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Aristotle - The Organon ANALYTICA PRIORIA Book 2 Part 11

The syllogism per impossibile

1. It is clear then what conversion is, how it is effected in each figure, and what syllogism results. The syllogism per impossibile is proved when the contradictory of the conclusion stated and another premiss is assumed; it can be made in all the figures. For it resembles conversion, differing only in this: conversion takes place after a syllogism has been formed and both the premisses have been taken, but a reduction to the impossible takes place not because the contradictory has been agreed to already, but because it is clear that it is true. The terms are alike in both, and the premisses of both are taken in the same way. For example if A belongs to all B, C being middle, then if it is supposed that A does not belong to all B or belongs to no B, but to all C (which was admitted to be true), it follows that C belongs to no B or not to all B. But this is impossible: consequently the supposition is false: its contradictory then is true. Similarly in the other figures: for whatever moods admit of conversion admit also of the reduction per impossibile.

2. All the problems can be proved per impossibile in all the figures, excepting the universal affirmative, which is proved in the middle and third figures, but not in the first. Suppose that A belongs not to all B, or to no B, and take besides another premiss concerning either of the terms, viz. that C belongs to all A, or that B belongs to all D; thus we get the first figure. If then it is supposed that A does not belong to all B, no syllogism results whichever term the assumed premiss concerns; but if it is supposed that A belongs to no B, when the premiss BD is assumed as well we shall prove syllogistically what is false, but not the problem proposed. For if A belongs to no B, and B belongs to all D, A belongs to no D. Let this be impossible: it is false then A belongs to no B. But the universal affirmative is not necessarily true if the universal negative is false. But if the premiss CA is assumed as well, no syllogism results, nor does it do so when it is supposed that A does not belong to all B. Consequently it is clear that the universal affirmative cannot be proved in the first figure per impossibile.

3. But the particular affirmative and the universal and particular negatives can all be proved. Suppose that A belongs to no B, and let it have been assumed that B belongs to all or to some C. Then it is necessary that A should belong to no C or not to all C. But this is impossible (for let it be true and clear that A belongs to all C): consequently if this is false, it is necessary that A should belong to some B. But if the other premiss assumed relates to A, no syllogism will be possible. Nor can a conclusion be drawn when the contrary of the conclusion is supposed, e.g. that A does not belong to some B. Clearly then we must suppose the contradictory.

4. Again suppose that A belongs to some B, and let it have been assumed that C belongs to all A. It is necessary then that C should belong to some B. But let this be impossible, so that the supposition is false: in that case it is true that A belongs to no B. We may proceed in the same way if the proposition CA has been taken as negative. But if the premiss assumed concerns B, no syllogism will be possible. If the contrary is supposed, we shall have a syllogism and an impossible conclusion, but the problem in hand is not proved. Suppose that A belongs to all B, and let it have been assumed that C belongs to all A. It is necessary then that C should belong to all B. But this is impossible, so that it is false that A belongs to all B. But we have not yet shown it to be necessary that A belongs to no B, if it does not belong to all B. Similarly if the other premiss taken concerns B; we shall have a syllogism and a conclusion which is impossible, but the hypothesis is not refuted. Therefore it is the contradictory that we must suppose.

5. To prove that A does not belong to all B, we must suppose that it belongs to all B: for if A belongs to all B, and C to all A, then C belongs to all B; so that if this is impossible, the hypothesis is false. Similarly if the other premiss assumed concerns B. The same results if the original proposition CA was negative: for thus also we get a syllogism. But if the negative proposition concerns B, nothing is proved. If the hypothesis is that A belongs not to all but to some B, it is not proved that A belongs not to all B, but that it belongs to no B. For if A belongs to some B, and C to all A, then C will belong to some B. If then this is impossible, it is false that A belongs to some B; consequently it is true that A belongs to no B. But if this is proved, the truth is refuted as well; for the original conclusion was that A belongs to some B, and does not belong to some B. Further the impossible does not result from the hypothesis: for then the hypothesis would be false, since it is impossible to draw a false conclusion from true premisses: but in fact it is true: for A belongs to some B. Consequently we must not suppose that A belongs to some B, but that it belongs to all B. Similarly if we should be proving that A does not belong to some B: for if 'not to belong to some' and 'to belong not to all' have the same meaning, the demonstration of both will be identical.

6. It is clear then that not the contrary but the contradictory ought to be supposed in all the syllogisms. For thus we shall have necessity of inference, and the claim we make is one that will be generally accepted. For if of everything one or other of two contradictory statements holds good, then if it is proved that the negation does not hold, the affirmation must be true. Again if it is not admitted that the affirmation is true, the claim that the negation is true will be generally accepted. But in neither way does it suit to maintain the contrary: for it is not necessary that if the universal negative is false, the universal affirmative should be true, nor is it generally accepted that if the one is false the other is true.


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