350 BC
by Aristotle
translated by W. A. Pickard-Cambridge
Book I

LET us now discuss sophistic refutations, i.e. what appear to be
refutations but are really fallacies instead. We will begin in the
natural order with the first.
That some reasonings are genuine, while others seem to be so but are
not, is evident. This happens with arguments, as also elsewhere,
through a certain likeness between the genuine and the sham. For
physically some people are in a vigorous condition, while others
merely seem to be so by blowing and rigging themselves out as the
tribesmen do their victims for sacrifice; and some people are
beautiful thanks to their beauty, while others seem to be so, by
dint of embellishing themselves. So it is, too, with inanimate things;
for of these, too, some are really silver and others gold, while
others are not and merely seem to be such to our sense; e.g. things
made of litharge and tin seem to be of silver, while those made of
yellow metal look golden. In the same way both reasoning and
refutation are sometimes genuine, sometimes not, though inexperience
may make them appear so: for inexperienced people obtain only, as it
were, a distant view of these things. For reasoning rests on certain
statements such that they involve necessarily the assertion of
something other than what has been stated, through what has been
stated: refutation is reasoning involving the contradictory of the
given conclusion. Now some of them do not really achieve this,
though they seem to do so for a number of reasons; and of these the
most prolific and usual domain is the argument that turns upon names
only. It is impossible in a discussion to bring in the actual things
discussed: we use their names as symbols instead of them; and
therefore we suppose that what follows in the names, follows in the
things as well, just as people who calculate suppose in regard to
their counters. But the two cases (names and things) are not alike.
For names are finite and so is the sum-total of formulae, while things
are infinite in number. Inevitably, then, the same formulae, and a
single name, have a number of meanings. Accordingly just as, in
counting, those who are not clever in manipulating their counters
are taken in by the experts, in the same way in arguments too those
who are not well acquainted with the force of names misreason both
in their own discussions and when they listen to others. For this
reason, then, and for others to be mentioned later, there exists
both reasoning and refutation that is apparent but not real. Now for
some people it is better worth while to seem to be wise, than to be
wise without seeming to be (for the art of the sophist is the
semblance of wisdom without the reality, and the sophist is one who
makes money from an apparent but unreal wisdom); for them, then, it is
clearly essential also to seem to accomplish the task of a wise man
rather than to accomplish it without seeming to do so. To reduce it to
a single point of contrast it is the business of one who knows a
thing, himself to avoid fallacies in the subjects which he knows and
to be able to show up the man who makes them; and of these
accomplishments the one depends on the faculty to render an answer,
and the other upon the securing of one. Those, then, who would be
sophists are bound to study the class of arguments aforesaid: for it
is worth their while: for a faculty of this kind will make a man
seem to be wise, and this is the purpose they happen to have in view.
Clearly, then, there exists a class of arguments of this kind, and
it is at this kind of ability that those aim whom we call sophists.
Let us now go on to discuss how many kinds there are of sophistical
arguments, and how many in number are the elements of which this
faculty is composed, and how many branches there happen to be of
this inquiry, and the other factors that contribute to this art.


Of arguments in dialogue form there are four classes:
Didactic, Dialectical, Examination-arguments, and Contentious
arguments. Didactic arguments are those that reason from the
principles appropriate to each subject and not from the opinions
held by the answerer (for the learner should take things on trust):
dialectical arguments are those that reason from premisses generally
accepted, to the contradictory of a given thesis:
examination-arguments are those that reason from premisses which are
accepted by the answerer and which any one who pretends to possess
knowledge of the subject is bound to know-in what manner, has been
defined in another treatise: contentious arguments are those that
reason or appear to reason to a conclusion from premisses that
appear to be generally accepted but are not so. The subject, then,
of demonstrative arguments has been discussed in the Analytics,
while that of dialectic arguments and examination-arguments has been
discussed elsewhere: let us now proceed to speak of the arguments used
in competitions and contests.

First we must grasp the number of aims entertained by those who
argue as competitors and rivals to the death. These are five in
number, refutation, fallacy, paradox, solecism, and fifthly to
reduce the opponent in the discussion to babbling-i.e. to constrain
him to repeat himself a number of times: or it is to produce the
appearance of each of these things without the reality. For they
choose if possible plainly to refute the other party, or as the second
best to show that he is committing some fallacy, or as a third best to
lead him into paradox, or fourthly to reduce him to solecism, i.e.
to make the answerer, in consequence of the argument, to use an
ungrammatical expression; or, as a last resort, to make him repeat


There are two styles of refutation: for some depend on the
language used, while some are independent of language. Those ways of
producing the false appearance of an argument which depend on language
are six in number: they are ambiguity, amphiboly, combination,
division of words, accent, form of expression. Of this we may assure
ourselves both by induction, and by syllogistic proof based on
this-and it may be on other assumptions as well-that this is the
number of ways in which we might fall to mean the same thing by the
same names or expressions. Arguments such as the following depend upon
ambiguity. 'Those learn who know: for it is those who know their
letters who learn the letters dictated to them'. For to 'learn' is
ambiguous; it signifies both 'to understand' by the use of
knowledge, and also 'to acquire knowledge'. Again, 'Evils are good:
for what needs to be is good, and evils must needs be'. For 'what
needs to be' has a double meaning: it means what is inevitable, as
often is the case with evils, too (for evil of some kind is
inevitable), while on the other hand we say of good things as well
that they 'need to be'. Moreover, 'The same man is both seated and
standing and he is both sick and in health: for it is he who stood
up who is standing, and he who is recovering who is in health: but
it is the seated man who stood up, and the sick man who was
recovering'. For 'The sick man does so and so', or 'has so and so done
to him' is not single in meaning: sometimes it means 'the man who is
sick or is seated now', sometimes 'the man who was sick formerly'.
