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Aristotle - The Organon DE SOPHISTICIS ELENCHIS Section 3 Part 25

Arguments depending on expressions not valid absolutely

1. Those arguments which depend upon an expression that is valid of a particular thing, or in a particular respect, or place, or manner, or relation, and not valid absolutely, should be solved by considering the conclusion in relation to its contradictory, to see if any of these things can possibly have happened to it. For it is impossible for contraries and opposites and an affirmative and a negative to belong to the same thing absolutely; there is, however, nothing to prevent each from belonging in a particular respect or relation or manner, or to prevent one of them from belonging in a particular respect and the other absolutely. So that if this one belongs absolutely and that one in a particular respect, there is as yet no refutation. This is a feature one has to find in the conclusion by examining it in comparison with its contradictory.

2. All arguments of the following kind have this feature: 'Is it possible for what is-not to be? "No." But, you see, it is something, despite its not being.' Likewise also, Being will not be; for it will not he some particular form of being. 'Is it possible for the same man at the same time to be a keeper and a breaker of his oath?' 'Can the same man at the same time both obey and disobey the same man?' Or isn't it the case that being something in particular and Being are not the same? On the other hand, Not-being, even if it be something, need not also have absolute 'being' as well. Nor if a man keeps his oath in this particular instance or in this particular respect, is he bound also to be a keeper of oaths absolutely, but he who swears that he will break his oath, and then breaks it, keeps this particular oath only; he is not a keeper of his oath: nor is the disobedient man 'obedient', though he obeys one particular command. The argument is similar, also, as regards the problem whether the same man can at the same time say what is both false and true: but it appears to be a troublesome question because it is not easy to see in which of the two connexions the word 'absolutely' is to be rendered-with 'true' or with 'false'. There is, however, nothing to prevent it from being false absolutely, though true in some particular respect or relation, i.e. being true in some things, though not 'true' absolutely. Likewise also in cases of some particular relation and place and time. For all arguments of the following kind depend upon this. 'Is health, or wealth, a good thing?' 'Yes.' 'But to the fool who does not use it aright it is not a good thing: therefore it is both good and not good.' 'Is health, or political power, a good thing?' 'Yes. "But sometimes it is not particularly good: therefore the same thing is both good and not good to the same man.' Or rather there is nothing to prevent a thing, though good absolutely, being not good to a particular man, or being good to a particular man, and yet not good or here. 'Is that which the prudent man would not wish, an evil?' 'Yes.' 'But to get rid of, he would not wish the good: therefore the good is an evil.' But that is a mistake; for it is not the same thing to say 'The good is an evil' and 'to get rid of the good is an evil'. Likewise also the argument of the thief is mistaken. For it is not the case that if the thief is an evil thing, acquiring things is also evil: what he wishes, therefore, is not what is evil but what is good; for to acquire something good is good. Also, disease is an evil thing, but not to get rid of disease. 'Is the just preferable to the unjust, and what takes place justly to what takes place unjustly?' 'Yes.' 'But to to be put to death unjustly is preferable.' 'Is it just that each should have his own?' 'Yes.' 'But whatever decisions a man comes to on the strength of his personal opinion, even if it be a false opinion, are valid in law: therefore the same result is both just and unjust.' Also, should one decide in favour of him who says what is unjust?' 'The former.' 'But you see, it is just for the injured party to say fully the things he has suffered; and these are fallacies. For because to suffer a thing unjustly is preferable, unjust ways are not therefore preferable, though in this particular case the unjust may very well be better than the just. Also, to have one's own is just, while to have what is another's is not just: all the same, the decision in question may very well be a just decision, whatever it be that the opinion of the man who gave the decision supports: for because it is just in this particular case or in this particular manner, it is not also just absolutely. Likewise also, though things are unjust, there is nothing to prevent the speaking of them being just: for because to speak of things is just, there is no necessity that the things should be just, any more than because to speak of things be of use, the things need be of use. Likewise also in the case of what is just. So that it is not the case that because the things spoken of are unjust, the victory goes to him who speaks unjust things: for he speaks of things that are just to speak of, though absolutely, i.e. to suffer, they are unjust.


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