Table of Opposites

The Table of Opposites (Greek: συστοιχία sustoichia)[1] of Pythagoras is the oldest surviving of many such tables propounded by philosophers. Aristotle is the main source of our knowledge of the Pythagorean table.

Here follows a rough translation of the Table of Opposites, although like all translations the precise meaning does not necessarily carry over from the original Greek. For example, "crooked" has connotations in English that it may lack in the original.

  • finite, infinite
  • odd, even
  • one, many
  • male, female
  • right, left
  • rest, motion
  • straight, crooked
  • light, darkness
  • good, evil
  • square, oblong

Of these ten opposites, many philosophers have seized on the third pair as one of the most profound questions in philosophy. Is the universe one? Then how is it diverse? Is the universe many? Then how is it unified? This has historically been known as the problem of the one and the many, about which no small amount of ink has been spilled.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Barry Sandywell, Presocratic Reflexivity: The Construction of Philosophical Discourse c. 600-450 B.C.: Logological Investigations: Volume Three, Routledge, 2002, p. 206.