Of course, the man who was recovering was the sick man, who really was
sick at the time: but the man who is in health is not sick at the same
time: he is 'the sick man' in the sense not that he is sick now, but
that he was sick formerly. Examples such as the following depend
upon amphiboly: 'I wish that you the enemy may capture'. Also the
thesis, 'There must be knowledge of what one knows': for it is
possible by this phrase to mean that knowledge belongs to both the
knower and the known. Also, 'There must be sight of what one sees: one
sees the pillar: ergo the pillar has sight'. Also, 'What you profess
to-be, that you profess to-be: you profess a stone to-be: ergo you
profess-to-be a stone'. Also, 'Speaking of the silent is possible':
for 'speaking of the silent' also has a double meaning: it may mean
that the speaker is silent or that the things of which he speaks are
so. There are three varieties of these ambiguities and amphibolies:
(1) When either the expression or the name has strictly more than
one meaning, e.g. aetos and the 'dog'; (2) when by custom we use
them so; (3) when words that have a simple sense taken alone have more
than one meaning in combination; e.g. 'knowing letters'. For each
word, both 'knowing' and 'letters', possibly has a single meaning: but
both together have more than one-either that the letters themselves
have knowledge or that someone else has it of them.
Amphiboly and ambiguity, then, depend on these modes of speech. Upon
the combination of words there depend instances such as the following:
'A man can walk while sitting, and can write while not writing'. For
the meaning is not the same if one divides the words and if one
combines them in saying that 'it is possible to walk-while-sitting'
and write while not writing]. The same applies to the latter phrase,
too, if one combines the words 'to write-while-not-writing': for
then it means that he has the power to write and not to write at once;
whereas if one does not combine them, it means that when he is not
writing he has the power to write. Also, 'He now if he has learnt
his letters'. Moreover, there is the saying that 'One single thing
if you can carry a crowd you can carry too'.
Upon division depend the propositions that 5 is 2 and 3, and odd,
and that the greater is equal: for it is that amount and more besides.
For the same phrase would not be thought always to have the same
meaning when divided and when combined, e.g. 'I made thee a slave once
a free man', and 'God-like Achilles left fifty a hundred men'.
An argument depending upon accent it is not easy to construct in
unwritten discussion; in written discussions and in poetry it is
easier. Thus (e.g.) some people emend Homer against those who
criticize as unnatural his expression to men ou kataputhetai
ombro. For they solve the difficulty by a change of accent,
pronouncing the ou with an acuter accent. Also, in the passage
about Agamemnon's dream, they say that Zeus did not himself say 'We
grant him the fulfilment of his prayer', but that he bade the dream
grant it. Instances such as these, then, turn upon the accentuation.
Others come about owing to the form of expression used, when what is
really different is expressed in the same form, e.g. a masculine thing
by a feminine termination, or a feminine thing by a masculine, or a
neuter by either a masculine or a feminine; or, again, when a
quality is expressed by a termination proper to quantity or vice
versa, or what is active by a passive word, or a state by an active
word, and so forth with the other divisions previously' laid down. For
it is possible to use an expression to denote what does not belong
to the class of actions at all as though it did so belong. Thus (e.g.)
'flourishing' is a word which in the form of its expression is like
'cutting' or 'building': yet the one denotes a certain quality-i.e.
a certain condition-while the other denotes a certain action. In the
same manner also in the other instances.
Refutations, then, that depend upon language are drawn from these
common-place rules. Of fallacies, on the other hand, that are
independent of language there are seven kinds:
(1) that which depends upon Accident:
(2) the use of an expression absolutely or not absolutely but with
some qualification of respect or place, or time, or relation:
(3) that which depends upon ignorance of what 'refutation' is:
(4) that which depends upon the consequent:
(5) that which depends upon assuming the original conclusion:
(6) stating as cause what is not the cause:
(7) the making of more than one question into one.


Fallacies, then, that depend on Accident occur whenever any
attribute is claimed to belong in like manner to a thing and to its
accident. For since the same thing has many accidents there is no
necessity that all the same attributes should belong to all of a
thing's predicates and to their subject as well. Thus (e.g.), 'If
Coriscus be different from "man", he is different from himself: for he
is a man': or 'If he be different from Socrates, and Socrates be a
man, then', they say, 'he has admitted that Coriscus is different from
a man, because it so happens (accidit) that the person from whom he
said that he (Coriscus) is different is a man'.
Those that depend on whether an expression is used absolutely or
in a certain respect and not strictly, occur whenever an expression
used in a particular sense is taken as though it were used absolutely,
e.g. in the argument 'If what is not is the object of an opinion, then
what is not is': for it is not the same thing 'to be x' and 'to be'
absolutely. Or again, 'What is, is not, if it is not a particular kind
of being, e.g. if it is not a man.' For it is not the same thing
'not to be x' and 'not to be' at all: it looks as if it were,
because of the closeness of the expression, i.e. because 'to be x'
is but little different from 'to be', and 'not to be x' from 'not to
be'. Likewise also with any argument that turns upon the point whether
an expression is used in a certain respect or used absolutely. Thus
e.g. 'Suppose an Indian to be black all over, but white in respect
of his teeth; then he is both white and not white.' Or if both
characters belong in a particular respect, then, they say, 'contrary
attributes belong at the same time'. This kind of thing is in some
cases easily seen by any one, e.g. suppose a man were to secure the
statement that the Ethiopian is black, and were then to ask whether he
is white in respect of his teeth; and then, if he be white in that
respect, were to suppose at the conclusion of his questions that
therefore he had proved dialectically that he was both white and not
white. But in some cases it often passes undetected, viz. in all cases
where, whenever a statement is made of something in a certain respect,
it would be generally thought that the absolute statement follows as
well; and also in all cases where it is not easy to see which of the
attributes ought to be rendered strictly. A situation of this kind
arises, where both the opposite attributes belong alike: for then
there is general support for the view that one must agree absolutely
to the assertion of both, or of neither: e.g. if a thing is half white
and half black, is it white or black?
