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Aristotle - The Organon ANALYTICA PRIORIA Book 1 Part 29

Impossible conclusions and ostensive syllogisms

1. Syllogisms which lead to impossible conclusions are similar to ostensive syllogisms; they also are formed by means of the consequents and antecedents of the terms in question. In both cases the same inquiry is involved. For what is proved ostensively may also be concluded syllogistically per impossibile by means of the same terms; and what is proved per impossibile may also be proved ostensively, e.g. that A belongs to none of the Es. For suppose A to belong to some E: then since B belongs to all A and A to some of the Es, B will belong to some of the Es: but it was assumed that it belongs to none. Again we may prove that A belongs to some E: for if A belonged to none of the Es, and E belongs to all G, A will belong to none of the Gs: but it was assumed to belong to all. Similarly with the other propositions requiring proof. The proof per impossibile will always and in all cases be from the consequents and antecedents of the terms in question. Whatever the problem the same inquiry is necessary whether one wishes to use an ostensive syllogism or a reduction to impossibility. For both the demonstrations start from the same terms, e.g. suppose it has been proved that A belongs to no E, because it turns out that otherwise B belongs to some of the Es and this is impossible - if now it is assumed that B belongs to no E and to all A, it is clear that A will belong to no E. Again if it has been proved by an ostensive syllogism that A belongs to no E, assume that A belongs to some E and it will be proved per impossibile to belong to no E. Similarly with the rest. In all cases it is necessary to find some common term other than the subjects of inquiry, to which the syllogism establishing the false conclusion may relate, so that if this premiss is converted, and the other remains as it is, the syllogism will be ostensive by means of the same terms. For the ostensive syllogism differs from the reductio ad impossibile in this: in the ostensive syllogism both remisses are laid down in accordance with the truth, in the reductio ad impossibile one of the premisses is assumed falsely.

2. These points will be made clearer by the sequel, when we discuss the reduction to impossibility: at present this much must be clear, that we must look to terms of the kinds mentioned whether we wish to use an ostensive syllogism or a reduction to impossibility. In the other hypothetical syllogisms, I mean those which proceed by substitution, or by positing a certain quality, the inquiry will be directed to the terms of the problem to be proved - not the terms of the original problem, but the new terms introduced; and the method of the inquiry will be the same as before. But we must consider and determine in how many ways hypothetical syllogisms are possible.

3. Each of the problems then can be proved in the manner described; but it is possible to establish some of them syllogistically in another way, e.g. universal problems by the inquiry which leads up to a particular conclusion, with the addition of an hypothesis. For if the Cs and the Gs should be identical, but E should be assumed to belong to the Gs only, then A would belong to every E: and again if the Ds and the Gs should be identical, but E should be predicated of the Gs only, it follows that A will belong to none of the Es. Clearly then we must consider the matter in this way also. The method is the same whether the relation is necessary or possible. For the inquiry will be the same, and the syllogism will proceed through terms arranged in the same order whether a possible or a pure proposition is proved. We must find in the case of possible relations, as well as terms that belong, terms which can belong though they actually do not: for we have proved that the syllogism which establishes a possible relation proceeds through these terms as well. Similarly also with the other modes of predication.

4. It is clear then from what has been said not only that all syllogisms can be formed in this way, but also that they cannot be formed in any other. For every syllogism has been proved to be formed through one of the aforementioned figures, and these cannot be composed through other terms than the consequents and antecedents of the terms in question: for from these we obtain the premisses and find the middle term. Consequently a syllogism cannot be formed by means of other terms.


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