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Attention has been frequently drawn to the problems attending attempts "to trace a long progression of meanings in the history of the word logos" (Kerferd). Especially difficult proved the assigning to Aristotle a place in this long progression. One of the reasons is that we have yet to reconstruct his theory of logos. The difficulty is not so much with the complexity of the uses of the term in his works as it is with the widely recognized fact that he left no special treatise on the subject of a doctrine of logos, not to be confused with the instrumentalities found in the so-called logical works that comprise the Organon. The doctrine is not to be found in the Metaphysics any more than it is treated in the biological works. Yet it exists, presumably with the pieces dispersed in the various texts, waiting for the investigators to find and fit the parts into a coherent whole. So far no such systematic opus has been produced, despite the number of interpretive attempts made in recent times to identify what may conceivably count for a doctrine of logos. The importance of such a doctrine or theory can hardly be denied, since it could, inter alia, provide the basis for a full explanation of the intriguing connection between the two definitions of anthropos as logical and political animal. In pursuing such a goal, certain interpreters found it tempting to reduce logos to language, broadly understood (Randall; Mesthene, and Wedin).

The central issue this paper explores is the possibility of detecting a way, supported with what the texts afford, to answer the question "What is logos", but do so not in the obvious sense of discussing the outcomes of its operations, e.g. discourse, account, demonstration or definition, nor by stringing together textual references to reconstruct the mechanics of articulating and communicating, but seeking to understand logos qua ousia, though not as logos of an ousia. The paper sets forth the parameters for an inquiry in hope to identify the components of this elusive doctrine.


John P. Anton presented “Aristotle on the Nature of Logos” to the Society at its meeting with the Pacific Division in Claremont in March 1997. A variant version was published in Philosophical Inquiry 18.1-2 (1996) 1-30.

For information about the author see Wikipedia "John P. Anton."