“To make these discoveries in the 21st Century is frankly nutty”

It was spectacular enough when X-ray fluorescence was used last year to reveal original texts by Archimedes, among others – obscured when the 10th Century parchment they were transcribed on was used in the construction of a 13th Century palimpsest. Now another imaging method, multispectral imaging, has revealed in the palimpsest an early commentary to Aristotle’s Categories, also here, which is thought to be the work of Alexander of Aphrodisias in the 2nd or 3rd Century AD. There was a live webcast, by the project director Dr William Noel, from the American Philosophical Society’s General Meeting earlier today which might be available in their archives, or maybe this archive, at some point.From the BBC report

A provisional translation of the commentary is currently being undertaken.

It reveals a debate on some aspects of Aristotle’s theory of classification, such as: if the term “footed” is used for animals, can it be used to classify anything else, such as a bed?

The passage reads:

For as “foot” is ambiguous when applied to an animal and to a bed, so are “with feet” and “without feet”. So by “in species” here [Aristotle] is saying “in formula”.

For if it ever happens that the same name indicates the differentiae of genera that are different and not subordinate one to the other, they are at any rate not the same in formula.

Dr Noel said: “There is no more important philosopher in the world than Aristotle. To have early views in the 2nd and 3rd Century AD of Aristotle’s Categories is just fantastic.”

“We have one book that contains three texts from the ancient world that are absolutely central to our understanding of mathematics, politics and now philosophy,” he said.

“I am at a loss for words at what this book has turned out to be. To make these discoveries in the 21st Century is frankly nutty – it is just so exciting.”

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    I ahve to hand it to you Pete – there are no other circumstances where I would be reading about multispectral imaging.

  • Pete Baker

    Just one of the unexpected benefits of reading Slugger, urqhart. ;o)

  • Rory

    What we all really want of course is a sound recording (perhaps a video recording is too much to ask) of Socrates at dinner with Plato and his mates.

    Really, Pete, you are amazing. I often wonder how you find time to dine much less polish your shoes.

  • susan

    Interesting insight, Rory. Just realised I’ve never visualised Pete with feet before. :o)

    Yes, I also treasure these poetry/astronomy threads where Slugger “slips the surly bonds of earth.” Let’s face it, in few places are they surlier.

    Did you know the original Greek meaning of the word “palimpsest” is “scraped again”? Well, now you do. And so do I.

    Thanks, Pete.

  • Pete Baker


    dine?!? D’oh! I knew I forgotten something..

    As for polished shoes.. no need. Slippers are the obligatory footwear for this gig.



  • Ian Scarte

    Far too many links in the introductory paragraph to this thread…it turns people off IMO.

  • Pete Baker

    everyone’s a critic…

  • Alan

    Wonderful Stuff !

    One thing I envy future generation for is the discoveries that will arise from the library at Herculaneum ( or is it Pompei ?). Apparently it is sitting there filled to the roof with burnt scrolls awaiting the development of our ability to decypher them.

    Wonder if they had a politics section . . “Alcibiades saith, “Naver, naver . .”