Aristotle - The Organon TOPICA Book 2 Part 8

Look for arguments among contradictories

1. Seeing that the modes of opposition are four in number, you should look for arguments among the contradictories of your terms, converting the order of their sequence, both when demolishing and when establishing a view, and you should secure them by means of induction - such arguments (e.g.) as that man be an animal, what is not an animal is not a man: and likewise also in other instances of contradictories. For in those cases the sequence is converse: for 'animal' follows upon 'man' but 'not-animal' does not follow upon 'not-man', but conversely 'not-man' upon 'not-animal'. In all cases, therefore, a postulate of this sort should be made, (e.g.) that 'If the honourable is pleasant, what is not pleasant is not honourable, while if the latter be untrue, so is the former'. Likewise, also, 'If what is not pleasant be not honourable, then what is honourable is pleasant'. Clearly, then, the conversion of the sequence formed by contradiction of the terms of the thesis is a method convertible for both purposes.

2. Then look also at the case of the contraries of S and P in the thesis, and see if the contrary of the one follows upon the contrary of the other, either directly or conversely, both when you are demolishing and when you are establishing a view: secure arguments of this kind as well by means of induction, so far as may be required. Now the sequence is direct in a case such as that of courage and cowardice: for upon the one of them virtue follows, and vice upon the other; and upon the one it follows that it is desirable, while upon the other it follows that it is objectionable. The sequence, therefore, in the latter case also is direct; for the desirable is the contrary of the objectionable. Likewise also in other cases. The sequence is, on the other hand, converse in such a case as this: Health follows upon vigour, but disease does not follow upon debility; rather debility follows upon disease. In this case, then, clearly the sequence is converse. Converse sequence is, however, rare in the case of contraries; usually the sequence is direct. If, therefore, the contrary of the one term does not follow upon the contrary of the other either directly or conversely, clearly neither does the one term follow upon the other in the statement made: whereas if the one followed the other in the case of the contraries, it must of necessity do so as well in the original statement.

3. You should look also into cases of the privation or presence of a state in like manner to the case of contraries. Only, in the case of such privations the converse sequence does not occur: the sequence is always bound to be direct: e.g. as sensation follows sight, while absence of sensation follows blindness. For the opposition of sensation to absence of sensation is an opposition of the presence to the privation of a state: for the one of them is a state, and the other the privation of it.

4. The case of relative terms should also be studied in like manner to that of a state and its privation: for the sequence of these as well is direct; e.g. if 3/1 is a multiple, then 1/3 is a fraction: for 3/1 is relative to 1/3, and so is a multiple to a fraction. Again, if knowledge be a conceiving, then also the object of knowledge is an object of conception; and if sight be a sensation, then also the object of sight is an object of sensation. An objection may be made that there is no necessity for the sequence to take place, in the case of relative terms, in the way described: for the object of sensation is an object of knowledge, whereas sensation is not knowledge. The objection is, however, not generally received as really true; for many people deny that there is knowledge of objects of sensation. Moreover, the principle stated is just as useful for the contrary purpose, e.g. to show that the object of sensation is not an object of knowledge, on the ground that neither is sensation knowledge.

UPHOME HTML edition © RBJ created 1996/11/25 modified 2009/04/26