Other fallacies occur because the terms 'proof' or 'refutation' have
not been defined, and because something is left out in their
definition. For to refute is to contradict one and the same
attribute-not merely the name, but the reality-and a name that is
not merely synonymous but the same name-and to confute it from the
propositions granted, necessarily, without including in the
reckoning the original point to be proved, in the same respect and
relation and manner and time in which it was asserted. A 'false
assertion' about anything has to be defined in the same way. Some
people, however, omit some one of the said conditions and give a
merely apparent refutation, showing (e.g.) that the same thing is both
double and not double: for two is double of one, but not double of
three. Or, it may be, they show that it is both double and not
double of the same thing, but not that it is so in the same respect:
for it is double in length but not double in breadth. Or, it may be,
they show it to be both double and not double of the same thing and in
the same respect and manner, but not that it is so at the same time:
and therefore their refutation is merely apparent. One might, with
some violence, bring this fallacy into the group of fallacies
dependent on language as well.
Those that depend on the assumption of the original point to be
proved, occur in the same way, and in as many ways, as it is
possible to beg the original point; they appear to refute because
men lack the power to keep their eyes at once upon what is the same
and what is different.
The refutation which depends upon the consequent arises because
people suppose that the relation of consequence is convertible. For
whenever, suppose A is, B necessarily is, they then suppose also
that if B is, A necessarily is. This is also the source of the
deceptions that attend opinions based on sense-perception. For
people often suppose bile to be honey because honey is attended by a
yellow colour: also, since after rain the ground is wet in
consequence, we suppose that if the ground is wet, it has been
raining; whereas that does not necessarily follow. In rhetoric
proofs from signs are based on consequences. For when rhetoricians
wish to show that a man is an adulterer, they take hold of some
consequence of an adulterous life, viz. that the man is smartly
dressed, or that he is observed to wander about at night. There are,
however, many people of whom these things are true, while the charge
in question is untrue. It happens like this also in real reasoning;
e.g. Melissus' argument, that the universe is eternal, assumes that
the universe has not come to be (for from what is not nothing could
possibly come to be) and that what has come to be has done so from a
first beginning. If, therefore, the universe has not come to be, it
has no first beginning, and is therefore eternal. But this does not
necessarily follow: for even if what has come to be always has a first
beginning, it does not also follow that what has a first beginning has
come to be; any more than it follows that if a man in a fever be
hot, a man who is hot must be in a fever.
The refutation which depends upon treating as cause what is not a
cause, occurs whenever what is not a cause is inserted in the
argument, as though the refutation depended upon it. This kind of
thing happens in arguments that reason ad impossible: for in these
we are bound to demolish one of the premisses. If, then, the false
cause be reckoned in among the questions that are necessary to
establish the resulting impossibility, it will often be thought that
the refutation depends upon it, e.g. in the proof that the 'soul'
and 'life' are not the same: for if coming-to-be be contrary to
perishing, then a particular form of perishing will have a
particular form of coming-to-be as its contrary: now death is a
particular form of perishing and is contrary to life: life, therefore,
is a coming to-be, and to live is to come-to-be. But this is
impossible: accordingly, the 'soul' and 'life' are not the same. Now
this is not proved: for the impossibility results all the same, even
if one does not say that life is the same as the soul, but merely says
that life is contrary to death, which is a form of perishing, and that
perishing has 'coming-to-be' as its contrary. Arguments of that
kind, then, though not inconclusive absolutely, are inconclusive in
relation to the proposed conclusion. Also even the questioners
themselves often fail quite as much to see a point of that kind.
Such, then, are the arguments that depend upon the consequent and
upon false cause. Those that depend upon the making of two questions
into one occur whenever the plurality is undetected and a single
answer is returned as if to a single question. Now, in some cases,
it is easy to see that there is more than one, and that an answer is
not to be given, e.g. 'Does the earth consist of sea, or the sky?' But
in some cases it is less easy, and then people treat the question as
one, and either confess their defeat by failing to answer the
question, or are exposed to an apparent refutation. Thus 'Is A and
is B a man?' 'Yes.' 'Then if any one hits A and B, he will strike a
man' (singular),'not men' (plural). Or again, where part is good and
part bad, 'is the whole good or bad?' For whichever he says, it is
possible that he might be thought to expose himself to an apparent
refutation or to make an apparently false statement: for to say that
something is good which is not good, or not good which is good, is
to make a false statement. Sometimes, however, additional premisses
may actually give rise to a genuine refutation; e.g. suppose a man
were to grant that the descriptions 'white' and 'naked' and 'blind'
apply to one thing and to a number of things in a like sense. For if
'blind' describes a thing that cannot see though nature designed it to
see, it will also describe things that cannot see though nature
designed them to do so. Whenever, then, one thing can see while
another cannot, they will either both be able to see or else both be
blind; which is impossible.


The right way, then, is either to divide apparent proofs and
refutations as above, or else to refer them all to ignorance of what
'refutation' is, and make that our starting-point: for it is
possible to analyse all the aforesaid modes of fallacy into breaches
of the definition of a refutation. In the first place, we may see if
they are inconclusive: for the conclusion ought to result from the
premisses laid down, so as to compel us necessarily to state it and
not merely to seem to compel us. Next we should also take the
definition bit by bit, and try the fallacy thereby. For of the
fallacies that consist in language, some depend upon a double meaning,
e.g. ambiguity of words and of phrases, and the fallacy of like verbal
forms (for we habitually speak of everything as though it were a
particular substance)-while fallacies of combination and division
and accent arise because the phrase in question or the term as altered
is not the same as was intended. Even this, however, should be the
same, just as the thing signified should be as well, if a refutation
or proof is to be effected; e.g. if the point concerns a doublet, then
you should draw the conclusion of a 'doublet', not of a 'cloak'. For
the former conclusion also would be true, but it has not been
proved; we need a further question to show that 'doublet' means the
same thing, in order to satisfy any one who asks why you think your
point proved.
