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Aristotle - The Organon TOPICA Book 5 Part 3

Correct rendition of properties (continued)

1. Next, for destructive purposes, see whether he has employed either the actual subject whose property he is rendering, or any of its species: for then the property will not have been correctly stated. For the object of rendering the property is that people may understand: now the subject itself is just as unintelligible as it was to start with, while any one of its species is posterior to it, and so is no more intelligible. Accordingly it is impossible to understand anything further by the use of these terms. Thus (e.g.) any one who has said that it is property of 'animal' to be 'the substance to which "man" belongs as a species' has employed one of its species, and therefore the property could not have been correctly stated. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see whether he avoids introducing either the subject itself or any of its species: for then the property will in this respect have been correctly stated. Thus (e.g.) a man who has stated that it is a property of a living creature to be 'compounded of soul and body' has avoided introducing among the rest either the subject itself or any of its species, and therefore in this respect the property of a 'living creature' would have been correctly rendered.

2. You should inquire in the same way also in the case of other terms that do or do not make the subject more intelligible: thus, for destructive purposes, see whether he has employed anything either opposite to the subject or, in general, anything simultaneous by nature with it or posterior to it: for then the property will not have been correctly stated. For an opposite is simultaneous by nature with its opposite, and what is simultaneous by nature or is posterior to it does not make its subject more intelligible. Thus (e.g.) any one who has said that it is a property of good to be 'the most direct opposite of evil', has employed the opposite of good, and so the property of good could not have been correctly rendered. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see whether he has avoided employing anything either opposite to, or, in general, simultaneous by nature with the subject, or posterior to it: for then the property will in this respect have been correctly rendered. Thus (e.g.) a man who has stated that it is a property of knowledge to be 'the most convincing conception' has avoided employing anything either opposite to, or simultaneous by nature with, or posterior to, the subject; and so the property of knowledge would in this respect have been correctly stated.

3. Next, for destructive purposes, see whether he has rendered as property something that does not always follow the subject but sometimes ceases to be its property: for then the property will not have been correctly described. For there is no necessity either that the name of the subject must also be true of anything to which we find such an attribute belonging; nor yet that the name of the subject will be untrue of anything to which such an attribute is found not to belong. Moreover, in addition to this, even after he has rendered the property it will not be clear whether it belongs, seeing that it is the kind of attribute that may fall: and so the property will not be clear. Thus (e.g.) a man who has stated that it is a property of animal 'sometimes to move and sometimes to stand still' rendered the kind of property which sometimes is not a property, and so the property could not have been correctly stated. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see whether he has rendered something that of necessity must always be a property: for then the property will have been in this respect correctly stated. Thus (e.g.) a man who has stated that it is a property of virtue to be 'what makes its possessor good' has rendered as property something that always follows, and so the property of virtue would in this respect have been correctly rendered.

4. Next, for destructive purposes, see whether in rendering the property of the present time he has omitted to make a definite proviso that it is the property of the present time which he is rendering: for else the property will not have been correctly stated. For in the first place, any unusual procedure always needs a definite proviso: and it is the usual procedure for everybody to render as property some attribute that always follows. In the second place, a man who omits to provide definitely whether it was the property of the present time which he intended to state, is obscure: and one should not give any occasion for adverse criticism. Thus (e.g.) a man who has stated it as the property of a particular man 'to be sitting with a particular man', states the property of the present time, and so he cannot have rendered the property correctly, seeing that he has described it without any definite proviso. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see whether, in rendering the property of the present time, he has, in stating it, made a definite proviso that it is the property of the present time that he is stating: for then the property will in this respect have been correctly stated. Thus (e.g.) a man who has said that it is the property of a particular man 'to be walking now', has made this distinction in his statement, and so the property would have been correctly stated.

5. Next, for destructive purposes, see whether he has rendered a property of the kind whose appropriateness is not obvious except by sensation: for then the property will not have been correctly stated. For every sensible attribute, once it is taken beyond the sphere of sensation, becomes uncertain. For it is not clear whether it still belongs, because it is evidenced only by sensation. This principle will be true in the case of any attributes that do not always and necessarily follow. Thus (e.g.) any one who has stated that it is a property of the sun to be 'the brightest star that moves over the earth', has used in describing the property an expression of that kind, viz. 'to move over the earth', which is evidenced by sensation; and so the sun's property could not have been correctly rendered: for it will be uncertain, whenever the sun sets, whether it continues to move over the earth, because sensation then fails us. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see whether he has rendered the property of a kind that is not obvious to sensation, or, if it be sensible, must clearly belong of necessity: for then the property will in this respect have been correctly stated. Thus (e.g.) a man who has stated that it is a property of a surface to be 'the primary thing that is coloured', has introduced amongst the rest a sensible quality, 'to be coloured', but still a quality such as manifestly always belongs, and so the property of 'surface' would in this respect have been correctly rendered.

6. Next, for destructive purposes, see whether he has rendered the definition as a property: for then the property will not have been correctly stated: for the property of a thing ought not to show its essence. Thus (e.g.) a man who has said that it is the property of man to be 'a walking, biped animal' has rendered a property of man so as to signify his essence, and so the property of man could not have been correctly rendered. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see whether the property which he has rendered forms a predicate convertible with its subject, without, however, signifying its essence: for then the property will in this respect have been correctly rendered. Thus (e.g.) he who has stated that it is a property of man to be a 'naturally civilized animal' has rendered the property so as to be convertible with its subject, without, however, showing its essence, and so the property of 'man' would in this respect have been correctly rendered.

7. Next, for destructive purposes, see whether he has rendered the property without having placed the subject within its essence. For of properties, as also of definitions, the first term to be rendered should be the genus, and then the rest of it should be appended immediately afterwards, and should distinguish its subject from other things. Hence a property which is not stated in this way could not have been correctly rendered. Thus (e.g.) a man who has said that it is a property of a living creature to 'have a soul' has not placed 'living creature' within its essence, and so the property of a living creature could not have been correctly stated. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see whether a man first places within its essence the subject whose property he is rendering, and then appends the rest: for then the property will in this respect have been correctly rendered. Thus (e.g.) he who has stated that is a property of man to be an 'animal capable of receiving knowledge', has rendered the property after placing the subject within its essence, and so the property of 'man' would in this respect have been correctly rendered.


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