What is Porphyry Tree composition purposes and examples

Porphyry Tree

The porphyry tree It is a diagram created by the philosophical thinker of the same name, in the third century. The diagram represents the relationships of genus, species and individual based on the categories of their substances. It was proposed for the first time in Porphyry’s own introduction to Aristotle’s ideas.

He presented the Greek classification by divided categories, which were then represented in tree diagrams. Through this diagram, each species is identified taking into account its genus and its specific differences.

The categorization of species through this method ranges from the most complex to the simplest organisms. Originally, Porfirio’s work did not include diagrams, but this name was given to Porfirio’s tree because it is based on the work he did with Aristotle’s studies.

Composition of Porphyry Tree

Porphyry’s ideas expanded Aristotle’s categories. Porfirio arranged them in a way that resembled the trunk of a tree. It is composed of three columns of words: the first divides into two parts the genus and the species, which arise from a supreme genus called substance.

Porfirio never drew the shape of a tree in his original work, nor does his text refer to any kind of drawing. However, during the Renaissance, the authors who shaped his texts included the graph as a representation of them.

Furthermore, the Porphyry tree is the first tree of knowledge in human history for which there is a written record.

Porfirio’s ideas are based on a common system that was used in medieval times to define human existence and all entities that are on the planet.

Purpose of Porphyry Tree

The Porphyry tree categorizes living organisms depending on their composition. You can categorize people, animals or any plant, rock or element. All of this is done by defining that entity based on its substance.

In this sense, the substance is what makes or makes the entity study. For example, a person is rational, mortal, sensible, animate and corporeal, according to his substance. These ideas were raised by Porfirio and, given their nature, were given the form of a tree diagram.

In short, the Porfirio tree serves to visually identify the composition of substances and objects without relying on a complex written system.

This system serves as an extension of the categories proposed by Aristotle centuries before Porphyry’s birth. It builds on Aristotelian ideas and expands them to give a more concrete definition of them.

Examples of Porphyry Tree


The simplest example to explain the Porphyry tree is the common definition of any object or animal. Without a graph, it is valid to say that a tiger, for example, is a non-rational, mortal, sensitive, animated and corporeal animal.

These categories are placed in the diagram to provide a clearer explanation, always starting from the substance.

Complex (graphic)

The second example is a graphical representation of the diagram, which can take many forms; however, they all have the same basic order.

The middle column will always have the main essence. The highlighted words (in descending order: substance, body, animal, human) are those that make up the metaphorical trunk of the tree.

The extensions that appear on the sides are the metaphorical branches of the tree and dictate the type of substance and its properties. Depending on the properties, the substance is having a more complex definition each time.

The tree as a whole explains the substantive definitions, from a pure substance in its pure state to plate, which in this case means to be; that is, a specific person and not a human being per se.


In the upper part of the diagram, the substance is shown as the main gene. Although philosophically it could be inferred that there is something superior to the substance, the principle of this diagram starts from that; therefore its veracity is not judged.

The two branches arising from substance (thought and extensible) are the two types of substance that exist. This diagram does not name the type of thinking substance, but it is understood to be the mind. On the other hand, the extensible is the body.

The order determines each division of substance and this gives each a certain level of coherence. Since the body is divided, it is treated as the main substance, and hence from these two branches what are its differences.

Again, the branch located on the left side (which in the case of the body is inanimate) does not have a definition of substance. The right, which is animated, has been the animal.

Each time you go down the tree, you divide the ownership (difference) of each part of the trunk, creating a more specific definition of each.

It’s a philosophical way of connecting each part to each other and demonstrating how each entity relates to the origin of life.

The human and the species

There is a particular reason why the last gene (plaque) is not delineated, unlike the previous ones. Dish is a specific person and not a species; the rest of the words that make up the trunk of the diagram are all species in particular.

Apart from the human, no species is taken into account, but simply a type of human. The two subdivisions it presents (the “this” and “that” branches) are the differences from humans, which serve to identify each member of the species in particular.

Other diagrams

It is possible to find other diagrams in which it is based on a different substance, and in the end the human is not found.

Porfirio’s theory simply gives a delimited order and a way to divide the differences between them, but the tree is malleable and adapts to different thoughts and philosophical investigations.

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