Fallacies that depend on Accident are clear cases of ignoratio
elenchi when once 'proof' has been defined. For the same definition
ought to hold good of 'refutation' too, except that a mention of
'the contradictory' is here added: for a refutation is a proof of
the contradictory. If, then, there is no proof as regards an
accident of anything, there is no refutation. For supposing, when A
and B are, C must necessarily be, and C is white, there is no
necessity for it to be white on account of the syllogism. So, if the
triangle has its angles equal to two right-angles, and it happens to
be a figure, or the simplest element or starting point, it is not
because it is a figure or a starting point or simplest element that it
has this character. For the demonstration proves the point about it
not qua figure or qua simplest element, but qua triangle. Likewise
also in other cases. If, then, refutation is a proof, an argument
which argued per accidens could not be a refutation. It is, however,
just in this that the experts and men of science generally suffer
refutation at the hand of the unscientific: for the latter meet the
scientists with reasonings constituted per accidens; and the
scientists for lack of the power to draw distinctions either say 'Yes'
to their questions, or else people suppose them to have said 'Yes',
although they have not.
Those that depend upon whether something is said in a certain
respect only or said absolutely, are clear cases of ignoratio
elenchi because the affirmation and the denial are not concerned
with the same point. For of 'white in a certain respect' the
negation is 'not white in a certain respect', while of 'white
absolutely' it is 'not white, absolutely'. If, then, a man treats
the admission that a thing is 'white in a certain respect' as though
it were said to be white absolutely, he does not effect a
refutation, but merely appears to do so owing to ignorance of what
refutation is.
The clearest cases of all, however, are those that were previously
described' as depending upon the definition of a 'refutation': and
this is also why they were called by that name. For the appearance
of a refutation is produced because of the omission in the definition,
and if we divide fallacies in the above manner, we ought to set
'Defective definition' as a common mark upon them all.
Those that depend upon the assumption of the original point and upon
stating as the cause what is not the cause, are clearly shown to be
cases of ignoratio elenchi through the definition thereof. For the
conclusion ought to come about 'because these things are so', and this
does not happen where the premisses are not causes of it: and again it
should come about without taking into account the original point,
and this is not the case with those arguments which depend upon
begging the original point.
Those that depend upon the assumption of the original point and upon
stating as the cause what is not the cause, are clearly shown to be
cases of ignoratio elenchi through the definition thereof. For the
conclusion ought to come about 'because these things are so', and this
does not happen where the premisses are not causes of it: and again it
should come about without taking into account the original point,
and this is not the case with those arguments which depend upon
begging the original point.
Those that depend upon the consequent are a branch of Accident:
for the consequent is an accident, only it differs from the accident
in this, that you may secure an admission of the accident in the
case of one thing only (e.g. the identity of a yellow thing and
honey and of a white thing and swan), whereas the consequent always
involves more than one thing: for we claim that things that are the
same as one and the same thing are also the same as one another, and
this is the ground of a refutation dependent on the consequent. It is,
however, not always true, e.g. suppose that and B are the same as C
per accidens; for both 'snow' and the 'swan' are the same as something
white'. Or again, as in Melissus' argument, a man assumes that to
'have been generated' and to 'have a beginning' are the same thing, or
to 'become equal' and to 'assume the same magnitude'. For because what
has been generated has a beginning, he claims also that what has a
beginning has been generated, and argues as though both what has
been generated and what is finite were the same because each has a
beginning. Likewise also in the case of things that are made equal
he assumes that if things that assume one and the same magnitude
become equal, then also things that become equal assume one magnitude:
i.e. he assumes the consequent. Inasmuch, then, as a refutation
depending on accident consists in ignorance of what a refutation is,
clearly so also does a refutation depending on the consequent. We
shall have further to examine this in another way as well.
Those fallacies that depend upon the making of several questions
into one consist in our failure to dissect the definition of
'proposition'. For a proposition is a single statement about a
single thing. For the same definition applies to 'one single thing
only' and to the 'thing', simply, e.g. to 'man' and to 'one single man
only' and likewise also in other cases. If, then, a 'single
proposition' be one which claims a single thing of a single thing, a
'proposition', simply, will also be the putting of a question of
that kind. Now since a proof starts from propositions and refutation
is a proof, refutation, too, will start from propositions. If, then, a
proposition is a single statement about a single thing, it is
obvious that this fallacy too consists in ignorance of what a
refutation is: for in it what is not a proposition appears to be
one. If, then, the answerer has returned an answer as though to a
single question, there will be a refutation; while if he has
returned one not really but apparently, there will be an apparent
refutation of his thesis. All the types of fallacy, then, fall under
ignorance of what a refutation is, some of them because the
contradiction, which is the distinctive mark of a refutation, is
merely apparent, and the rest failing to conform to the definition
of a proof.


The deception comes about in the case of arguments that depend on
ambiguity of words and of phrases because we are unable to divide
the ambiguous term (for some terms it is not easy to divide, e.g.
'unity', 'being', and 'sameness'), while in those that depend on
combination and division, it is because we suppose that it makes no
difference whether the phrase be combined or divided, as is indeed the
case with most phrases. Likewise also with those that depend on
accent: for the lowering or raising of the voice upon a phrase is
thought not to alter its meaning-with any phrase, or not with many.
