, too, it also dominates, s we have seen, important discus-
sions of the genus and differentia in the later works, the Posterior
Analytics and the Metaphysics (Post. Ana. II. 13; Met. VII. 12). At
least part of the reason Aristotle adopted the entailment position was
surely his well-known desire that the elements in the definition the
genus and differentia should form a unity (e.g., Post. Ana. II 92 a
27 34, Met. VII. 12, VIII. 6). For, obviously, a differentia and genus
linked through entailment would appear to form a unified whole. Yet
just why entailment was suggested to Aristotle s the way to unite these

20
Other Topics' passages perhaps supporting the non-entailment position are those that
concern the prohibition on essential predication, those that deny that the genus and
differentia "partake" of one another (Top. IV 122b 20-24, 123a 7-8), and those
that prohibit them from being "inside" one another (Top. IV 122b 18-20, 123a
12). The prohibition against essential predication might support the non-entailment
position, because if, for example, the differentia entailed its genus, it surely might be
taken to be an item of which the genus is an essential predicate. Aristotle defines
"partake" s "to admit the definition of that which is partaken" (Top. IV 121 a
11-12). This would support the non-entailment position; for if one item cannot admit
the definition of another, it would seem to be incapable of entailing it. By one thing's
being "inside" another, Aristotle means the way a species is subordinate to its genus.
If an item is not subordinate to another item, it would seem not to entail that item.
Aside from the passages concerning the prohibition against essential predication, I
know of only one reference outside the Topics to what might be the non-entailment
position: "For things which are in the same genus must be composed of terms in which
the genus is not an element, or eise be themselves incomposite" (Met. X 1057 b
2022). Here Aristotle is speaking about species of the same genus, and he at least
seems to be saying that they must be composed of differentiae that are logically inde-
pendent of their genus: terms that do not have the genus s an element.
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Differcntia and Per Se Accident in Aristotle 129

elements is a complicated topic I cannot go into here.21 But if I am


justified in maintaining that the entailment position is later than the
non-entailment position, then Aristotle probably would have
surrendered the view about prohibition for the view that the differentia
is a per se accident; for the differentia s a per se accident of its genus
must entail its genus.
We are now in a position to make a reasonable conjecture
concerning the way Aristotle might have come to regard the differentia
s a per se accident of its genus. Initially he held to the prohibition
against essential predication. He also believed initially that the
differentia was a non-essential predicate of its genus and logically
independent of its genus. He also probably believed initially that within
the context of dichotomous division differentiae are opposing members
of exclusive disjunctions, one member of which must belong to the
genus. Now at some point, because of his worry about the unity of the
definition, Aristotle adopted the view that the differentia entails its
genus, and thus gave up explicitly one important motive for the
prohibition on essential predication. Once, then, this motive is
abandoned the differentia takes on a very strong similarity to the per se
accident: the differentia would be an accidental predicate of its genus;
it would occur in relation to its genus s the member of an exclusive
disjunction composed of opposing disjuncts, one member of which
must belong to the genus; it would entail its genus. Perhaps then this
similarity persuaded Aristotle to go on and construe the differentia s
a type of per se accident and to ignore any additional motives for the
prohibition against essential predication.22

21
For a discussion of this topic and other topics raised in the final section of this paper,
"which concern the entailment and non-entailment positions, see again my papcr.
"Anstelle and the Genus-Species Relation."
22
l wish to thank an anonymous referee for the Archiv fr Geschichte der Philosophie
for his hclpful criticisms of an earlier Version of this papcr.

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