Ancient CS: Arbor Porphyriana

I could not resist to the title, so I started to read Umberto Eco, Dall’albero al labirinto. Studi storici sul segno e l’interpretazione (Bompiani 2007). (The brute English translation of the title is “From the tree to the labyrinth. Historical Studies on  sign and  interpretation “.) Just opening the book, I learned about Arbor Porphyriana.

I shall cite from the very rough description given in the wiki page (before, let me laugh a bit by reading from the talk page of the mentioned wiki page: “This article has been rated as Low-importance on the project’s importance scale.” Ha-ha, an encyclopedia to state that arbor porphyriana is a low importance subject, that’s weird. Is like the egg stating that chickens are not important on it’s scale.)

The Porphyrian tree, Tree of Porphyry or Arbor Porphyriana is a classic classification of a “Scale of being”,[1] invented by one of the earliest Greek logicians Porphyry.[2] It is also known as scala praedicamentalis.

The Greek Neoplatonist Porphyry introduced the Porphyrian tree in his introduction to Aristotle‘s Categories. Porphyry presented the basis of Aristotle’s thought as a tree-like scheme of dichotomous divisions, which indicates that a species is defined by genus-differentia and that the process continues until the lowest species is reached.

This work was translated into Latin by Boethius and became the standard philosophical textbook in the Middle Ages.[3] Until the late 19th century, it was still being taught to students of logic.

So, that’s a huge subject. A short google search for “arbor porphyriana ontology semantic web” gives on the first place these very interesting slides by Harald Sack: “Semantic Web Technologies“.

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6 thoughts on “Ancient CS: Arbor Porphyriana”

    1. It’s clear I have to write another post on this subject, your pages are fascinating. Do you mind if I quote from them (with the corresponding citations with links, of course)? What about the picture which describes the arbor?

      1. Yes, you are very welcome to quote from my pages:
        My analysis of the arbor porphyriana is here: http://www.piggin.net/stemmahist/envelopeporphyry.htm
        An historical account of the figure is here:
        http://www.piggin.net/stemmahist/boethius.htm
        The only things you can’t lift are the images of the manuscripts, which belong to the archive websites, but it is easy to link to them.
        The broad question on my website has to do with the origins of node-link diagrams as a “thinking tool” to represent various kinds of conceptual analysis.
        JB

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