With those that depend on the of expression it is because of the
likeness of expression. For it is hard to distinguish what kind of
things are signified by the same and what by different kinds of
expression: for a man who can do this is practically next door to
the understanding of the truth. A special reason why a man is liable
to be hurried into assent to the fallacy is that we suppose every
predicate of everything to be an individual thing, and we understand
it as being one with the thing: and we therefore treat it as a
substance: for it is to that which is one with a thing or substance,
as also to substance itself, that 'individually' and 'being' are
deemed to belong in the fullest sense. For this reason, too, this type
of fallacy is to be ranked among those that depend on language; in the
first place, because the deception is effected the more readily when
we are inquiring into a problem in company with others than when we do
so by ourselves (for an inquiry with another person is carried on by
means of speech, whereas an inquiry by oneself is carried on quite
as much by means of the object itself); secondly a man is liable to be
deceived, even when inquiring by himself, when he takes speech as
the basis of his inquiry: moreover the deception arises out of the
likeness (of two different things), and the likeness arises out of the
language. With those fallacies that depend upon Accident, deception
comes about because we cannot distinguish the sameness and otherness
of terms, i.e. their unity and multiplicity, or what kinds of
predicate have all the same accidents as their subject. Likewise
also with those that depend on the Consequent: for the consequent is a
branch of Accident. Moreover, in many cases appearances point to
this-and the claim is made that if is inseparable from B, so also is B
from With those that depend upon an imperfection in the definition
of a refutation, and with those that depend upon the difference
between a qualified and an absolute statement, the deception
consists in the smallness of the difference involved; for we treat the
limitation to the particular thing or respect or manner or time as
adding nothing to the meaning, and so grant the statement universally.
Likewise also in the case of those that assume the original point, and
those of false cause, and all that treat a number of questions as one:
for in all of them the deception lies in the smallness of the
difference: for our failure to be quite exact in our definition of
'premiss' and of 'proof' is due to the aforesaid reason.


Since we know on how many points apparent syllogisms depend, we know
also on how many sophistical syllogisms and refutations may depend. By
a sophistical refutation and syllogism I mean not only a syllogism
or refutation which appears to be valid but is not, but also one
which, though it is valid, only appears to be appropriate to the thing
in question. These are those which fail to refute and prove people
to be ignorant according to the nature of the thing in question, which
was the function of the art of examination. Now the art of examining
is a branch of dialectic: and this may prove a false conclusion
because of the ignorance of the answerer. Sophistic refutations on the
other hand, even though they prove the contradictory of his thesis, do
not make clear whether he is ignorant: for sophists entangle the
scientist as well with these arguments.
That we know them by the same line of inquiry is clear: for the same
considerations which make it appear to an audience that the points
required for the proof were asked in the questions and that the
conclusion was proved, would make the answerer think so as well, so
that false proof will occur through all or some of these means: for
what a man has not been asked but thinks he has granted, he would also
grant if he were asked. Of course, in some cases the moment we add the
missing question, we also show up its falsity, e.g. in fallacies
that depend on language and on solecism. If then, fallacious proofs of
the contradictory of a thesis depend on their appearing to refute,
it is clear that the considerations on which both proofs of false
conclusions and an apparent refutation depend must be the same in
number. Now an apparent refutation depends upon the elements
involved in a genuine one: for the failure of one or other of these
must make the refutation merely apparent, e.g. that which depends on
the failure of the conclusion to follow from the argument (the
argument ad impossible) and that which treats two questions as one and
so depends upon a flaw in the premiss, and that which depends on the
substitution of an accident for an essential attribute, and-a branch
of the last-that which depends upon the consequent: more over, the
conclusion may follow not in fact but only verbally: then, instead
of proving the contradictory universally and in the same respect and
relation and manner, the fallacy may be dependent on some limit of
extent or on one or other of these qualifications: moreover, there
is the assumption of the original point to be proved, in violation
of the clause 'without reckoning in the original point'. Thus we
should have the number of considerations on which the fallacious
proofs depend: for they could not depend on more, but all will
depend on the points aforesaid.
A sophistical refutation is a refutation not absolutely but
relatively to some one: and so is a proof, in the same way. For unless
that which depends upon ambiguity assumes that the ambiguous term
has a single meaning, and that which depends on like verbal forms
assumes that substance is the only category, and the rest in the
same way, there will be neither refutations nor proofs, either
absolutely or relatively to the answerer: whereas if they do assume
these things, they will stand, relatively to the answerer; but
absolutely they will not stand: for they have not secured a
statement that does have a single meaning, but only one that appears
to have, and that only from this particular man.


The number of considerations on which depend the refutations of
those who are refuted, we ought not to try to grasp without a
knowledge of everything that is. This, however, is not the province of
any special study: for possibly the sciences are infinite in number,
so that obviously demonstrations may be infinite too. Now
refutations may be true as well as false: for whenever it is
possible to demonstrate something, it is also possible to refute the
man who maintains the contradictory of the truth; e.g. if a man has
stated that the diagonal is commensurate with the side of the
square, one might refute him by demonstrating that it is
incommensurate. Accordingly, to exhaust all possible refutations we
shall have to have scientific knowledge of everything: for some
refutations depend upon the principles that rule in geometry and the
conclusions that follow from these, others upon those that rule in
medicine, and others upon those of the other sciences. For the
matter of that, the false refutations likewise belong to the number of
the infinite: for according to every art there is false proof, e.g.
according to geometry there is false geometrical proof, and
according to medicine there is false medical proof. By 'according to
the art', I mean 'according to the principles of it'. Clearly, then,
it is not of all refutations, but only of those that depend upon
dialectic that we need to grasp the common-place rules: for these
stand in a common relation to every art and faculty. And as regards
the refutation that is according to one or other of the particular
sciences it is the task of that particular scientist to examine
whether it is merely apparent without being real, and, if it be
real, what is the reason for it: whereas it is the business of
dialecticians so to examine the refutation that proceeds from the
common first principles that fall under no particular special study.
