Aristotle’s Sophistical Refutations
Aristotle’s Sophistical Refutations (SE) investigates the five devices which sophists employ to appear wise in dialogue. The sophist’s primary device is the sophistical refutation which is a particular kind of fallacy. A sophistical refutation is a merely apparent refutation. Thus, the fallacy has two causes: the “causa apparentiae” and the “causa non existentiae." A genuine refutation is a syllogism based on an interlocutor’s opinions that leads necessarily to a conclusion which contradicts some other established position of the interlocutor. The sophist desires especially the apparent refutation of his opponent because the greatest glory follows upon seeming to expose the ultimate defect in opponent’s understanding, a contradiction. The SE neither accounts for every cause of error nor every type of false reasoning; “ad” arguments like ad baculum or ad hominem are not in investigated in the SE because they are not apparent refutations. After a description of the SE’s subject matter, the dissertation’s introduction locates the role of the SE in Aristotle’s Organon and explains why a dialectician would investigate and untie sophisms. Sophistic is the sham portion of the dialectic which is a universal art (τέχνη) of syllogizing from endoxes to the contradiction of an interlocutor. Unlike principles of demonstrations, endoxes are premises that are in accord “with the expectation (ἔνδοξος) of all or most or the wise, and of all the latter or most or of the most knowing.” They do not need to be certain or true; instead, they must be acceptable to a dialectical opponent. Dialecticians derive endoxes from dialectical places (τόποι), i.e., extrinsic and most universal principles which usually affirm relations between logical intentions and may be employed in any given subject matter. Sophists use sophistical places which may be expressed as universal propositions and provide the foundation for the apparent reasonability of the sophistical refutations. That said, unlike dialectical places, Aristotle does not present sophistical places as universal conditional statements of logical intentions; they are presented as common distinctions—such as the distinction between the different senses of a word—that a sophist may exploit to produce a sophistical refutation. A dialectician will study sophistic for the same reasons he will learn dialectic; it is useful for exercise, conversation, and in the philosophical sciences. Moreover, investigating sophisms facilitates appreciation of distinctions that are fundamental to Aristotelian philosophy, protects the philosopher from error, and preserves his reputation. Although translation of Aristotelian logical works is difficult—especially one which contains many examples of linguistic fallacies—the dissertation provides a faithful and consistent translation of the treatise. The line by line commentary contains explanation of the order, purpose, and meaning of the text, clarification of Aristotle’s difficult examples, discussion of scholarly treatment of controversial passages, and references to other relevant passages in the Organon. The dissertation ends with two appendices to provide a thorough treatment of Aristotle’s two most deceptive fallacies: the fallacy of equivocation and the fallacy of the accident. The first appendix locates equivocation as a kind of proper naming (as opposed to figurative) and offers an original interpretation of Aristotle’s argument for the necessity of equivocation based on his understanding of how we name. Afterward, the appendix unfolds the nature and solution to the fallacy, explains Aristotle’s places (τόποι) for detecting equivocation, and categorizes the kinds of equivocation. The second appendix unfolds a unique and overlooked explanation of the fallacy of the accident that allows Aristotle to be read consistently, distinguishes the fallacy from the other fallacies, and accounts for Aristotle’s examples. The fallacy of the accident occurs when a middle term’s connection to one extreme term is accidental to its connection to the other. The appendix locates the fallacy through a reduction of all fallacies outside of speech to ignorance of refutation, offers four distinct meanings of ‘accident’ in Aristotle, shows which meaning Aristotle attributes to the fallacy, divides the fallacy into three species, and answers objections to its explanation.