Aristotle - The Organon TOPICA Book 6 Part 8

Definitions of terms which are relative

1. If the term defined be relative, either in itself or in respect of its genus, see whether the definition fails to mention that to which the term, either in itself or in respect of its genus, is relative, e.g. if he has defined 'knowledge' as an 'incontrovertible conception' or 'wishing' as 'painless conation'. For of everything relative the essence is relative to something else, seeing that the being of every relative term is identical with being in a certain relation to something. He ought, therefore, to have said that knowledge is 'conception of a knowable' and that wishing is 'conation for a good'. Likewise, also, if he has defined 'grammar' as 'knowledge of letters': whereas in the definition there ought to be rendered either the thing to which the term itself is relative, or that, whatever it is, to which its genus is relative. Or see if a relative term has been described not in relation to its end, the end in anything being whatever is best in it or gives its purpose to the rest. Certainly it is what is best or final that should be stated, e.g. that desire is not for the pleasant but for pleasure: for this is our purpose in choosing what is pleasant as well.

2. Look and see also if that in relation to which he has rendered the term be a process or an activity: for nothing of that kind is an end, for the completion of the activity or process is the end rather than the process or activity itself. Or perhaps this rule is not true in all cases, for almost everybody prefers the present experience of pleasure to its cessation, so that they would count the activity as the end rather than its completion.

3. Again see in some cases if he has failed to distinguish the quantity or quality or place or other differentiae of an object; e.g. the quality and quantity of the honour the striving for which makes a man ambitious: for all men strive for honour, so that it is not enough to define the ambitious man as him who strives for honour, but the aforesaid differentiae must be added. Likewise, also, in defining the covetous man the quantity of money he aims at, or in the case of the incontinent man the quality of the pleasures, should be stated. For it is not the man who gives way to any sort of pleasure whatever who is called incontinent, but only he who gives way to a certain kind of pleasure. Or again, people sometimes define night as a 'shadow on the earth', or an earthquake as 'a movement of the earth', or a cloud as 'condensation of the air', or a wind as a 'movement of the air'; whereas they ought to specify as well quantity, quality, place, and cause. Likewise, also, in other cases of the kind: for by omitting any differentiae whatever he fails to state the essence of the term. One should always attack deficiency. For a movement of the earth does not constitute an earthquake, nor a movement of the air a wind, irrespective of its manner and the amount involved.

4. Moreover, in the case of conations, and in any other cases where it applies, see if the word 'apparent' is left out, e.g. 'wishing is a conation after the good', or 'desire is a conation after the pleasant' - instead of saying 'the apparently good', or 'pleasant'. For often those who exhibit the conation do not perceive what is good or pleasant, so that their aim need not be really good or pleasant, but only apparently so. They ought, therefore, to have rendered the definition also accordingly. On the other hand, any one who maintains the existence of Ideas ought to be brought face to face with his Ideas, even though he does render the word in question: for there can be no Idea of anything merely apparent: the general view is that an Idea is always spoken of in relation to an Idea: thus absolute desire is for the absolutely pleasant, and absolute wishing is for the absolutely good; they therefore cannot be for an apparent good or an apparently pleasant: for the existence of an absolutely-apparently-good or pleasant would be an absurdity.

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