35 - The Philosopher's Toolkit: Aristotle's Logical Works

Peter discusses Aristotle’s pioneering work in logic, and looks at related issues like the ten categories and the famous “sea battle” argument for determinism.

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Further Reading: 

• J. Hintikka, Time and Necessity. Studies in Aristotle's Theory of Modality (Oxford:1973).

• W. Leszl, “Aristotle's Logical Works and His Conception of Logic,” Topoi 23 (2004), 71–100.

• R. Smith, "Logic," in J. Barnes (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle (Cambridge: 1995), 27-65.

• S. Waterlow, Passage and Possibility (Oxford: 1982).

Stanford Encyclopedia: Aristotle's logic

Elucidations podcast: Aristotle's syllogistic

On the "sea battle" problem:

• G.E.M. Anscombe, “Aristotle and the Sea Battle,” in J.M.E. Moravcsik (ed.), Aristotle: a Collection of Critical Essays, (1967), reprinted from Mind 65 (1956).

• D. Frede, “The Sea-Battle Reconsidered: a Defence of the Traditional Interpretation,” Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 3 (1985).

• J. Hintikka, “The Once and Future Sea Fight: Aristotle’s Discussion of Future Contingents in de Interpretatione 9,” in his Time and Necessity (see above).

Ferenc's picture

Hi Peter, With all the talk

Hi Peter,
With all the talk of Aristotle we have been doing (and I have listened to every podcast, many, more than once) I realize, as Judy Collins might say, I really don't know Aristotle at all. So, I recently purchased volume one of the Oxford translations, and started as a good 5th century student in Alexandria would with the Organon, the Categories in particular.
I really can't make head or tail of it! I am picking up the Cambridge Companion to Aristotle today, and hopefully that will help. My question is; are there modern commentaries on individual works of Aristotle that analyze what he is saying? I recognize there are many ancient commentators whom you have referred to , Alexander of Aphrodisias, Simplicius, etc. (I recently picked up an interesting Q&A by Dexippus on the Catagories)...but someone with a modern perspective must be doing this!
Any help with this "topic" would be greatly appreciated. This stuff ain't easy!

Peter Adamson's picture


Right, I sympathize. I think the closest thing to what you want is probably the series of commentaries on works (often single books within larger works) of Aristotle published by Oxford University Press. The series is called "Clarendon Aristotle".

Otter Bob's picture

Peter---I suggest you read

Peter---I suggest you read all the various articles on Aristotle in the on-line Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that was referenced above. Some of them are scholarly but they do include numerous further reading references. Most all are very good and especially stimulating for your own thinking.

Otter Bob's picture

Oops--my reply was meant for

Oops--my reply was meant for Ferenc.

Ben Cutmore's picture

Ancient Curriculum


So you mention that Aristotelian logical works would be the first area of study in most ancient philosophy educations. I was wondering if you had a list or perhaps an idea of what the order of proceeding works would be (perhaps something like logic-epistemology-metaphysics-physics- biology-ethics-politics).

Thanks for the awesome videos!

Peter Adamson's picture


There was some variation in the placement of ethics - either early as preparation to become a good student of philosophy, or late and then in theory it could include all of practical philosopy, so also political philosophy. But leaving that aside it was logic, then physics, then psychology (which is actually part of physics/natural philosophy), then metaphysics.

It should be borne in mind though that there are two rival or complementary curricula. What I just described is the sequence of reading for the Aristotelian corpus, there was another sequence for Plato's dialogues (I think I talk about this in the Iamblichus episode). Sometimes they went through Aristotle and then graduated to Plato so that they had to work their way through two sequences.

By the way "epistemology" was not a discrete field of philosophy; it was covered within logic since that is where you have the Posterior Analytics.