Copleston on the Categories

Some writers have emphasised the influence of language on philosophy. For instance, because we speak of the rose as being red (and this is necessary for purposes of social life and communication), we are naturally inclined to think that in the actual objective order there is a quality or accident, “redness,” which inheres in a thing or substance, the rose. The philosophical categories of substance and accident can thus be traced back to the influence of words, of language. But it should be remembered that language follows thought, is built up as an expression of thought, and this is especially true of philosophical terms. When Aristotle laid down the ways in which the mind thinks about things, it is true that he could not get away from language as the medium of thought, but the language follows thought and thought follows things.

Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, vol. I: Greece and Rome (2nd ed.). Westminster, 1950: Newman Press. pp. 280-281.


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