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Aristotle - The Organon TOPICA Book 2 Part 4

It is well to alter a term into one more familiar

1. Moreover, it is well to alter a term into one more familiar, e.g. to substitute 'clear' for 'exact' in describing a conception, and 'being fussy' for 'being busy': for when the expression is made more familiar, the thesis becomes easier to attack. This commonplace rule also is available for both purposes alike, both for establishing and for overthrowing a view.

2. In order to show that contrary attributes belong to the same thing, look at its genus; e.g. if we want to show that rightness and wrongness are possible in regard to perception, and to perceive is to judge, while it is possible to judge rightly or wrongly, then in regard to perception as well rightness and wrongness must be possible. In the present instance the proof proceeds from the genus and relates to the species: for 'to judge' is the genus of 'to-perceive'; for the man who perceives judges in a certain way. But per contra it may proceed from the species to the genus: for all the attributes that belong to the species belong to the genus as well; e.g. if there is a bad and a good knowledge there is also a bad and a good disposition: for 'disposition' is the genus of knowledge. Now the former commonplace argument is fallacious for purposes of establishing a view, while the second is true. For there is no necessity that all the attributes that belong to the genus should belong also to the species; for 'animal' is flying and quadruped, but not so 'man'. All the attributes, on the other hand, that belong to the species must of necessity belong also to the genus; for if 'man' is good, then animal also is good. On the other hand, for purposes of overthrowing a view, the former argument is true while the latter is fallacious; for all the attributes which do not belong to the genus do not belong to the species either; whereas all those that are wanting to the species are not of necessity wanting to the genus.

3. Since those things of which the genus is predicated must also of necessity have one of its species predicated of them, and since those things that are possessed of the genus in question, or are described by terms derived from that genus, must also of necessity be possessed of one of its species or be described by terms derived from one of its species (e.g. if to anything the term 'scientific knowledge' be applied, then also there will be applied to it the term 'grammatical' or 'musical' knowledge, or knowledge of one of the other sciences; and if any one possesses scientific knowledge or is described by a term derived from 'science', then he will also possess grammatical or musical knowledge or knowledge of one of the other sciences, or will be described by a term derived from one of them, e.g. as a 'grammarian' or a 'musician') - therefore if any expression be asserted that is in any way derived from the genus (e.g. that the soul is in motion), look and see whether it be possible for the soul to be moved with any of the species of motion; whether (e.g.) it can grow or be destroyed or come to be, and so forth with all the other species of motion. For if it be not moved in any of these ways, clearly it does not move at all. This commonplace rule is common for both purposes, both for overthrowing and for establishing a view: for if the soul moves with one of the species of motion, clearly it does move; while if it does not move with any of the species of motion, clearly it does not move.

4. If you are not well equipped with an argument against the assertion, look among the definitions, real or apparent, of the thing before you, and if one is not enough, draw upon several. For it will be easier to attack people when committed to a definition: for an attack is always more easily made on definitions.

5. Moreover, look and see in regard to the thing in question, what it is whose reality conditions the reality of the thing in question, or what it is whose reality necessarily follows if the thing in question be real: if you wish to establish a view inquire what there is on whose reality the reality of the thing in question will follow (for if the former be shown to be real, then the thing in question will also have been shown to be real); while if you want to overthrow a view, ask what it is that is real if the thing in question be real, for if we show that what follows from the thing in question is unreal, we shall have demolished the thing in question.

6. Moreover, look at the time involved, to see if there be any discrepancy anywhere: e.g. suppose a man to have stated that what is being nourished of necessity grows: for animals are always of necessity being nourished, but they do not always grow. Likewise, also, if he has said that knowing is remembering: for the one is concerned with past time, whereas the other has to do also with the present and the future. For we are said to know things present and future (e.g. that there will be an eclipse), whereas it is impossible to remember anything save what is in the past.


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