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Aristotle
Posterior Analytics

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6

Can we nevertheless actually demonstrate what a thing essentially and substantially is, but hypothetically, i.e. by premising (1) that its definable form is constituted by the "peculiar" attributes of its essential nature; (2) that such and such are the only attributes of its essential nature, and that the complete synthesis of them is peculiar to the thing; and thus-since in this synthesis consists the being of the thing-obtaining our conclusion? Or is the truth that, since proof must be through the middle term, the definable form is once more assumed in this minor premiss too?

Further, just as in syllogizing we do not premise what syllogistic inference is (since the premisses from which we conclude must be related as whole and part), so the definable form must not fall within the syllogism but remain outside the premisses posited. It is only against a doubt as to its having been a syllogistic inference at all that we have to defend our argument as conforming to the definition of syllogism. It is only when some one doubts whether the conclusion proved is the definable form that we have to defend it as conforming to the definition of definable form which we assumed. Hence syllogistic inference must be possible even without the express statement of what syllogism is or what definable form is.

The following type of hypothetical proof also begs the question. If evil is definable as the divisible, and the definition of a thing’s contrary-if it has one the contrary of the thing’s definition; then, if good is the contrary of evil and the indivisible of the divisible, we conclude that to be good is essentially to be indivisible. The question is begged because definable form is assumed as a premiss, and as a premiss which is to prove definable form. "But not the same definable form", you may object. That I admit, for in demonstrations also we premise that "this" is predicable of "that"; but in this premiss the term we assert of the minor is neither the major itself nor a term identical in definition, or convertible, with the major.

Again, both proof by division and the syllogism just described are open to the question why man should be animal-biped-terrestrial and not merely animal and terrestrial, since what they premise does not ensure that the predicates shall constitute a genuine unity and not merely belong to a single subject as do musical and grammatical when predicated of the same man.




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