I have not (yet) studied Ancient Greek. This comment introduced me to the pertinence of Aristotle's Prior Analytics, but a translation below does not resolve my question entitled above.

Source: Aristotle's Prior Analytics: Book I, Translated with an introduction and commentary (2009) by Gisela Striker

[page 4, Chapter 4, 25b, Lines 35-36]
Extremes are what is in another and that in which there is another.

[page 95] 25b35-37  [...]  As a terminological introduction this is a little confusing, and so the ancient commentators simply replace Aristotle's explanations by the later definitions that hold for all three figures : the middle term is the one that occurs in both premisses, the extremes are the terms of the conclusion, with the predicate term being the greater (major), the subject term the smaller (minor) . Again, the labels 'major' and 'minor' are presumably taken from the example of Barbara (see below, 26a 21-3 ). One must admit that Aristotle's choice of labels is unfortunate and possibly misleading, but it has served its purpose well enough through the ages, and it obviously did not mislead Aristotle himself.


1 Answer 1


As said above the terminolgy is "fitted on" Barbara:

"A belongs to all B and B belongs to all C; therefore..."

The "middle" (meson) is in the middle and major and minor are the "external" ones, called "extremes" (akron). This is not true for other figures.

Thus, the subsequent "revised" explanation: the middle is the term occurring in both premises.


  • akron: Ancient Greek ἄκρον ‎(“extremity, peak”)

  • meson : Ancient Greek μέσον ‎(“middle”).

See Prior Analytics, I, 25b32-26a2:

Whenever three terms are so related to one another that the last is in the middle as in a whole, and the middle is either in, or not in, the first as in a whole, the extremes must be related by a perfect deduction [sullogismos]. I call that term middle which both is itself in another and contains another in itself: in position also this comes in the middle. By extremes I mean both that term which is itself in another and that in which another is contained.

  • Sorry, but I do not understand how the above answers my question. Do you mean that because the Major and Minor occupy EXTERNAL positions, Aristotle called them EXTREME positions? Ie: Their externality was somehow considered as extremity? If so, why? Externality does not usually mean externality.
    – user8572
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 17:10
  • 1
    @LePressentiment - exactly: we say the "extremes" of an interval or segment, and not the "externals". Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 17:44

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