Aristotle - The Organon TOPICA Book 8 Part 10

Demolish the point on which the fallacy depends

1. Of all arguments that reason to a false conclusion the right solution is to demolish the point on which the fallacy that occurs depends: for the demolition of any random point is no solution, even though the point demolished be false. For the argument may contain many falsehoods, e.g. suppose some one to secure the premisses, 'He who sits, writes' and 'Socrates is sitting': for from these it follows that 'Socrates is writing'. Now we may demolish the proposition 'Socrates is sitting', and still be no nearer a solution of the argument; it may be true that the point claimed is false; but it is not on that that fallacy of the argument depends: for supposing that any one should happen to be sitting and not writing, it would be impossible in such a case to apply the same solution. Accordingly, it is not this that needs to be demolished, but rather that 'He who sits, writes': for he who sits does not always write. He, then, who has demolished the point on which the fallacy depends, has given the solution of the argument completely. Any one who knows that it is on such and such a point that the argument depends, knows the solution of it, just as in the case of a figure falsely drawn. For it is not enough to object, even if the point demolished be a falsehood, but the reason of the fallacy should also be proved: for then it would be clear whether the man makes his objection with his eyes open or not.

2. There are four possible ways of preventing a man from working his argument to a conclusion. It can be done either by demolishing the point on which the falsehood that comes about depends, or by stating an objection directed against the questioner: for often when a solution has not as a matter of fact been brought, yet the questioner is rendered thereby unable to pursue the argument any farther. Thirdly, one may object to the questions asked: for it may happen that what the questioner wants does not follow from the questions he has asked because he has asked them badly, whereas if something additional be granted the conclusion comes about. If, then, the questioner be unable to pursue his argument farther, the objection would properly be directed against the questioner; if he can do so, then it would be against his questions. The fourth and worst kind of objection is that which is directed to the time allowed for discussion: for some people bring objections of a kind which would take longer to answer than the length of the discussion in hand.

3. There are then, as we said, four ways of making objections: but of them the first alone is a solution: the others are just hindrances and stumbling-blocks to prevent the conclusions.

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