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Aristotle - The Organon DE INTERPRETATIONE Book 1 Part 14

Contrary and contradictory

1. The question arises whether an affirmation finds its contrary in a denial or in another affirmation; whether the proposition 'every man is just' finds its contrary in the proposition 'no man is just', or in the proposition 'every man is unjust'. Take the propositions 'Callias is just', 'Callias is not just', 'Callias is unjust'; we have to discover which of these form contraries.

2. Now if the spoken word corresponds with the judgement of the mind, and if, in thought, that judgement is the contrary of another, which pronounces a contrary fact, in the way, for instance, in which the judgement 'every man is just' pronounces a contrary to that pronounced by the judgement 'every man is unjust', the same must needs hold good with regard to spoken affirmations.

3. But if, in thought, it is not the judgement which pronounces a contrary fact that is the contrary of another, then one affirmation will not find its contrary in another, but rather in the corresponding denial. We must therefore consider which true judgement is the contrary of the false, that which forms the denial of the false judgement or that which affirms the contrary fact.

4. Let me illustrate. There is a true judgement concerning that which is good, that it is good; another, a false judgement, that it is not good; and a third, which is distinct, that it is bad. Which of these two is contrary to the true? And if they are one and the same, which mode of expression forms the contrary?

5. It is an error to suppose that judgements are to be defined as contrary in virtue of the fact that they have contrary subjects; for the judgement concerning a good thing, that it is good, and that concerning a bad thing, that it is bad, may be one and the same, and whether they are so or not, they both represent the truth. Yet the subjects here are contrary. But judgements are not contrary because they have contrary subjects, but because they are to the contrary effect.

6. Now if we take the judgement that that which is good is good, and another that it is not good, and if there are at the same time other attributes, which do not and cannot belong to the good, we must nevertheless refuse to treat as the contraries of the true judgement those which opine that some other attribute subsists which does not subsist, as also those that opine that some other attribute does not subsist which does subsist, for both these classes of judgement are of unlimited content.

7. Those judgements must rather be termed contrary to the true judgements, in which error is present. Now these judgements are those which are concerned with the starting points of generation, and generation is the passing from one extreme to its opposite; therefore error is a like transition.

8. Now that which is good is both good and not bad. The first quality is part of its essence, the second accidental; for it is by accident that it is not bad. But if that true judgement is most really true, which concerns the subject's intrinsic nature, then that false judgement likewise is most really false, which concerns its intrinsic nature. Now the judgement that that which is good is not good is a false judgement concerning its intrinsic nature, the judgement that it is bad is one concerning that which is accidental. Thus the judgement which denies the true judgement is more really false than that which positively asserts the presence of the contrary quality. But it is the man who forms that judgement which is contrary to the true who is most thoroughly deceived, for contraries are among the things which differ most widely within the same class. If then of the two judgements one is contrary to the true judgement, but that which is contradictory is the more truly contrary, then the latter, it seems, is the real contrary. The judgement that that which is good is bad is composite. For presumably the man who forms that judgement must at the same time understand that that which is good is not good.

9. Further, the contradictory is either always the contrary or never; therefore, if it must necessarily be so in all other cases, our conclusion in the case just dealt with would seem to be correct. Now where terms have no contrary, that judgement is false, which forms the negative of the true; for instance, he who thinks a man is not a man forms a false judgement. If then in these cases the negative is the contrary, then the principle is universal in its application.

10. Again, the judgement that that which is not good is not good is parallel with the judgement that that which is good is good. Besides these there is the judgement that that which is good is not good, parallel with the judgement that that that is not good is good. Let us consider, therefore, what would form the contrary of the true judgement that that which is not good is not good. The judgement that it is bad would, of course, fail to meet the case, since two true judgements are never contrary and this judgement might be true at the same time as that with which it is connected. For since some things which are not good are bad, both judgements may be true. Nor is the judgement that it is not bad the contrary, for this too might be true, since both qualities might be predicated of the same subject. It remains, therefore, that of the judgement concerning that which is not good, that it is not good, the contrary judgement is that it is good; for this is false. In the same way, moreover, the judgement concerning that which is good, that it is not good, is the contrary of the judgement that it is good.

11. It is evident that it will make no difference if we universalize the positive judgement, for the universal negative judgement will form the contrary. For instance, the contrary of the judgement that everything that is good is good is that nothing that is good is good. For the judgement that that which is good is good, if the subject be understood in a universal sense, is equivalent to the judgement that whatever is good is good, and this is identical with the judgement that everything that is good is good. We may deal similarly with judgements concerning that which is not good.

12. If therefore this is the rule with judgements, and if spoken affirmations and denials are judgements expressed in words, it is plain that the universal denial is the contrary of the affirmation about the same subject. Thus the propositions 'everything good is good', 'every man is good', have for their contraries the propositions 'nothing good is good', 'no man is good'. The contradictory propositions, on the other hand, are 'not everything good is good', 'not every man is good'.

13. It is evident, also, that neither true judgements nor true propositions can be contrary the one to the other. For whereas, when two propositions are true, a man may state both at the same time without inconsistency, contrary propositions are those which state contrary conditions, and contrary conditions cannot subsist at one and the same time in the same subject.


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