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Aristotle - The Organon ANALYTICA PRIORIA Book 2 Part 5

Circular and reciprocal proof

1. Circular and reciprocal proof means proof by means of the conclusion, i.e. by converting one of the premisses simply and inferring the premiss which was assumed in the original syllogism: e.g. suppose it has been necessary to prove that A belongs to all C, and it has been proved through B; suppose that A should now be proved to belong to B by assuming that A belongs to C, and C to B - so A belongs to B: but in the first syllogism the converse was assumed, viz. that B belongs to C. Or suppose it is necessary to prove that B belongs to C, and A is assumed to belong to C, which was the conclusion of the first syllogism, and B to belong to A but the converse was assumed in the earlier syllogism, viz. that A belongs to B. In no other way is reciprocal proof possible. If another term is taken as middle, the proof is not circular: for neither of the propositions assumed is the same as before: if one of the accepted terms is taken as middle, only one of the premisses of the first syllogism can be assumed in the second: for if both of them are taken the same conclusion as before will result: but it must be different. If the terms are not convertible, one of the premisses from which the syllogism results must be undemonstrated: for it is not possible to demonstrate through these terms that the third belongs to the middle or the middle to the first. If the terms are convertible, it is possible to demonstrate everything reciprocally, e.g. if A and B and C are convertible with one another. Suppose the proposition AC has been demonstrated through B as middle term, and again the proposition AB through the conclusion and the premiss BC converted, and similarly the proposition BC through the conclusion and the premiss AB converted. But it is necessary to prove both the premiss CB, and the premiss BA: for we have used these alone without demonstrating them. If then it is assumed that B belongs to all C, and C to all A, we shall have a syllogism relating B to A. Again if it is assumed that C belongs to all A, and A to all B, C must belong to all B. In both these syllogisms the premiss CA has been assumed without being demonstrated: the other premisses had ex hypothesi been proved. Consequently if we succeed in demonstrating this premiss, all the premisses will have been proved reciprocally. If then it is assumed that C belongs to all B, and B to all A, both the premisses assumed have been proved, and C must belong to A. It is clear then that only if the terms are convertible is circular and reciprocal demonstration possible (if the terms are not convertible, the matter stands as we said above). But it turns out in these also that we use for the demonstration the very thing that is being proved: for C is proved of B, and B of by assuming that C is said of and C is proved of A through these premisses, so that we use the conclusion for the demonstration.

2. In negative syllogisms reciprocal proof is as follows. Let B belong to all C, and A to none of the Bs: we conclude that A belongs to none of the Cs. If again it is necessary to prove that A belongs to none of the Bs (which was previously assumed) A must belong to no C, and C to all B: thus the previous premiss is reversed. If it is necessary to prove that B belongs to C, the proposition AB must no longer be converted as before: for the premiss 'B belongs to no A' is identical with the premiss 'A belongs to no B'. But we must assume that B belongs to all of that to none of which longs. Let A belong to none of the Cs (which was the previous conclusion) and assume that B belongs to all of that to none of which A belongs. It is necessary then that B should belong to all C. Consequently each of the three propositions has been made a conclusion, and this is circular demonstration, to assume the conclusion and the converse of one of the premisses, and deduce the remaining premiss.

3. In particular syllogisms it is not possible to demonstrate the universal premiss through the other propositions, but the particular premiss can be demonstrated. Clearly it is impossible to demonstrate the universal premiss: for what is universal is proved through propositions which are universal, but the conclusion is not universal, and the proof must start from the conclusion and the other premiss. Further a syllogism cannot be made at all if the other premiss is converted: for the result is that both premisses are particular. But the particular premiss may be proved. Suppose that A has been proved of some C through B. If then it is assumed that B belongs to all A and the conclusion is retained, B will belong to some C: for we obtain the first figure and A is middle. But if the syllogism is negative, it is not possible to prove the universal premiss, for the reason given above. But it is possible to prove the particular premiss, if the proposition AB is converted as in the universal syllogism, i.e 'B belongs to some of that to some of which A does not belong': otherwise no syllogism results because the particular premiss is negative.


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