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Aristotle - The Organon TOPICA Book 3 Part 6

Universals entail particulars

1. If the question be put in a particular and not in a universal form, in the first place the universal constructive or destructive commonplace rules that have been given may all be brought into use. For in demolishing or establishing a thing universally we also show it in particular: for if it be true of all, it is true also of some, and if untrue of all, it is untrue of some. Especially handy and of general application are the commonplace rules that are drawn from the opposites and co-ordinates and inflexions of a thing: for public opinion grants alike the claim that if all pleasure be good, then also all pain is evil, and the claim that if some pleasure be good, then also some pain is evil. Moreover, if some form of sensation be not a capacity, then also some form of failure of sensation is not a failure of capacity. Also, if the object of conception is in some cases an object of knowledge, then also some form of conceiving is knowledge. Again, if what is unjust be in some cases good, then also what is just is in some cases evil; and if what happens justly is in some cases evil, then also what happens unjustly is in some cases good. Also, if what is pleasant is in some cases objectionable, then pleasure is in some cases an objectionable thing. On the same principle, also, if what is pleasant is in some cases beneficial, then pleasure is in some cases a beneficial thing. The case is the same also as regards the things that destroy, and the processes of generation and destruction. For if anything that destroys pleasure or knowledge be in some cases good, then we may take it that pleasure or knowledge is in some cases an evil thing. Likewise, also, if the destruction of knowledge be in some cases a good thing or its production an evil thing, then knowledge will be in some cases an evil thing; e.g. if for a man to forget his disgraceful conduct be a good thing, and to remember it be an evil thing, then the knowledge of his disgraceful conduct may be taken to be an evil thing. The same holds also in other cases: in all such cases the premiss and the conclusion are equally likely to be accepted.

2. Moreover you should judge by means of greater or smaller or like degrees: for if some member of another genus exhibit such and such a character in a more marked degree than your object, while no member of that genus exhibits that character at all, then you may take it that neither does the object in question exhibit it; e.g. if some form of knowledge be good in a greater degree than pleasure, while no form of knowledge is good, then you may take it that pleasure is not good either. Also, you should judge by a smaller or like degree in the same way: for so you will find it possible both to demolish and to establish a view, except that whereas both are possible by means of like degrees, by means of a smaller degree it is possible only to establish, not to overthrow. For if a certain form of capacity be good in a like degree to knowledge, and a certain form of capacity be good, then so also is knowledge; while if no form of capacity be good, then neither is knowledge. If, too, a certain form of capacity be good in a less degree than knowledge, and a certain form of capacity be good, then so also is knowledge; but if no form of capacity be good, there is no necessity that no form of knowledge either should be good. Clearly, then, it is only possible to establish a view by means of a less degree.

3. Not only by means of another genus can you overthrow a view, but also by means of the same, if you take the most marked instance of the character in question; e.g. if it be maintained that some form of knowledge is good, then, suppose it to be shown that prudence is not good, neither will any other kind be good, seeing that not even the kind upon which there is most general agreement is so. Moreover, you should go to work by means of an hypothesis; you should claim that the attribute, if it belongs or does not belong in one case, does so in a like degree in all, e.g. that if the soul of man be immortal, so are other souls as well, while if this one be not so, neither are the others. If, then, it be maintained that in some instance the attribute belongs, you must show that in some instance it does not belong: for then it will follow, by reason of the hypothesis, that it does not belong to any instance at all. If, on the other hand, it be maintained that it does not belong in some instance, you must show that it does belong in some instance, for in this way it will follow that it belongs to all instances. It is clear that the maker of the hypothesis universalizes the question, whereas it was stated in a particular form: for he claims that the maker of a particular admission should make a universal admission, inasmuch as he claims that if the attribute belongs in one instance, it belongs also in all instances alike.

4. If the problem be indefinite, it is possible to overthrow a statement in only one way; e.g. if a man has asserted that pleasure is good or is not good, without any further definition. For if he meant that a particular pleasure is good, you must show universally that no pleasure is good, if the proposition in question is to be demolished. And likewise, also, if he meant that some particular pleasure is not good you must show universally that all pleasure is good: it is impossible to demolish it in any other way. For if we show that some particular pleasure is not good or is good, the proposition in question is not yet demolished. It is clear, then, that it is possible to demolish an indefinite statement in one way only, whereas it can be established in two ways: for whether we show universally that all pleasure is good, or whether we show that a particular pleasure is good, the proposition in question will have been proved. Likewise, also, supposing we are required to argue that some particular pleasure is not good, if we show that no pleasure is good or that a particular pleasure is not good, we shall have produced an argument in both ways, both universally and in particular, to show that some particular pleasure is not good. If, on the other hand, the statement made be definite, it will be possible to demolish it in two ways; e.g. if it be maintained that it is an attribute of some particular pleasure to be good, while of some it is not: for whether it be shown that all pleasure, or that no pleasure, is good, the proposition in question will have been demolished. If, however, he has stated that only one single pleasure is good, it is possible to demolish it in three ways: for by showing that all pleasure, or that no pleasure, or that more than one pleasure, is good, we shall have demolished the statement in question. If the statement be made still more definite, e.g. that prudence alone of the virtues is knowledge, there are four ways of demolishing it: for if it be shown that all virtue is knowledge, or that no virtue is so, or that some other virtue (e.g. justice) is so, or that prudence itself is not knowledge, the proposition in question will have been demolished.

5. It is useful also to take a look at individual instances, in cases where some attribute has been said to belong or not to belong, as in the case of universal questions. Moreover, you should take a glance among genera, dividing them by their species until you come to those that are not further divisible, as has been said before: for whether the attribute is found to belong in all cases or in none, you should, after adducing several instances, claim that he should either admit your point universally, or else bring an objection showing in what case it does not hold. Moreover, in cases where it is possible to make the accident definite either specifically or numerically, you should look and see whether perhaps none of them belongs, showing e.g. that time is not moved, nor yet a movement, by enumerating how many species there are of movement: for if none of these belong to time, clearly it does not move, nor yet is a movement. Likewise, also, you can show that the soul is not a number, by dividing all numbers into either odd or even: for then, if the soul be neither odd nor even, clearly it is not a number.

6. In regard then to Accident, you should set to work by means like these, and in this manner.


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