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[1040a] [1] then clearly there can be neither definition nor demonstration of individual sensible substances.For (a) things which perish are obscure to those who have knowledge of them when they are removed from the sphere of their perception, and (b) even though their formulae are preserved in the soul, there will no longer be either definition or demonstration of them. Therefore in cases relating to definition, when we are trying to define any individual, we must not fail to realize that our definition may always be upset; because it is impossible to define these things.

Nor, indeed, can any Idea be defined; for the Idea is an individual, as they say, and separable; and the formula must consist of words, and the man who is defining must not coin a word, because it would not be comprehensible. But the words which are in use are common to all the things which they denote; and so they must necessarily apply to something else as well. E.g., if a man were to define you, he would say that you are an animal which is lean or white or has some other attribute, which will apply to something else as well.And if it should be said that there is no reason why all the attributes separately should not belong to several things, and yet in combination belong to this alone, we must reply, (1.) that they also belong to both the elements; e.g., "two-footed animal" belongs both to "animal" and to "two-footed" (and in the case of eternal elements this is even necessarily so; since they are prior to the compound, and parts of it.Indeed they are also separable, if the term "man" is separable—for either neither can be separable, or both are so. [20] If neither, the genus will not exist apart from the species, or if it is so to exist, so will the differentia); (2.) that "animal" and "two-footed" are prior in being to "two-footed animal," and that which is prior to something else is not destroyed together with it.

Again, if the Ideas are composed of Ideas (for constituents are less composite than that which they compose), still the elements of which the Idea is composed (e.g. "animal" and "two-footed") will have to be predicated of many particulars. Otherwise, how can they be known? For there would be an Idea which cannot be predicated of more than one thing. But this is not considered possible; every Idea is thought to admit of participation.

Thus, as we have said,1 the impossibility of defining individuals is hard to realize when we are dealing with eternal entities, especially in the case of such as are unique, e.g. the sun and moon. For people go wrong not only by including in the definition attributes on whose removal it will still be sun—e.g., "that which goes round the earth," or "night-hidden " (for they suppose that if it stops or becomes visible2 it will no longer be sun; but it is absurd that this should be so, since "the sun "denotes a definite substance)—they also mention attributes which may apply to something else; e.g., if another thing with those attributes comes into being, clearly it will be a sun. The formula, then, is general;

1 The statement has only been implied in the preceding arguments.

2 sc. in the night.

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