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David O. M. Charles, ed., Ancient Theories of Definition. Reviewed by

University of Victoria
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  • Philosophy
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Charles-Carr(FIN) Philosophy in Review XXXI (2011), no. 3 181 David O. M. Charles, ed. Ancient Theories of Definition. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2010. 525 pages US$99.00 (cloth ISBN 978-0-19-956445-3) As David Charles explains in his introduction, the relevance of ancient theories of definition is profound. Since the Socratic endeavor is taken to be the pursuit of definition, his efforts via Plato and succeeding philosophers to set out the rules for proper definition are in themselves worthy of attention: these are particularly relevant to those studying ancient philosophy. But those who are undertaking a study of definition in critical thinking and logic can only be impressed by how many of the theoretical bases are covered by the ancient thinkers. The first noteworthy feature of the selection is its breadth: the overall topic is ‘ancient Greek’ theories, but the contributions cover not simply Plato’s Socrates and Plato himself and Aristotle, but also effectively most other dominant schools of ancient Greek thought, including Socrates’ successors (other than Plato and Aristotle), the Stoics, medical men, Neoplatonists, early Platonic and Aristotelian commentators, and Skeptics. Befitting the presentation of these philosophers, the contributors have evidently provided thorough coverage of the primary texts from which their views on definition can be generated, often with matching texts in the original Greek. (One might have asked for a few articles devoted to the views of the pre-Socratics, Sophists or Epicureans, say, which is to take nothing away from the selections that are provided. all of which are distinctive.) Each of these contributions reveals important disputes, which are worthy of attention. The selections are comprehensive of ancient Greek theories of definition, to an extent unmatched by recent anthologies. Charles and his contributors show how central the theory of definition is for a proper understanding of ancient

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