Aristotle - The Organon ANALYTICA POSTERIORA Book 1 Part 16

Ignorance is error produced by inference

1. Ignorance - defined not as the negation of knowledge but as a positive state of mind - is error produced by inference.

2. (1) Let us first consider propositions asserting a predicate's immediate connexion with or disconnexion from a subject. Here, it is true, positive error may befall one in alternative ways; for it may arise where one directly believes a connexion or disconnexion as well as where one's belief is acquired by inference. The error, however, that consists in a direct belief is without complication; but the error resulting from inference - which here concerns us - takes many forms. Thus, let A be atomically disconnected from all B: then the conclusion inferred through a middle term C, that all B is A, will be a case of error produced by syllogism. Now, two cases are possible. Either (a) both premisses, or (b) one premiss only, may be false. (a) If neither A is an attribute of any C nor C of any B, whereas the contrary was posited in both cases, both premisses will be false. (C may quite well be so related to A and B that C is neither subordinate to A nor a universal attribute of B: for B, since A was said to be primarily disconnected from B, cannot have a genus, and A need not necessarily be a universal attribute of all things. Consequently both premisses may be false.) On the other hand, (b) one of the premisses may be true, though not either indifferently but only the major A-C since, B having no genus, the premiss C-B will always be false, while A-C may be true. This is the case if, for example, A is related atomically to both C and B; because when the same term is related atomically to more terms than one, neither of those terms will belong to the other. It is, of course, equally the case if A-C is not atomic.

3. Error of attribution, then, occurs through these causes and in this form only - for we found that no syllogism of universal attribution was possible in any figure but the first. On the other hand, an error of non-attribution may occur either in the first or in the second figure. Let us therefore first explain the various forms it takes in the first figure and the character of the premisses in each case.

4. (c) It may occur when both premisses are false; e.g. supposing A atomically connected with both C and B, if it be then assumed that no C is and all B is C, both premisses are false.

5. (d) It is also possible when one is false. This may be either premiss indifferently. A-C may be true, C-B false - A-C true because A is not an attribute of all things, C-B false because C, which never has the attribute A, cannot be an attribute of B; for if C-B were true, the premiss A-C would no longer be true, and besides if both premisses were true, the conclusion would be true. Or again, C-B may be true and A-C false; e.g. if both C and A contain B as genera, one of them must be subordinate to the other, so that if the premiss takes the form No C is A, it will be false. This makes it clear that whether either or both premisses are false, the conclusion will equally be false.

6. In the second figure the premisses cannot both be wholly false; for if all B is A, no middle term can be with truth universally affirmed of one extreme and universally denied of the other: but premisses in which the middle is affirmed of one extreme and denied of the other are the necessary condition if one is to get a valid inference at all. Therefore if, taken in this way, they are wholly false, their contraries conversely should be wholly true. But this is impossible. On the other hand, there is nothing to prevent both premisses being partially false; e.g. if actually some A is C and some B is C, then if it is premised that all A is C and no B is C, both premisses are false, yet partially, not wholly, false. The same is true if the major is made negative instead of the minor. Or one premiss may be wholly false, and it may be either of them. Thus, supposing that actually an attribute of all A must also be an attribute of all B, then if C is yet taken to be a universal attribute of all but universally non-attributable to B, C-A will be true but C-B false. Again, actually that which is an attribute of no B will not be an attribute of all A either; for if it be an attribute of all A, it will also be an attribute of all B, which is contrary to supposition; but if C be nevertheless assumed to be a universal attribute of A, but an attribute of no B, then the premiss C-B is true but the major is false. The case is similar if the major is made the negative premiss. For in fact what is an attribute of no A will not be an attribute of any B either; and if it be yet assumed that C is universally non-attributable to A, but a universal attribute of B, the premiss C-A is true but the minor wholly false. Again, in fact it is false to assume that that which is an attribute of all B is an attribute of no A, for if it be an attribute of all B, it must be an attribute of some A. If then C is nevertheless assumed to be an attribute of all B but of no A, C-B will be true but C-A false.

7. It is thus clear that in the case of atomic propositions erroneous inference will be possible not only when both premisses are false but also when only one is false.

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