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Aristotle - The Organon TOPICA Book 4 Part 1

Species are distinguished by essential properties

1. Next we must go on to examine questions relating to Genus and Property. These are elements in the questions that relate to definitions, but dialecticians seldom address their inquiries to these by themselves. If, then, a genus be suggested for something that is, first take a look at all objects which belong to the same genus as the thing mentioned, and see whether the genus suggested is not predicated of one of them, as happens in the case of an accident: e.g. if 'good' be laid down to be the genus of 'pleasure', see whether some particular pleasure be not good: for, if so, clearly 'good' is not the genus of pleasure: for the genus is predicated of all the members of the same species. Secondly, see whether it be predicated not in the category of essence, but as an accident, as 'white' is predicated of 'snow', or 'self-moved' of the soul. For 'snow' is not a kind of 'white', and therefore 'white' is not the genus of snow, nor is the soul a kind of 'moving object': its motion is an accident of it, as it often is of an animal to walk or to be walking. Moreover, 'moving' does not seem to indicate the essence, but rather a state of doing or of having something done to it. Likewise, also, 'white': for it indicates not the essence of snow, but a certain quality of it. So that neither of them is predicated in the category of 'essence'.

2. Especially you should take a look at the definition of Accident, and see whether it fits the genus mentioned, as (e.g.) is also the case in the instances just given. For it is possible for a thing to be and not to be self-moved, and likewise, also, for it to be and not to be white. So that neither of these attributes is the genus but an accident, since we were saying that an accident is an attribute which can belong to a thing and also not belong.

3. Moreover, see whether the genus and the species be not found in the same division, but the one be a substance while the other is a quality, or the one be a relative while the other is a quality, as (e.g.) 'slow' and 'swan' are each a substance, while 'white' is not a substance but a quality, so that 'white' is not the genus either of 'snow' or of 'swan'. Again, 'knowledge' is a relative, while 'good' and 'noble' are each a quality, so that good, or noble, is not the genus of knowledge. For the genera of relatives ought themselves also to be relatives, as is the case with 'double': for 'multiple', which is the genus of 'double', is itself also a relative. To speak generally, the genus ought to fall under the same division as the species: for if the species be a substance, so too should be the genus, and if the species be a quality, so too the genus should be a quality; e.g. if white be a quality, so too should colour be. Likewise, also, in other cases.

4. Again, see whether it be necessary or possible for the genus to partake of the object which has been placed in the genus. 'To partake' is defined as 'to admit the definition of that which is partaken.' Clearly, therefore, the species partake of the genera, but not the genera of the species: for the species admits the definition of the genus, whereas the genus does not admit that of the species. You must look, therefore, and see whether the genus rendered partakes or can possibly partake of the species, e.g. if any one were to render anything as genus of 'being' or of 'unity': for then the result will be that the genus partakes of the species: for of everything that is, 'being' and 'unity' are predicated, and therefore their definition as well.

5. Moreover, see if there be anything of which the species rendered is true, while the genus is not so, e.g. supposing 'being' or 'object of knowledge' were stated to be the genus of 'object of opinion'. For 'object of opinion' will be a predicate of what does not exist; for many things which do not exist are objects of opinion; whereas that 'being' or 'object of knowledge' is not predicated of what does not exist is clear. So that neither 'being' nor 'object of knowledge' is the genus of 'object of opinion': for of the objects of which the species is predicated, the genus ought to be predicated as well.

6. Again, see whether the object placed in the genus be quite unable to partake of any of its species: for it is impossible that it should partake of the genus if it do not partake of any of its species, except it be one of the species reached by the first division: these do partake of the genus alone. If, therefore, 'Motion' be stated as the genus of pleasure, you should look and see if pleasure be neither locomotion nor alteration, nor any of the rest of the given modes of motion: for clearly you may then take it that it does not partake of any of the species, and therefore not of the genus either, since what partakes of the genus must necessarily partake of one of the species as well: so that pleasure could not be a species of Motion, nor yet be one of the individual phenomena comprised under the term 'motion'. For individuals as well partake in the genus and the species, as (e.g.) an individual man partakes of both 'man' and 'animal'.

7. Moreover, see if the term placed in the genus has a wider denotation than the genus, as (e.g.) 'object of opinion' has, as compared with 'being': for both what is and what is not are objects of opinion, so that 'object of opinion' could not be a species of being: for the genus is always of wider denotation than the species. Again, see if the species and its genus have an equal denotation; suppose, for instance, that of the attributes which go with everything, one were to be stated as a species and the other as its genus, as for example Being and Unity: for everything has being and unity, so that neither is the genus of the other, since their denotation is equal. Likewise, also, if the 'first' of a series and the 'beginning' were to be placed one under the other: for the beginning is first and the first is the beginning, so that either both expressions are identical or at any rate neither is the genus of the other. The elementary principle in regard to all such cases is that the genus has a wider denotation than the species and its differentia: for the differentia as well has a narrower denotation than the genus.

8. See also whether the genus mentioned fails, or might be generally thought to fail, to apply to some object which is not specifically different from the thing in question; or, if your argument be constructive, whether it does so apply. For all things that are not specifically different have the same genus. If, therefore, it be shown to apply to one, then clearly it applies to all, and if it fails to apply to one, clearly it fails to apply to any; e.g. if any one who assumes 'indivisible lines' were to say that the 'indivisible' is their genus. For the aforesaid term is not the genus of divisible lines, and these do not differ as regards their species from indivisible: for straight lines are never different from each other as regards their species.


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