For if we grasp the startingpoints of the accepted proofs on any
subject whatever we grasp those of the refutations current on that
subject. For a refutation is the proof of the contradictory of a given
thesis, so that either one or two proofs of the contradictory
constitute a refutation. We grasp, then, the number of
considerations on which all such depend: if, however, we grasp this,
we also grasp their solutions as well; for the objections to these are
the solutions of them. We also grasp the number of considerations on
which those refutations depend, that are merely apparent-apparent, I
mean, not to everybody, but to people of a certain stamp; for it is an
indefinite task if one is to inquire how many are the considerations
that make them apparent to the man in the street. Accordingly it is
clear that the dialectician's business is to be able to grasp on how
many considerations depends the formation, through the common first
principles, of a refutation that is either real or apparent, i.e.
either dialectical or apparently dialectical, or suitable for an


It is no true distinction between arguments which some people draw
when they say that some arguments are directed against the expression,
and others against the thought expressed: for it is absurd to
suppose that some arguments are directed against the expression and
others against the thought, and that they are not the same. For what
is failure to direct an argument against the thought except what
occurs whenever a man does not in using the expression think it to
be used in his question in the same sense in which the person
questioned granted it? And this is the same thing as to direct the
argument against the expression. On the other hand, it is directed
against the thought whenever a man uses the expression in the same
sense which the answerer had in mind when he granted it. If now any
(i.e. both the questioner and the person questioned), in dealing
with an expression with more than one meaning, were to suppose it to
have one meaning-as e.g. it may be that 'Being' and 'One' have many
meanings, and yet both the answerer answers and the questioner puts
his question supposing it to be one, and the argument is to the effect
that 'All things are one'-will this discussion be directed any more
against the expression than against the thought of the person
questioned? If, on the other hand, one of them supposes the expression
to have many meanings, it is clear that such a discussion will not
be directed against the thought. Such being the meanings of the
phrases in question, they clearly cannot describe two separate classes
of argument. For, in the first place, it is possible for any such
argument as bears more than one meaning to be directed against the
expression and against the thought, and next it is possible for any
argument whatsoever; for the fact of being directed against the
thought consists not in the nature of the argument, but in the special
attitude of the answerer towards the points he concedes. Next, all
of them may be directed to the expression. For 'to be directed against
the expression' means in this doctrine 'not to be directed against the
thought'. For if not all are directed against either expression or
thought, there will be certain other arguments directed neither
against the expression nor against the thought, whereas they say
that all must be one or the other, and divide them all as directed
either against the expression or against the thought, while others
(they say) there are none. But in point of fact those that depend on
mere expression are only a branch of those syllogisms that depend on a
multiplicity of meanings. For the absurd statement has actually been
made that the description 'dependent on mere expression' describes all
the arguments that depend on language: whereas some of these are
fallacies not because the answerer adopts a particular attitude
towards them, but because the argument itself involves the asking of a
question such as bears more than one meaning.
It is, too, altogether absurd to discuss Refutation without first
discussing Proof: for a refutation is a proof, so that one ought to
discuss proof as well before describing false refutation: for a
refutation of that kind is a merely apparent proof of the
contradictory of a thesis. Accordingly, the reason of the falsity will
be either in the proof or in the contradiction (for mention of the
'contradiction' must be added), while sometimes it is in both, if
the refutation be merely apparent. In the argument that speaking of
the silent is possible it lies in the contradiction, not in the proof;
in the argument that one can give what one does not possess, it lies
in both; in the proof that Homer's poem is a figure through its
being a cycle it lies in the proof. An argument that does not fail
in either respect is a true proof.
But, to return to the point whence our argument digressed, are
mathematical reasonings directed against the thought, or not? And if
any one thinks 'triangle' to be a word with many meanings, and granted
it in some different sense from the figure which was proved to contain
two right angles, has the questioner here directed his argument
against the thought of the former or not?
Moreover, if the expression bears many senses, while the answerer
does not understand or suppose it to have them, surely the
questioner here has directed his argument against his thought! Or
how else ought he to put his question except by suggesting a
distinction-suppose one's question to be speaking of the silent
possible or not?'-as follows, 'Is the answer "No" in one sense, but
"Yes" in another?' If, then, any one were to answer that it was not
possible in any sense and the other were to argue that it was, has not
his argument been directed against the thought of the answerer? Yet
his argument is supposed to be one of those that depend on the
expression. There is not, then, any definite kind of arguments that is
directed against the thought. Some arguments are, indeed, directed
against the expression: but these are not all even apparent
refutations, let alone all refutations. For there are also apparent
refutations which do not depend upon language, e.g. those that
depend upon accident, and others.
If, however, any one claims that one should actually draw the
distinction, and say, 'By "speaking of the silent" I mean, in one
sense this and in the other sense that', surely to claim this is in
the first place absurd (for sometimes the questioner does not see
the ambiguity of his question, and he cannot possibly draw a
distinction which he does not think to be there): in the second place,
what else but this will didactic argument be? For it will make
manifest the state of the case to one who has never considered, and
does not know or suppose that there is any other meaning but one.
For what is there to prevent the same thing also happening to us in
cases where there is no double meaning? 'Are the units in four equal
to the twos? Observe that the twos are contained in four in one
sense in this way, in another sense in that'. Also, 'Is the
knowledge of contraries one or not? Observe that some contraries are
known, while others are unknown'. Thus the man who makes this claim
seems to be unaware of the difference between didactic and dialectical
argument, and of the fact that while he who argues didactically should
not ask questions but make things clear himself, the other should
merely ask questions.


