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Aristotle, Topics. Book I, Chapter 1

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Translation

Translation by Thomas Taylor[efn_note]Aristotle, Topics. Translated by Thomas Taylor (1758-1835). https://classicalliberalarts.com/resources/TAYLOR_TOPICS.pdf[/efn_note]

The design of this treatise is to discover a method[efn_note]Here we see the purpose of the study of the “classical liberal arts”. We are not seeking information but are studying to discover a method by which we may do something. In this course, we are studying how to reason from probable arguments.[/efn_note] by which we may be able to syllogize about every proposed problem from probable arguments; and so that we ourselves sustaining the controversy, may assert nothing repugnant.

In the first place, therefore, let us show what a syllogism is, and what are the differences of it, in order that a dialectic syllogism may be assured; for we investigate this according to the proposed discussion.

A syllogism, therefore, is a discourse in which, certain things being posited, something different from the things posited happens from necessity through the things posited.

But demonstration is when a syllogism consists from things true and primary, or from things of such a kind as assume the principle of the knowledge concerning them, through certain things which are primary and true.

And a dialectical syllogism is that which syllogizes from probabilities. Those things, however, are “true and primary”, which obtain belief not through other things, but through themselves. For it is not requisite in scientific principle to investigate the “why?”, but each of the principles ought to be credible itself, through itself. But probabilities are those things which appear to all, or to most men, or to wise men; and to these either to all or to the greater part, or to those who are especially known and renowned.

Moreover, a contentious syllogism is that which is constructed from things which appear to be probable, but which are not so; and which appears to consist from probabilities, or from things which appear to be probable. For not every thing which appears to be probable is probable; since none of those things which are said to be probable has entirely a superficial image of probability, as happens to be the case with respect to the principles of the contentious arguments. For immediately, and for the most part, the nature of the false in them is evident, even to those who can only perceive what is small. Let, therefore, the former of those syllogisms which are called contentious be also denominated a syllogism; but let the other be called indeed a contentious syllogism, but not a syllogism simply; for though it appears to syllogize, yet it does not.

Farther still, besides all the above-mentioned syllogisms, there are paralogisms, which consist from things appropriate about certain sciences, as happens to be the case in Geometry, and the sciences allied to it. For this mode seems to differ from the above-mentioned syllogisms; since he who uses false descriptions neither syllogizes from things true and primary, nor from probabilities, because it does not fall into definition. For he neither assumes things which appear to all men, no those which appear to most, no such as appear to wise men; and to these, neither to all, nor to the greater part, nor to the most renowned; but he forms a syllogism from assumptions indeed appropriate to science, yet not from true assumptions. For either by describing semicircles, not as they ought to be described, or by drawing certain lines, not as they ought to be drawn, he produces a paralogism.

Let, therefore, the species of syllogisms according to a rude delineation, be those which I have mentioned. And universally, let it be considered, that we have thus far defined about all that has been said, or will afterwards be said by us; because we have not undertaken to deliver an accurate discussion of any one of these particulars, but wish merely to give a rude delineation of them, thinking it to be perfectly sufficient according to the proposed method, to be able to know each of these, in some way or other.

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