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Aristotle - The Organon TOPICA Book 6 Part 7

Whether application of a term is consistent with its definition

1. You should look and see also whether the term being defined is applied in consideration of something other than the definition rendered. Suppose (e.g.) a definition of 'justice' as the 'ability to distribute what is equal'. This would not be right, for 'just' describes rather the man who chooses, than the man who is able to distribute what is equal: so that justice could not be an ability to distribute what is equal: for then also the most just man would be the man with the most ability to distribute what is equal.

2. Moreover, see if the thing admits of degrees, whereas what is rendered according to the definition does not, or, vice versa, what is rendered according to the definition admits of degrees while the thing does not. For either both must admit them or else neither, if indeed what is rendered according to the definition is the same as the thing. Moreover, see if, while both of them admit of degrees, they yet do not both become greater together: e.g. suppose sexual love to be the desire for intercourse: for he who is more intensely in love has not a more intense desire for intercourse, so that both do not become intensified at once: they certainly should, however, had they been the same thing.

3. Moreover, suppose two things to be before you, see if the term to be defined applies more particularly to the one to which the content of the definition is less applicable. Take, for instance, the definition of 'fire' as the 'body that consists of the most rarefied particles'. For 'fire' denotes flame rather than light, but flame is less the body that consists of the most rarefied particles than is light: whereas both ought to be more applicable to the same thing, if they had been the same. Again, see if the one expression applies alike to both the objects before you, while the other does not apply to both alike, but more particularly to one of them.

4. Moreover, see if he renders the definition relative to two things taken separately: thus, the beautiful 'is' what is pleasant to the eyes or to the ears": or 'the real' is 'what is capable of being acted upon or of acting'. For then the same thing will be both beautiful and not beautiful, and likewise will be both real and not real. For 'pleasant to the ears' will be the same as 'beautiful', so that 'not pleasant to the ears' will be the same as 'not beautiful': for of identical things the opposites, too, are identical, and the opposite of 'beautiful' is 'not beautiful', while of 'pleasant to the ears' the opposite is 'not pleasant to the cars': clearly, then, 'not pleasant to the ears' is the same thing as 'not beautiful'. If, therefore, something be pleasant to the eyes but not to the ears, it will be both beautiful and not beautiful. In like manner we shall show also that the same thing is both real and unreal.

5. Moreover, of both genera and differentiae and all the other terms rendered in definitions you should frame definitions in lieu of the terms, and then see if there be any discrepancy between them.


UPHOME HTML edition © RBJ created 1996/11/25 modified 2009/04/26