In the philosophical tradition initiated by Plato and Aristotle, the concept of substance, understood as the supreme genus of all things, was introduced. In the third century d. C, the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry presented his own explanatory model detailing a classification of substances. This model is known as the Porphyry Tree and in it it establishes a tree-like structure where everything that exists is conceived gradually, that is, from the most general substance to the most particular. Porphyry Tree
In the general scheme, three fundamental concepts are used: genus, species and individual . From them, there is a graduation that goes from the most generic to the most concrete.
The philosopher’s classification established a decisive advance in two directions.
First, a nominalist view of reality is contributed (for nominalism there are no general concepts “outside of things”, as concepts are simply names that serve to denote a series of properties grouped in things). Porphyry Tree
Second, their classification served as a reference model for the taxonomic divisions of naturalists.
General approach to the Porphyry Tree
With his classification of everything that exists, Porphyry made a reinterpretation of Plato and Aristotle. From the first he adopted his general vision and in a special way his idea of substance. From the second, he adopted his view of categories and applied them to the notion of substance. Porphyry Tree
Every substance is divided into two categories: compound and simple. Compound substances refer to a body, which is in turn divided into two subcategories: animate and inanimate. Animated bodies are subdivided into two: sensitive and insensitive. A sensitive body would be that of an animal. At the last level of the tree, animals are classified into two categories: rational and irrational.
As can be seen, the Porphyry tree is a system based on dichotomies (a property has or does not have) and Aristotelian type logic. In this way, man is defined as a rational animal
This model is based on a reporting relationship . In other words, any individual implies a series of logical concepts that define him, as he is a rational, animal, sensitive, animate, alive and composed being. And all these categories are integrated into the original idea of substance.