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Aristotle - The Organon ANALYTICA PRIORIA Book 1 Part 23

Every syllogism is formed through these figures

1. It is clear from what has been said that the syllogisms in these figures are made perfect by means of universal syllogisms in the first figure and are reduced to them. That every syllogism without qualification can be so treated, will be clear presently, when it has been proved that every syllogism is formed through one or other of these figures.

2. It is necessary that every demonstration and every syllogism should prove either that something belongs or that it does not, and this either universally or in part, and further either ostensively or hypothetically. One sort of hypothetical proof is the reductio ad impossibile. Let us speak first of ostensive syllogisms: for after these have been pointed out the truth of our contention will be clear with regard to those which are proved per impossibile, and in general hypothetically.

3. If then one wants to prove syllogistically A of B, either as an attribute of it or as not an attribute of it, one must assert something of something else. If now A should be asserted of B, the proposition originally in question will have been assumed. But if A should be asserted of C, but C should not be asserted of anything, nor anything of it, nor anything else of A, no syllogism will be possible. For nothing necessarily follows from the assertion of some one thing concerning some other single thing. Thus we must take another premiss as well. If then A be asserted of something else, or something else of A, or something different of C, nothing prevents a syllogism being formed, but it will not be in relation to B through the premisses taken. Nor when C belongs to something else, and that to something else and so on, no connexion however being made with B, will a syllogism be possible concerning A in its relation to B. For in general we stated that no syllogism can establish the attribution of one thing to another, unless some middle term is taken, which is somehow related to each by way of predication. For the syllogism in general is made out of premisses, and a syllogism referring to this out of premisses with the same reference, and a syllogism relating this to that proceeds through premisses which relate this to that. But it is impossible to take a premiss in reference to B, if we neither affirm nor deny anything of it; or again to take a premiss relating A to B, if we take nothing common, but affirm or deny peculiar attributes of each. So we must take something midway between the two, which will connect the predications, if we are to have a syllogism relating this to that. If then we must take something common in relation to both, and this is possible in three ways (either by predicating A of C, and C of B, or C of both, or both of C), and these are the figures of which we have spoken, it is clear that every syllogism must be made in one or other of these figures. The argument is the same if several middle terms should be necessary to establish the relation to B; for the figure will be the same whether there is one middle term or many.

4. It is clear then that the ostensive syllogisms are effected by means of the aforesaid figures; these considerations will show that reductiones ad also are effected in the same way. For all who effect an argument per impossibile infer syllogistically what is false, and prove the original conclusion hypothetically when something impossible results from the assumption of its contradictory; e.g. that the diagonal of the square is incommensurate with the side, because odd numbers are equal to evens if it is supposed to be commensurate. One infers syllogistically that odd numbers come out equal to evens, and one proves hypothetically the incommensurability of the diagonal, since a falsehood results through contradicting this. For this we found to be reasoning per impossibile, viz. proving something impossible by means of an hypothesis conceded at the beginning. Consequently, since the falsehood is established in reductions ad impossibile by an ostensive syllogism, and the original conclusion is proved hypothetically, and we have already stated that ostensive syllogisms are effected by means of these figures, it is evident that syllogisms per impossibile also will be made through these figures. Likewise all the other hypothetical syllogisms: for in every case the syllogism leads up to the proposition that is substituted for the original thesis; but the original thesis is reached by means of a concession or some other hypothesis. But if this is true, every demonstration and every syllogism must be formed by means of the three figures mentioned above. But when this has been shown it is clear that every syllogism is perfected by means of the first figure and is reducible to the universal syllogisms in this figure.


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