Aristotle's 'So-Called Elements'

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Title: Aristotle's 'So-Called Elements'
Authors: Crowley, Timothy J.
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Date: 1-Jan-2008
Online since: 2022-06-16T08:38:00Z
Abstract: Aristotle's use of the phrase τὰ καλούμενα στοιχεῖα is usually taken as evidence that he does not really think that the things to which this phrase refers, namely, fire, air, water, and earth, are genuine elements. In this paper I question the linguistic and textual grounds for taking the phrase τὰ καλούμενα στοιχεῖα in this way. I offer a detailed examination of the significance of the phrase, and in particular I compare Aristotle's general use of the Greek participle καλούμενος (-η, -ον) in other contexts. I conclude that his use of the phrase τὰ καλούμενα στοιχεῖα does not carry ironical or sceptical connotations, and that it ought to be understood as a neutral report of a contemporary opinion that the elements of bodies are fire, air, water, and earth. I leave aside the question as to whether or not Aristotle himself endorses this opinion.  
Type of material: Journal Article
Publisher: Brill Academic Publishers
Journal: Phronesis
Volume: 53
Issue: 3
Start page: 223
End page: 242
Copyright (published version): 2008 Brill Academic Publishers
Keywords: Empedoclean elementsStoicheiaAristotleLinguistic analysisConcept formation
DOI: 10.1163/156852808X307061
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
ISSN: 0031-8868
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Appears in Collections:Philosophy Research Collection

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