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Aristotle - The Organon TOPICA Book 2 Part 5

Drawing an opponent into a refutable statement

1. Moreover, there is the sophistic turn of argument, whereby we draw our opponent into the kind of statement against which we shall be well supplied with lines of argument. This process is sometimes a real necessity, sometimes an apparent necessity, sometimes neither an apparent nor a real necessity. It is really necessary whenever the answerer has denied any view that would be useful in attacking the thesis, and the questioner thereupon addresses his arguments to the support of this view, and when moreover the view in question happens to be one of a kind on which he has a good stock of lines of argument. Likewise, also, it is really necessary whenever he (the questioner) first, by an induction made by means of the view laid down, arrives at a certain statement and then tries to demolish that statement: for when once this has been demolished, the view originally laid down is demolished as well. It is an apparent necessity, when the point to which the discussion comes to be directed appears to be useful, and relevant to the thesis, without being really so; whether it be that the man who is standing up to the argument has refused to concede something, or whether he (the questioner) has first reached it by a plausible induction based upon the thesis and then tries to demolish it. The remaining case is when the point to which the discussion comes to be directed is neither really nor apparently necessary, and it is the answerer's luck to be confuted on a mere side issue You should beware of the last of the aforesaid methods; for it appears to be wholly disconnected from, and foreign to, the art of dialectic. For this reason, moreover, the answerer should not lose his temper, but assent to those statements that are of no use in attacking the thesis, adding an indication whenever he assents although he does not agree with the view. For, as a rule, it increases the confusion of questioners if, after all propositions of this kind have been granted them, they can then draw no conclusion.

2. Moreover, any one who has made any statement whatever has in a certain sense made several statements, inasmuch as each statement has a number of necessary consequences: e.g. the man who said 'X is a man' has also said that it is an animal and that it is animate and a biped and capable of acquiring reason and knowledge, so that by the demolition of any single one of these consequences, of whatever kind, the original statement is demolished as well. But you should beware here too of making a change to a more difficult subject: for sometimes the consequence, and sometimes the original thesis, is the easier to demolish.


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