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Aristotle - The Organon TOPICA Book 5 Part 4

Whether what is stated is or is not a Property

1. The inquiry, then, whether the property has been correctly rendered or no, should be made by these means. The question, on the other hand, whether what is stated is or is not a property at all, you should examine from the following points of view. For the commonplace arguments which establish absolutely that the property is accurately stated will be the same as those that constitute it a property at all: accordingly they will be described in the course of them.

2. Firstly, then, for destructive purposes, take a look at each subject of which he has rendered the property, and see (e.g.) if it fails to belong to any of them at all, or to be true of them in that particular respect, or to be a property of each of them in respect of that character of which he has rendered the property: for then what is stated to be a property will not be a property. Thus, for example, inasmuch as it is not true of the geometrician that he 'cannot be deceived by an argument' (for a geometrician is deceived when his figure is misdrawn), it could not be a property of the man of science that he is not deceived by an argument. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see whether the property rendered be true of every instance, and true in that particular respect: for then what is stated not to be a property will be a property. Thus, for example, in as much as the description 'an animal capable of receiving knowledge' is true of every man, and true of him qua man, it would be a property of man to be 'an animal capable of receiving knowledge'. commonplace rule means - for destructive purposes, see if the description fails to be true of that of which the name is true; and if the name fails to be true of that of which the description is true: for constructive purposes, on the other hand, see if the description too is predicated of that of which the name is predicated, and if the name too is predicated of that of which the description is predicated.]

3. Next, for destructive purposes, see if the description fails to apply to that to which the name applies, and if the name fails to apply to that to which the description applies: for then what is stated to be a property will not be a property. Thus (e.g.) inasmuch as the description 'a living being that partakes of knowledge' is true of God, while 'man' is not predicated of God, to be a living being that partakes of knowledge could not be a property of man. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see if the name as well be predicated of that of which the description is predicated, and if the description as well be predicated of that of which the name is predicated. For then what is stated not to be a property will be a property. Thus (e.g.) the predicate 'living creature' is true of that of which 'having a soul' is true, and 'having a soul' is true of that of which the predicate 'living creature' is true; and so 'having a soul' would be a property of 'living creature'.

4. Next, for destructive purposes, see if he has rendered a subject as a property of that which is described as 'in the subject': for then what has been stated to be a property will not be a property. Thus (e.g.) inasmuch as he who has rendered 'fire' as the property of 'the body with the most rarefied particles', has rendered the subject as the property of its predicate, 'fire' could not be a property of 'the body with the most rarefied particles'. The reason why the subject will not be a property of that which is found in the subject is this, that then the same thing will be the property of a number of things that are specifically different. For the same thing has quite a number of specifically different predicates that belong to it alone, and the subject will be a property of all of these, if any one states the property in this way. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see if he has rendered what is found in the subject as a property of the subject: for then what has been stated not to be a property will be a property, if it be predicated only of the things of which it has been stated to be the property. Thus (e.g.) he who has said that it is a property of 'earth' to be 'specifically the heaviest body' has rendered of the subject as its property something that is said of the thing in question alone, and is said of it in the manner in which a property is predicated, and so the property of earth would have been rightly stated.

5. Next, for destructive purposes, see if he has rendered the property as partaken of: for then what is stated to be a property will not be a property. For an attribute of which the subject partakes is a constituent part of its essence: and an attribute of that kind would be a differentia applying to some one species. E.g. inasmuch as he who has said that 'walking on two feet' is property of man has rendered the property as partaken of, 'walking on two feet' could not be a property of 'man'. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see if he has avoided rendering the property as partaken of, or as showing the essence, though the subject is predicated convertibly with it: for then what is stated not to be a property will be a property. Thus (e.g.) he who has stated that to be 'naturally sentient' is a property of 'animal' has rendered the property neither as partaken of nor as showing the essence, though the subject is predicated convertibly with it; and so to be 'naturally sentient' would be a property of 'animal'.

