Aristotle - The Organon DE SOPHISTICIS ELENCHIS Section 2 Part 14


1. We have said before what kind of thing 'solecism' is. It is possible both to commit it, and to seem to do so without doing so, and to do so without seeming to do so. Suppose, as Protagoras used to say that 'wrath' (μῆνις) and 'helmet' (πήλνξ) are masculine: according to him a man who calls wrath a 'destructress' (οὐλομένην) commits a solecism, though he does not seem to do so to other people, where he who calls it a 'destructor' (οὐλόμενην) commits no solecism though he seems to do so. It is clear, then, that any one could produce this effect by art as well: and for this reason many arguments seem to lead to solecism which do not really do so, as happens in the case of refutations.

2. Almost all apparent solecisms depend upon the word 'this' (τόδε) and upon occasions when the inflection denotes neither a masculine nor a feminine object but a neuter. For 'he' (outos) signifies a masculine, and 'she' (aute) feminine; but 'this' (touto), though meant to signify a neuter, often also signifies one or other of the former: e.g. 'What is this?' 'It is Calliope'; 'it is a log'; 'it is Coriscus'. Now in the masculine and feminine the inflections are all different, whereas in the neuter some are and some are not. Often, then, when 'this' (touto) has been granted, people reason as if 'him' (touton) had been said: and likewise also they substitute one inflection for another. The fallacy comes about because 'this' (touto) is a common form of several inflections: for 'this' signifies sometimes 'his' (outos) and sometimes 'him' (touton). It should signify them alternately; when combined with 'is' (esti) it should be 'he', while with 'being' it should be 'him': e.g. 'Coriscus (Kopiskos) is', but 'being Coriscus' (Kopiskon). It happens in the same way in the case of feminine nouns as well, and in the case of the so-called 'chattels' that have feminine or masculine designations. For only those names which end in o and n, have the designation proper to a chattel, e.g. xulon ('log'), schoinion ('rope'); those which do not end so have that of a masculine or feminine object, though some of them we apply to chattels: e.g. askos ('wineskin') is a masculine noun, and kline ('bed') a feminine. For this reason in cases of this kind as well there will be a difference of the same sort between a construction with 'is' (esti) or with 'being' (to einai). Also, Solecism resembles in a certain way those refutations which are said to depend on the like expression of unlike things. For, just as there we come upon a material solecism, so here we come upon a verbal: for 'man' is both a 'matter' for expression and also a 'word': and so is 'white'.

3. It is clear, then, that for solecisms we must try to construct our argument out of the aforesaid inflections.

4. These, then, are the types of contentious arguments, and the subdivisions of those types, and the methods for conducting them aforesaid. But it makes no little difference if the materials for putting the question be arranged in a certain manner with a view to concealment, as in the case of dialectics. Following then upon what we have said, this must be discussed first.

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