Aristotle - The Organon DE SOPHISTICIS ELENCHIS Section 3 Part 32

Refuting solecisms

1. With regard to solecisms, we have previously said what it is that appears to bring them about; the method of their solution will be clear in the course of the arguments themselves. Solecism is the result aimed at in all arguments of the following kind: 'Is a thing truly that which you truly call it?' 'Yes'. 'But, speaking of a stone, you call him real: therefore of a stone it follows that "him is real".' No: rather, talking of a stone means not saying 'which' but 'whom', and not 'that' but 'him'. If, then, any one were to ask, 'Is a stone him whom you truly call him?' he would be generally thought not to be speaking good Greek, any more than if he were to ask, 'Is he what you call her?' Speak in this way of a 'stick' or any neuter word, and the difference does not break out. For this reason, also, no solecism is incurred, suppose any one asks, 'Is a thing what you say it to be?' 'Yes'. 'But, speaking of a stick, you call it real: therefore, of a stick it follows that it is real.' 'Stone', however, and 'he' have masculine designations. Now suppose some one were to ask, 'Can "he" be a she" (a female)?', and then again, 'Well, but is not he Coriscus?' and then were to say, 'Then he is a "she",' he has not proved the solecism, even if the name 'Coriscus' does signify a 'she', if, on the other hand, the answerer does not grant this: this point must be put as an additional question: while if neither is it the fact nor does he grant it, then the sophist has not proved his case either in fact or as against the person he has been questioning. In like manner, then, in the above instance as well it must be definitely put that 'he' means the stone. If, however, this neither is so nor is granted, the conclusion must not be stated: though it follows apparently, because the case (the accusative), that is really unlike, appears to be like the nominative. 'Is it true to say that this object is what you call it by name?' 'Yes'. 'But you call it by the name of a shield: this object therefore is "of a shield".' No: not necessarily, because the meaning of 'this object' is not 'of a shield' but 'a shield': 'of a shield' would be the meaning of 'this object's'. Nor again if 'He is what you call him by name', while 'the name you call him by is Cleon's', is he therefore 'Cleon's': for he is not 'Cleon's', for what was said was that 'He, not his, is what I call him by name'. For the question, if put in the latter way, would not even be Greek. 'Do you know this?' 'Yes.' 'But this is he: therefore you know he'. No: rather 'this' has not the same meaning in 'Do you know this?' as in 'This is a stone'; in the first it stands for an accusative, in the second for a nominative case. 'When you have understanding of anything, do you understand it?' 'Yes.' 'But you have understanding of a stone: therefore you understand of a stone.' No: the one phrase is in the genitive, 'of a stone', while the other is in the accusative, 'a stone': and what was granted was that 'you understand that, not of that, of which you have understanding', so that you understand not 'of a stone', but 'the stone'.

2. Thus that arguments of this kind do not prove solecism but merely appear to do so, and both why they so appear and how you should meet them, is clear from what has been said.

UPHOME HTML edition © RBJ created 1996/11/25 modified 2009/04/26