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Aristotle - The Organon DE SOPHISTICIS ELENCHIS Section 3 Part 30

Refutations which make several questions into one

1. To meet those refutations which make several questions into one, one should draw a distinction between them straight away at the start. For a question must be single to which there is a single answer, so that one must not affirm or deny several things of one thing, nor one thing of many, but one of one. But just as in the case of ambiguous terms, an attribute belongs to a term sometimes in both its senses, and sometimes in neither, so that a simple answer does one, as it happens, no harm despite the fact that the question is not simple, so it is in these cases of double questions too. Whenever, then, the several attributes belong to the one subject, or the one to the many, the man who gives a simple answer encounters no obstacle even though he has committed this mistake: but whenever an attribute belongs to one subject but not to the other, or there is a question of a number of attributes belonging to a number of subjects and in one sense both belong to both, while in another sense, again, they do not, then there is trouble, so that one must beware of this. Thus (e.g.) in the following arguments: Supposing to be good and B evil, you will, if you give a single answer about both, be compelled to say that it is true to call these good, and that it is true to call them evil and likewise to call them neither good nor evil (for each of them has not each character), so that the same thing will be both good and evil and neither good nor evil. Also, since everything is the same as itself and different from anything else, inasmuch as the man who answers double questions simply can be made to say that several things are 'the same' not as other things but 'as themselves', and also that they are different from themselves, it follows that the same things must be both the same as and different from themselves. Moreover, if what is good becomes evil while what is evil is good, then they must both become two. So of two unequal things each being equal to itself, it will follow that they are both equal and unequal to themselves.

2. Now these refutations fall into the province of other solutions as well: for 'both' and 'all' have more than one meaning, so that the resulting affirmation and denial of the same thing does not occur, except verbally: and this is not what we meant by a refutation. But it is clear that if there be not put a single question on a number of points, but the answerer has affirmed or denied one attribute only of one subject only, the absurdity will not come to pass.


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