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The Organon (Greek: Ὄργανον, meaning "instrument, tool, organ") is the standard collection of Aristotle's six works on logic. The name Organon was given by Aristotle's followers, the Peripatetics. They are as follows:

Work Latin name
1a Categories Categoriae
16a On Interpretation De Interpretatione
24a Prior Analytics Analytica Priora
71a Posterior Analytics Analytica Posteriora
100a Topics Topica
164a Sophistical Refutations De Sophisticis Elenchis

Constitution of the texts[edit]

The order of the works is not chronological (which is now hard to determine) but was deliberately chosen by Theophrastus to constitute a well-structured system. Indeed, parts of them seem to be a scheme of a lecture on logic. The arrangement of the works was made by Andronicus of Rhodes around 40 BC.[1]

Aristotle's Metaphysics has some points of overlap with the works making up the Organon but is not traditionally considered part of it; additionally there are works on logic attributed, with varying degrees of plausibility, to Aristotle that were not known to the Peripatetics.

  • The Categories (Latin: Categoriae) introduces Aristotle's 10-fold classification of that which exists: substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, situation, condition, action, and passion.
  • On Interpretation (Latin:De Interpretatione, Greek Peri hermeneias) introduces Aristotle's conception of proposition and judgment, and the various relations between affirmative, negative, universal, and particular propositions. Aristotle discusses the square of opposition or square of Apuleius in Chapter 7 and its appendix Chapter 8. Chapter 9 deals with the problem of future contingents.
  • The Prior Analytics (Latin: Analytica Priora) introduces his syllogistic method (see term logic), argues for its correctness, and discusses inductive inference.
  • The Posterior Analytics (Latin: Analytica Posteriora) deals with demonstration, definition, and scientific knowledge.
  • The Topics (Latin: Topica) treats issues in constructing valid arguments, and inference that is probable, rather than certain. It is in this treatise that Aristotle mentions the Predicables, later discussed by Porphyry and the scholastic logicians.
  • The Sophistical Refutations (Latin: De Sophisticis Elenchis) gives a treatment of logical fallacies, and provides a key link to Aristotle's work on rhetoric.


The Organon was used in the school founded by Aristotle at the Lyceum, and some parts of the works seem to be a scheme of a lecture on logic. So much so that after Aristotle's death, his publishers (Andronicus of Rhodes in 50 BC, for example) collected these works.

Following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century, much of Aristotle's work was lost in the Latin West. The Categories and On Interpretation are the only significant logical works that were available in the early Middle Ages. These had been translated into Latin by Boethius. The other logical works were not available in Western Christendom until translated to Latin in the 12th century. However, the original Greek texts had been preserved in the Greek-speaking lands of the Eastern Roman Empire (aka Byzantium). In the mid-twelfth century, James of Venice translated into Latin the Posterior Analytics from Greek manuscripts found in Constantinople.

The books of Aristotle were available in the early Arab Empire, and after 750 AD Muslims had most of them, including the Organon, translated into Arabic, sometimes via earlier Syriac translations. They were studied by Islamic and Jewish scholars, including Rabbi Moses Maimonides (1135–1204) and the Muslim Judge Ibn Rushd, known in the West as Averroes (1126–1198); both were originally from Cordoba, Spain, although the former left Iberia and by 1168 lived in Egypt.

All the major scholastic philosophers wrote commentaries on the Organon. Aquinas, Ockham and Scotus wrote commentaries on On Interpretation. Ockham and Scotus wrote commentaries on the Categories and Sophistical Refutations. Grosseteste wrote an influential commentary on the Posterior Analytics.

In the Enlightenment there was a revival of interest in logic as the basis of rational enquiry, and a number of texts, most successfully the Port-Royal Logic, polished Aristotelian term logic for pedagogy. During this period, while the logic certainly was based on that of Aristotle, Aristotle's writings themselves were less often the basis of study. There was a tendency in this period to regard the logical systems of the day to be complete, which in turn no doubt stifled innovation in this area. However Francis Bacon published his Novum Organum ("The New Organon") as a scathing attack in 1620.[2] Immanuel Kant thought that there was nothing else to invent after the work of Aristotle, and the famous logic historian Karl von Prantl claimed that any logician who said anything new about logic was "confused, stupid or perverse." These examples illustrate the force of influence which Aristotle's works on logic had. Indeed, he had already become known by the Scholastics (medieval Christian scholars) as "The Philosopher", due to the influence he had upon medieval theology and philosophy. His influence continued into the Early Modern period and Organon was the basis of school philosophy even in the beginning of 18th century.[3] Since the logical innovations of the 19th century, particularly the formulation of modern predicate logic, Aristotelian logic had for a time fallen out of favor among many analytic philosophers.

However the logic historian John Corcoran and others have shown that the works of George Boole and Gottlob Frege—which laid the groundwork for modern mathematical logic—each represent a continuation and extension to Aristote's logic and in no way contradict or displace it. [4] [5] Boole fully accepted and endorsed Aristotle’s logic, and Frege included Aristotle's square of opposition at the end of his groundbreaking Begriffsschrift to show the harmony of his theory with the Aristotelian tradition.[6]


  1. ^ Hammond, p. 64, "Andronicus Rhodus"
  2. ^ The Teaching Company — Birth of the Modern Mind
  3. ^ Rutherford, Donald (2006). The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. p. 170ff. ISBN 9780521822428. 
  4. ^ George Boole. 1854/2003. The Laws of Thought, facsimile of 1854 edition, with an introduction by J. Corcoran. Buffalo: Prometheus Books (2003). Reviewed by James van Evra in Philosophy in Review.24 (2004) 167–169.
  5. ^ John Corcoran, Aristotle's Prior Analytics and Boole's Laws of Thought, History and Philosophy of Logic, vol. 24 (2003), pp. 261–288.
  6. ^ Jean-Yves Béziau “Is modern logic non-Aristotelian?”, to appear in D.Zaitsev (ed), Nikolai Vasiliev's Logical Legacy and Modern Logic, Springer, Heidelberg, 2015.


Primary sources
  • Bocheński, I. M., 1951. Ancient Formal Logic. Amsterdam: North-Holland.
  • Jan Łukasiewicz, 1951. Aristotle's Syllogistic, from the Standpoint of Modern Formal Logic. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Lea, Jonathan 1980. Aristotle and Logical Theory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Monteil, Jean-François La transmission d’Aristote par les Arabes à la chrétienté occidentale: une trouvaille relative au De Interpretatione, Revista Española de Filosofia Medieval 11: 181-195
  • Monteil, Jean-François Isidor Pollak et les deux traductions arabes différentes du De interpretatione d’Aristote, Revue d’Études Anciennes 107: 29-46 (2005).
  • Monteil, Jean-François Une exception allemande: la traduction du De Interpretatione par le Professeur Gohlke: la note 10 sur les indéterminées d’Aristote, Revues de Études Anciennes 103: 409-427 (2001).
  • Parry and Hacker, 1991. Aristotelian Logic. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • Rose, Lynn E., 1968. Aristotle's Syllogistic. Springfield, Ill.: Clarence C. Thomas.
  • Whitaker, C.W.A. 1996. Aristotle's De interpretatione. Contradiction and Dialectic, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Veatch, Henry B., 1969. Two Logics: The Conflict between Classical and Neo-Analytic Philosophy. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

External links[edit]