6. Next, for destructive purposes, see if the property cannot possibly belong simultaneously, but must belong either as posterior or as prior to the attribute described in the name: for then what is stated to be a property will not be a property either never, or not always. Thus (e.g.) inasmuch as it is possible for the attribute 'walking through the market-place' to belong to an object as prior and as posterior to the attribute 'man', 'walking through the market-place' could not be a property of 'man' either never, or not always. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see if it always and of necessity belongs simultaneously, without being either a definition or a differentia: for then what is stated not to be a property will be a property. Thus (e.g.) the attribute 'an animal capable of receiving knowledge' always and of necessity belongs simultaneously with the attribute 'man', and is neither differentia nor definition of its subject, and so 'an animal capable of receiving knowledge' would be a property of 'man'.

7. Next, for destructive purposes, see if the same thing fails to be a property of things that are the same as the subject, so far as they are the same: for then what is stated to be a property will not be a property. Thus, for example, inasmuch as it is no property of a 'proper object of pursuit' to 'appear good to certain persons', it could not be a property of the 'desirable' either to 'appear good to certain persons': for 'proper object of pursuit' and 'desirable' mean the same. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see if the same thing be a property of something that is the same as the subject, in so far as it is the same. For then is stated not to be a property will be a property. Thus (e.g.) inasmuch as it is called a property of a man, in so far as he is a man, 'to have a tripartite soul', it would also be a property of a mortal, in so far as he is a mortal, to have a tripartite soul. This commonplace rule is useful also in dealing with Accident: for the same attributes ought either to belong or not belong to the same things, in so far as they are the same.

8. Next, for destructive purposes, see if the property of things that are the same in kind as the subject fails to be always the same in kind as the alleged property: for then neither will what is stated to be the property of the subject in question. Thus (e.g.) inasmuch as a man and a horse are the same in kind, and it is not always a property of a horse to stand by its own initiative, it could not be a property of a man to move by his own initiative; for to stand and to move by his own initiative are the same in kind, because they belong to each of them in so far as each is an 'animal'. For constructive purposes, on the other hand, see if of things that are the same in kind as the subject the property that is the same as the alleged property is always true: for then what is stated not to be a property will be a property. Thus (e.g.) since it is a property of man to be a 'walking biped,' it would also be a property of a bird to be a 'flying biped': for each of these is the same in kind, in so far as the one pair have the sameness of species that fall under the same genus, being under the genus 'animal', while the other pair have that of differentiae of the genus, viz. of 'animal'. This commonplace rule is deceptive whenever one of the properties mentioned belongs to some one species only while the other belongs to many, as does 'walking quadruped'.

9. Inasmuch as 'same' and 'different' are terms used in several senses, it is a job to render to a sophistical questioner a property that belongs to one thing and that only. For an attribute that belongs to something qualified by an accident will also belong to the accident taken along with the subject which it qualifies; e.g. an attribute that belongs to 'man' will belong also to 'white man', if there be a white man, and one that belongs to 'white man' will belong also to 'man'. One might, then, bring captious criticism against the majority of properties, by representing the subject as being one thing in itself, and another thing when combined with its accident, saying, for example, that 'man' is one thing, and 'white man' another, and moreover by representing as different a certain state and what is called after that state. For an attribute that belongs to the state will belong also to what is called after that state, and one that belongs to what is called after a state will belong also to the state: e.g. inasmuch as the condition of the scientist is called after his science, it could not be a property of 'science' that it is 'incontrovertible by argument'; for then the scientist also will be incontrovertible by argument. For constructive purposes, however, you should say that the subject of an accident is not absolutely different from the accident taken along with its subject; though it is called 'another' thing because the mode of being of the two is different: for it is not the same thing for a man to be a man and for a white man to be a white man. Moreover, you should take a look along at the inflections, and say that the description of the man of science is wrong: one should say not 'it' but 'he is incontrovertible by argument'; while the description of Science is wrong too: one should say not 'it' but 'she is incontrovertible by argument'. For against an objector who sticks at nothing the defence should stick at nothing.


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