The definition of ἄρθρον in chapter XX of Aristotle’s “Politics”

  • Patrizia Laspia Università di Palermo
Keywords: biology, linguistics, the verb ‘be’, σύνδεσμος, ἄρθρον


This paper deals with Aristotle’s definition of arthron in the XX chapter of the Poetics. This definition has always been considered as an unsolvable dilemma. Starting with a detailed analysis of the Greek text, and of the various attempts to make sense of it, the paper attempts to read it in an innovative way. The XX chapter of the Poetics is not a classification of parts of speech, as it is usually considered; we have to read it in light of Aristotle’s biological program. Arthron (as well as syndesmos, syllabé) are biological terms. In linguistics as well as in biology arthron is thus a ‘joint’: it has nothing to do with the ‘article’ in later grammatical sense. In this light, the paper offers a new textual conjecture for the first example of arthron in the Poetics.