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Aristotle - The Organon TOPICA Book 5 Part 2

Correct rendition of properties

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1. First, see whether the property has or has not been rendered correctly. Of a rendering being incorrect or correct, one test is to see whether the terms in which the property is stated are not or are more intelligible - for destructive purposes, whether they are not so, and for constructive purposes, whether they are so. Of the terms not being more intelligible, one test is to see whether the property which he renders is altogether more unintelligible than the subject whose property he has stated: for, if so, the property will not have been stated correctly. For the object of getting a property constituted is to be intelligible: the terms therefore in which it is rendered should be more intelligible: for in that case it will be possible to conceive it more adequately, e.g. any one who has stated that it is a property of 'fire' to 'bear a very close resemblance to the soul', uses the term 'soul', which is less intelligible than 'fire' - for we know better what fire is than what soul is - , and therefore a 'very close resemblance to the soul' could not be correctly stated to be a property of fire. Another test is to see whether the attribution of A (property) to B (subject) fails to be more intelligible. For not only should the property be more intelligible than its subject, but also it should be something whose attribution to the particular subject is a more intelligible attribution. For he who does not know whether it is an attribute of the particular subject at all, will not know either whether it belongs to it alone, so that whichever of these results happens, its character as a property becomes obscure. Thus (e.g.) a man who has stated that it is a property of fire to be 'the primary element wherein the soul is naturally found', has introduced a subject which is less intelligible than 'fire', viz. whether the soul is found in it, and whether it is found there primarily; and therefore to be 'the primary element in which the soul is naturally found' could not be correctly stated to be a property of 'fire'. On the other hand, for constructive purposes, see whether the terms in which the property is stated are more intelligible, and if they are more intelligible in each of the aforesaid ways. For then the property will have been correctly stated in this respect: for of constructive arguments, showing the correctness of a rendering, some will show the correctness merely in this respect, while others will show it without qualification. Thus (e.g.) a man who has said that the 'possession of sensation' is a property of 'animal' has both used more intelligible terms and has rendered the property more intelligible in each of the aforesaid senses; so that to 'possess sensation' would in this respect have been correctly rendered as a property of 'animal'.

2. Next, for destructive purposes, see whether any of the terms rendered in the property is used in more than one sense, or whether the whole expression too signifies more than one thing. For then the property will not have been correctly stated. Thus (e.g.) seeing that to 'being natural sentient' signifies more than one thing, viz. (1) to possess sensation, (2) to use one's sensation, being naturally sentient, could not be a correct statement of a property of 'animal'. The reason why the term you use, or the whole expression signifying the property, should not bear more than one meaning is this, that an expression bearing more than one meaning makes the object described obscure, because the man who is about to attempt an argument is in doubt which of the various senses the expression bears: and this will not do, for the object of rendering the property is that he may understand. Moreover, in addition to this, it is inevitable that those who render a property after this fashion should be somehow refuted whenever any one addresses his syllogism to that one of the term's several meanings which does not agree. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see whether both all the terms and also the expression as a whole avoid bearing more than one sense: for then the property will have been correctly stated in this respect. Thus (e.g.) seeing that 'body' does not bear several meanings, nor quickest to move upwards in space, nor yet the whole expression made by putting them together, it would be correct in this respect to say that it is a property of fire to be the 'body quickest to move upwards in space'.

3. Next, for destructive purposes, see if the term of which he renders the property is used in more than one sense, and no distinction has been drawn as to which of them it is whose property he is stating: for then the property will not have been correctly rendered. The reasons why this is so are quite clear from what has been said above: for the same results are bound to follow. Thus (e.g.) seeing that 'the knowledge of this' signifies many things for it means

4. (1) the possession of knowledge by it,

5. (2) the use of its knowledge by it,

6. (3) the existence of knowledge about it,

7. (4) the use of knowledge about it

8. - no property of the 'knowledge of this' could be rendered correctly unless he draw a distinction as to which of these it is whose property he is rendering. For constructive purposes, a man should see if the term of which he is rendering the property avoids bearing many senses and is one and simple: for then the property will have been correctly stated in this respect. Thus (e.g.) seeing that 'man' is used in a single sense, 'naturally civilized animal' would be correctly stated as a property of man.

9. Next, for destructive purposes, see whether the same term has been repeated in the property. For people often do this undetected in rendering 'properties' also, just as they do in their 'definitions' as well: but a property to which this has happened will not have been correctly stated: for the repetition of it confuses the hearer; thus inevitably the meaning becomes obscure, and further, such people are thought to babble. Repetition of the same term is likely to happen in two ways; one is, when a man repeatedly uses the same word, as would happen if any one were to render, as a property of fire, 'the body which is the most rarefied of bodies' (for he has repeated the word 'body'); the second is, if a man replaces words by their definitions, as would happen if any one were to render, as a property of earth, 'the substance which is by its nature most easily of all bodies borne downwards in space', and were then to substitute 'substances of such and such a kind' for the word 'bodies': for 'body' and 'a substance of such and such a kind' mean one and the same thing. For he will have repeated the word 'substance', and accordingly neither of the properties would be correctly stated. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see whether he avoids ever repeating the same term; for then the property will in this respect have been correctly rendered. Thus (e.g.) seeing that he who has stated 'animal capable of acquiring knowledge' as a property of man has avoided repeating the same term several times, the property would in this respect have been correctly rendered of man.

10. Next, for destructive purposes, see whether he has rendered in the property any such term as is a universal attribute. For one which does not distinguish its subject from other things is useless, and it is the business of the language Of 'properties', as also of the language of definitions, to distinguish. In the case contemplated, therefore, the property will not have been correctly rendered. Thus (e.g.) a man who has stated that it is a property of knowledge to be a 'conception incontrovertible by argument, because of its unity', has used in the property a term of that kind, viz. 'unity', which is a universal attribute; and therefore the property of knowledge could not have been correctly stated. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see whether he has avoided all terms that are common to everything and used a term that distinguishes the subject from something: for then the property will in this respect have been correctly stated. Thus (e.g.) inasmuch as he who has said that it is a property of a 'living creature' to 'have a soul' has used no term that is common to everything, it would in this respect have been correctly stated to be a property of a 'living creature' to 'have a soul'.

11. Next, for destructive purposes see whether he renders more than one property of the same thing, without a definite proviso that he is stating more than one: for then the property will not have been correctly stated. For just as in the case of definitions too there should be no further addition beside the expression which shows the essence, so too in the case of properties nothing further should be rendered beside the expression that constitutes the property mentioned: for such an addition is made to no purpose. Thus (e.g.) a man who has said that it is a property of fire to be 'the most rarefied and lightest body' has rendered more than one property (for each term is a true predicate of fire alone); and so it could not be a correctly stated property of fire to be 'the most rarefied and lightest body'. On the other hand, for constructive purposes, see whether he has avoided rendering more than one property of the same thing, and has rendered one only: for then the property will in this respect have been correctly stated. Thus (e.g.) a man who has said that it is a property of a liquid to be a 'body adaptable to every shape' has rendered as its property a single character and not several, and so the property of 'liquid' would in this respect have been correctly stated.


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