I'm writing an essay but using a translation of Aristotle's Categories as a reference. At 1b.25-27, he writes: "Expressions which are in no way composite signify substance, quantity ..."

If they are in no way composite, is that synonymous with accidents as being independent?

Or is it a leap to also call them independent and they are just "not composite"?

  • See A's Categories : "Aristotle divides what he calls ta legomena, i.e. things that are said, into ten distinct kinds (1b25). Things that are said according to Aristotle, are words (De Int 16a3), and so it is natural to interpret his second system as a classification of words. [...] There are three reasons to think that Aristotle is not primarily interested in words but rather in the objects in the world to which words correspond." Dec 12, 2018 at 16:34
  • "[...] So, even if he is in some sense classifying words, it is natural to view his classification as ultimately driven by concerns about objects in the world to which our words correspond." Dec 12, 2018 at 16:34

1 Answer 1


welcome to PSE.Composite may not be the best word. Jonathan Barnes in his revised Oxford translation uses the term, combination. This makes better sense.

The basic idea is that a word not used in combination with other words signifies either substance, quantity, quality, relation or one of the other categories. So 'horse' signifies a substance, 'white' a quality, 'half' a relation and so on.

'None of the above ['horse', white', &c. : GT] is said just by itself in any affirmation, but by the combination of these with one another an affirmation is produced.' (Cat. 4, 2a5 f.).


The Complete Works of Aristotle, ed. J. Barnes, The Revised Oxford Translation, I, Princeton University Press, 1984 : 4.

  • Wondered if it was just the translation, thanks so much!
    – acupofjose
    Dec 12, 2018 at 17:20

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