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Division and Classification in Plato and Aristotle

English title Division and Classification in Plato and Aristotle
Applicant Crivelli Paolo
Number 169145
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Département de Philosophie Faculté des Lettres Université de Genève
Institution of higher education University of Geneva - GE
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.11.2016 - 31.10.2019
Approved amount 373'995.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Philosophy
Botany
Zoology

Keywords (9)

divisione; classificazione; genere; specie; dialettica; definizione; biologia; Platone; Aristotele

Lay Summary (Italian)

Lead
La classificazione è uno strumento fondamentale della scienza e più in generale dell’approccio dell’uomo al mondo. Ogni disciplina scientifica deve basarsi su una mappa delle classi nelle quali si suddivide l’area della realtà da essa studiata; gli esseri umani si muovono nel loro ambiente grazie alla collocazione delle entità che incontrano all’interno di ‘scatole concettuali’. Ma come ottenere una buona classificazione della realtà, o di una parte di essa? Il presente progetto di ricerca si propone di esaminare le risposte di due dei principali filosofi della tradizione occidentale : Platone e Aristotele. La scelta di questi due filosofi è dovuta a vari fattori: essi sono stati i primi a riconoscere l’importanza della classificazione; hanno dedicato molte pagine delle loro opere a questo tema (più pagine di qualsiasi altro filosofo di statura comparabile); e le loro riflessioni hanno avuto un impatto storico enorme sulla tradizione filosofica occidentale.
Lay summary
L’obiettivo principale di questo progetto di ricerca è la pubblicazione di due studi, uno dedicato alla divisione e alla classificazione nel pensiero di Platone, l’altro alla trattazione di questi temi in Aristotele. Un obiettivo secondario è quello di riportare questi temi al centro dell’attenzione della ricerca nel campo della filosofia antica: Platone considerava divisione e classificazione come la forma più alta di speculazione filosofica, ma la critica recente le ha considerate come attività sterili e prive di interesse. È importante rivendicare la validità dell’intuizione platonica. Quanto al suo contesto scientifico, il presente progetto di ricerca si colloca all’incrocio tra filologia, storia della filosofia e filosofia (è solo grazie alla cooperazione degli strumenti di queste discipline che i risultati prefissi possono essere conseguiti).
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 25.09.2016

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Division and Classification: Philebus 14c‒20a
CrivelliPaolo (2019), Division and Classification: Philebus 14c‒20a, in Dimas Panos (ed.), Oxford University Press, Oxford, 34-54.
Law and Its Imitations in Plato’s Statesman
CrivelliPaolo (2019), Law and Its Imitations in Plato’s Statesman, in Teoria, 181-216.
Platonic Ideas and Appearance in Aristotle’s Topics
Schiaparelli Annamaria (2017), Platonic Ideas and Appearance in Aristotle’s Topics, in Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, 99(2), 129-155.
Being-Said-Of in Aristotle’s Categories
CrivelliPaolo (2017), Being-Said-Of in Aristotle’s Categories, in Rivista di Filosofia Neo-Scolastica, 109, 531-556.
The Concept of Differentia in Aristotle’s Topics
SchiaparelliAnnamaria (2016), The Concept of Differentia in Aristotle’s Topics, in Gourinat Jean-Baptiste (ed.), Vrin, Paris, 231-257.
Measurement in Plato’s Statesman
CrivelliPaolo, Measurement in Plato’s Statesman, in Giardina Giovanna (ed.), Ousia, Brussels.
Negative Kinds in Plato’s Statesman
CrivelliPaolo, Negative Kinds in Plato’s Statesman, in Annales de l’Institut de philosophie de l’Université Libre de Brussels.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Professor Christopher Shields, Department of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Professor Benjamin Morison, Department of Philosophy, University of Princeton United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Professor Filip Karfik, Université de Fribourg Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Dr Paolo Fait, New College, Oxford Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
143568 Appearance and Knowledge in Classical Greek Philosophy 01.05.2013 Project funding (Div. I-III)
188831 Aristotle on Parts and Wholes 01.11.2019 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

The concept of classification plays important roles in philosophy: it was at the forefront of ancient thought and it is still at the centre of today’s debates of philosophers of science and scientists. How should we carve up reality by establishing the genera and the species of which individuals are members? What is the ontological status of genera and species? What is it to divide a genus into its subordinate species? The present research project focuses on the reflections about these themes that were developed in Plato's school, the Academy. In this context, the thinkers who gave the most important contributions to this area were Plato himself and the young Aristotle. Specifically, in the later phase of his philosophy (in the Phaedrus, Sophist, Statesman, and Philebus), Plato identified dialectic, namely the highest form of philosophical reflection, with the methods of division and collection (where collection is the process that leads from what is more specific to what is more generic while division is its reverse). In his early logical works (especially in the Categories, the Topics, and the Sophistical Refutations), which were most probably written during his student years in the Academy, Aristotle displays an ambivalent attitude with respect to division: on the one hand, he criticises it from various angles; on the other, he appeals to it both in his philosophical practice and in his reflections on philosophical method. The aim of the present research project is reconstruct and evaluate the views on classification and division that circulated in Plato's Academy by focussing on the major characters of the debate, namely Plato himself and the young Aristotle. The methodology employed in pursuing this aim is a combination of the procedures of classical philology (essentially, a disciplined use of all the available instruments for a faithful reconstruction of the position of the authors under examination) and of those of philosophical inquiry in the analytical tradition broadly construed (one of the criteria of success is that the theories which get attributed to the thinkers under examination be coherent and plausible, and whatever theories are attributed to them must be evaluated from a philosophical point of view). For both approaches, the keywords are rigour and precision: rigour and precision are needed both in the historical enterprise of discovering a faithful reconstruction and in the philosophical enterprises of finding coherent and plausible theories and evaluating them from a philosophical point of view. Particular attention will be given to recent debates on the proper way of classifying biological species, the hope being that the live discussion of modern philosophers will shed light on the positions put forward by ancient thinkers.
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