Moreover, to claim a 'Yes' or 'No' answer is the business not of a
man who is showing something, but of one who is holding an
examination. For the art of examining is a branch of dialectic and has
in view not the man who has knowledge, but the ignorant pretender. He,
then, is a dialectician who regards the common principles with their
application to the particular matter in hand, while he who only
appears to do this is a sophist. Now for contentious and sophistical
reasoning: (1) one such is a merely apparent reasoning, on subjects on
which dialectical reasoning is the proper method of examination,
even though its conclusion be true: for it misleads us in regard to
the cause: also (2) there are those misreasonings which do not conform
to the line of inquiry proper to the particular subject, but are
generally thought to conform to the art in question. For false
diagrams of geometrical figures are not contentious (for the resulting
fallacies conform to the subject of the art)-any more than is any
false diagram that may be offered in proof of a truth-e.g.
Hippocrates' figure or the squaring of the circle by means of the
lunules. But Bryson's method of squaring the circle, even if the
circle is thereby squared, is still sophistical because it does not
conform to the subject in hand. So, then, any merely apparent
reasoning about these things is a contentious argument, and any
reasoning that merely appears to conform to the subject in hand,
even though it be genuine reasoning, is a contentious argument: for it
is merely apparent in its conformity to the subject-matter, so that it
is deceptive and plays foul. For just as a foul in a race is a
definite type of fault, and is a kind of foul fighting, so the art
of contentious reasoning is foul fighting in disputation: for in the
former case those who are resolved to win at all costs snatch at
everything, and so in the latter case do contentious reasoners. Those,
then, who do this in order to win the mere victory are generally
considered to be contentious and quarrelsome persons, while those
who do it to win a reputation with a view to making money are
sophistical. For the art of sophistry is, as we said,' a kind of art
of money-making from a merely apparent wisdom, and this is why they
aim at a merely apparent demonstration: and quarrelsome persons and
sophists both employ the same arguments, but not with the same
motives: and the same argument will be sophistical and contentious,
but not in the same respect; rather, it will be contentious in so
far as its aim is an apparent victory, while in so far as its aim is
an apparent wisdom, it will be sophistical: for the art of sophistry
is a certain appearance of wisdom without the reality. The contentious
argument stands in somewhat the same relation to the dialectical as
the drawer of false diagrams to the geometrician; for it beguiles by
misreasoning from the same principles as dialectic uses, just as the
drawer of a false diagram beguiles the geometrician. But whereas the
latter is not a contentious reasoner, because he bases his false
diagram on the principles and conclusions that fall under the art of
geometry, the argument which is subordinate to the principles of
dialectic will yet clearly be contentious as regards other subjects.
Thus, e.g. though the squaring of the circle by means of the lunules
is not contentious, Bryson's solution is contentious: and the former
argument cannot be adapted to any subject except geometry, because
it proceeds from principles that are peculiar to geometry, whereas the
latter can be adapted as an argument against all the number of
people who do not know what is or is not possible in each particular
context: for it will apply to them all. Or there is the method whereby
Antiphon squared the circle. Or again, an argument which denied that
it was better to take a walk after dinner, because of Zeno's argument,
would not be a proper argument for a doctor, because Zeno's argument
is of general application. If, then, the relation of the contentious
argument to the dialectical were exactly like that of the drawer of
false diagrams to the geometrician, a contentious argument upon the
aforesaid subjects could not have existed. But, as it is, the
dialectical argument is not concerned with any definite kind of being,
nor does it show anything, nor is it even an argument such as we
find in the general philosophy of being. For all beings are not
contained in any one kind, nor, if they were, could they possibly fall
under the same principles. Accordingly, no art that is a method of
showing the nature of anything proceeds by asking questions: for it
does not permit a man to grant whichever he likes of the two
alternatives in the question: for they will not both of them yield a
proof. Dialectic, on the other hand, does proceed by questioning,
whereas if it were concerned to show things, it would have refrained
from putting questions, even if not about everything, at least about
the first principles and the special principles that apply to the
particular subject in hand. For suppose the answerer not to grant
these, it would then no longer have had any grounds from which to
argue any longer against the objection. Dialectic is at the same
time a mode of examination as well. For neither is the art of
examination an accomplishment of the same kind as geometry, but one
which a man may possess, even though he has not knowledge. For it is
possible even for one without knowledge to hold an examination of
one who is without knowledge, if also the latter grants him points
taken not from thing that he knows or from the special principles of
the subject under discussion but from all that range of consequences
attaching to the subject which a man may indeed know without knowing
the theory of the subject, but which if he do not know, he is bound to
be ignorant of the theory. So then clearly the art of examining does
not consist in knowledge of any definite subject. For this reason,
too, it deals with everything: for every 'theory' of anything
employs also certain common principles. Hence everybody, including
even amateurs, makes use in a way of dialectic and the practice of
examining: for all undertake to some extent a rough trial of those who
profess to know things. What serves them here is the general
principles: for they know these of themselves just as well as the
scientist, even if in what they say they seem to the latter to go
wildly astray from them. All, then, are engaged in refutation; for
they take a hand as amateurs in the same task with which dialectic
is concerned professionally; and he is a dialectician who examines
by the help of a theory of reasoning. Now there are many identical
principles which are true of everything, though they are not such as
to constitute a particular nature, i.e. a particular kind of being,
but are like negative terms, while other principles are not of this
kind but are special to particular subjects; accordingly it is
possible from these general principles to hold an examination on
everything, and that there should be a definite art of so doing,
and, moreover, an art which is not of the same kind as those which
demonstrate. This is why the contentious reasoner does not stand in
the same condition in all respects as the drawer of a false diagram:
for the contentious reasoner will not be given to misreasoning from
any definite class of principles, but will deal with every class.
These, then, are the types of sophistical refutations: and that it
belongs to the dialectician to study these, and to be able to effect
them, is not difficult to see: for the investigation of premisses
comprises the whole of this study.


