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Aristotle - The Organon TOPICA Book 2 Part 7

Contraries and their conjunctions

1. Inasmuch as contraries can be conjoined with each other in six ways, and four of these conjunctions constitute a contrariety, we must grasp the subject of contraries, in order that it may help us both in demolishing and in establishing a view. Well then, that the modes of conjunction are six is clear: for either (1) each of the contrary verbs will be conjoined to each of the contrary objects; and this gives two modes: e.g. to do good to friends and to do evil to enemies, or per contra to do evil to friends and to do good to enemies. Or else (2) both verbs may be attached to one object; and this too gives two modes, e.g. to do good to friends and to do evil to friends, or to do good to enemies and to do evil to enemies. Or (3) a single verb may be attached to both objects: and this also gives two modes; e.g. to do good to friends and to do good to enemies, or to do evil to friends and evil to enemies.

2. The first two then of the aforesaid conjunctions do not constitute any contrariety; for the doing of good to friends is not contrary to the doing of evil to enemies: for both courses are desirable and belong to the same disposition. Nor is the doing of evil to friends contrary to the doing of good to enemies: for both of these are objectionable and belong to the same disposition: and one objectionable thing is not generally thought to be the contrary of another, unless the one be an expression denoting an excess, and the other an expression denoting a defect: for an excess is generally thought to belong to the class of objectionable things, and likewise also a defect. But the other four all constitute a contrariety. For to do good to friends is contrary to the doing of evil to friends: for it proceeds from the contrary disposition, and the one is desirable, and the other objectionable. The case is the same also in regard to the other conjunctions: for in each combination the one course is desirable, and the other objectionable, and the one belongs to a reasonable disposition and the other to a bad. Clearly, then, from what has been said, the same course has more than one contrary. For the doing of good to friends has as its contrary both the doing of good to enemies and the doing of evil to friends. Likewise, if we examine them in the same way, we shall find that the contraries of each of the others also are two in number. Select therefore whichever of the two contraries is useful in attacking the thesis.

3. Moreover, if the accident of a thing have a contrary, see whether it belongs to the subject to which the accident in question has been declared to belong: for if the latter belongs the former could not belong; for it is impossible that contrary predicates should belong at the same time to the same thing.

4. Or again, look and see if anything has been said about something, of such a kind that if it be true, contrary predicates must necessarily belong to the thing: e.g. if he has said that the 'Ideas' exist in us. For then the result will be that they are both in motion and at rest, and moreover that they are objects both of sensation and of thought. For according to the views of those who posit the existence of Ideas, those Ideas are at rest and are objects of thought; while if they exist in us, it is impossible that they should be unmoved: for when we move, it follows necessarily that all that is in us moves with us as well. Clearly also they are objects of sensation, if they exist in us: for it is through the sensation of sight that we recognize the Form present in each individual.

5. Again, if there be posited an accident which has a contrary, look and see if that which admits of the accident will admit of its contrary as well: for the same thing admits of contraries. Thus (e.g.) if he has asserted that hatred follows anger, hatred would in that case be in the 'spirited faculty': for that is where anger is. You should therefore look and see if its contrary, to wit, friendship, be also in the 'spirited faculty': for if not - if friendship is in the faculty of desire - then hatred could not follow anger. Likewise also if he has asserted that the faculty of desire is ignorant. For if it were capable of ignorance, it would be capable of knowledge as well: and this is not generally held - I mean that the faculty of desire is capable of knowledge. For purposes, then, of overthrowing a view, as has been said, this rule should be observed: but for purposes of establishing one, though the rule will not help you to assert that the accident actually belongs, it will help you to assert that it may possibly belong. For having shown that the thing in question will not admit of the contrary of the accident asserted, we shall have shown that the accident neither belongs nor can possibly belong; while on the other hand, if we show that the contrary belongs, or that the thing is capable of the contrary, we shall not indeed as yet have shown that the accident asserted does belong as well; our proof will merely have gone to this point, that it is possible for it to belong.


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