So much, then, for apparent refutations. As for showing that the
answerer is committing some fallacy, and drawing his argument into
paradox-for this was the second item of the sophist's programme-in the
first place, then, this is best brought about by a certain manner of
questioning and through the question. For to put the question
without framing it with reference to any definite subject is a good
bait for these purposes: for people are more inclined to make mistakes
when they talk at large, and they talk at large when they have no
definite subject before them. Also the putting of several questions,
even though the position against which one is arguing be quite
definite, and the claim that he shall say only what he thinks,
create abundant opportunity for drawing him into paradox or fallacy,
and also, whether to any of these questions he replies 'Yes' or
replies 'No', of leading him on to statements against which one is
well off for a line of attack. Nowadays, however, men are less able to
play foul by these means than they were formerly: for people rejoin
with the question, 'What has that to do with the original subject?' It
is, too, an elementary rule for eliciting some fallacy or paradox that
one should never put a controversial question straight away, but say
that one puts it from the wish for information: for the process of
inquiry thus invited gives room for an attack.
A rule specially appropriate for showing up a fallacy is the
sophistic rule, that one should draw the answerer on to the kind of
statements against which one is well supplied with arguments: this can
be done both properly and improperly, as was said before.' Again, to
draw a paradoxical statement, look and see to what school of
philosophers the person arguing with you belongs, and then question
him as to some point wherein their doctrine is paradoxical to most
people: for with every school there is some point of that kind. It
is an elementary rule in these matters to have a collection of the
special 'theses' of the various schools among your propositions. The
solution recommended as appropriate here, too, is to point out that
the paradox does not come about because of the argument: whereas
this is what his opponent always really wants.
Moreover, argue from men's wishes and their professed opinions.
For people do not wish the same things as they say they wish: they say
what will look best, whereas they wish what appears to be to their
interest: e.g. they say that a man ought to die nobly rather than to
live in pleasure, and to live in honest poverty rather than in
dishonourable riches; but they wish the opposite. Accordingly, a man
who speaks according to his wishes must be led into stating the
professed opinions of people, while he who speaks according to these
must be led into admitting those that people keep hidden away: for
in either case they are bound to introduce a paradox; for they will
speak contrary either to men's professed or to their hidden opinions.
The widest range of common-place argument for leading men into
paradoxical statement is that which depends on the standards of Nature
and of the Law: it is so that both Callicles is drawn as arguing in
the Gorgias, and that all the men of old supposed the result to come
about: for nature (they said) and law are opposites, and justice is
a fine thing by a legal standard, but not by that of nature.
Accordingly, they said, the man whose statement agrees with the
standard of nature you should meet by the standard of the law, but the
man who agrees with the law by leading him to the facts of nature: for
in both ways paradoxical statements may be committed. In their view
the standard of nature was the truth, while that of the law was the
opinion held by the majority. So that it is clear that they, too, used
to try either to refute the answerer or to make him make paradoxical
statements, just as the men of to-day do as well.
Some questions are such that in both forms the answer is
paradoxical; e.g. 'Ought one to obey the wise or one's father?' and
'Ought one to do what is expedient or what is just?' and 'Is it
preferable to suffer injustice or to do an injury?' You should lead
people, then, into views opposite to the majority and to the
philosophers; if any one speaks as do the expert reasoners, lead him
into opposition to the majority, while if he speaks as do the
majority, then into opposition to the reasoners. For some say that
of necessity the happy man is just, whereas it is paradoxical to the
many that a king should be happy. To lead a man into paradoxes of this
sort is the same as to lead him into the opposition of the standards
of nature and law: for the law represents the opinion of the majority,
whereas philosophers speak according to the standard of nature and the


Paradoxes, then, you should seek to elicit by means of these
common-place rules. Now as for making any one babble, we have
already said what we mean by 'to babble'. This is the object in view
in all arguments of the following kind: If it is all the same to state
a term and to state its definition, the 'double' and 'double of
half' are the same: if then 'double' be the 'double of half', it
will be the 'double of half of half'. And if, instead of 'double',
'double of half' be again put, then the same expression will be
repeated three times, 'double of half of half of half'. Also 'desire
is of the pleasant, isn't it?' desire is conation for the pleasant:
accordingly, 'desire' is 'conation for the pleasant for the pleasant'.
All arguments of this kind occur in dealing (1) with any relative
terms which not only have relative genera, but are also themselves
relative, and are rendered in relation to one and the same thing, as
e.g. conation is conation for something, and desire is desire of
something, and double is double of something, i.e. double of half:
also in dealing (2) with any terms which, though they be not
relative terms at all, yet have their substance, viz. the things of
which they are the states or affections or what not, indicated as well
in their definition, they being predicated of these things. Thus
e.g. 'odd' is a 'number containing a middle': but there is an 'odd
number': therefore there is a 'number-containing-a-middle number'.
Also, if snubness be a concavity of the nose, and there be a snub
nose, there is therefore a 'concave-nose nose'.
People sometimes appear to produce this result, without really
producing it, because they do not add the question whether the
expression 'double', just by itself, has any meaning or no, and if so,
whether it has the same meaning, or a different one; but they draw
their conclusion straight away. Still it seems, inasmuch as the word
is the same, to have the same meaning as well.


We have said before what kind of thing 'solecism' is.' It is
possible both to commit it, and to seem to do so without doing so, and
to do so without seeming to do so. Suppose, as Protagoras used to
say that menis ('wrath') and pelex ('helmet') are masculine:
according to him a man who calls wrath a 'destructress' (oulomenen)
commits a solecism, though he does not seem to do so to other
people, where he who calls it a 'destructor' (oulomenon) commits no
solecism though he seems to do so. It is clear, then, that any one
could produce this effect by art as well: and for this reason many
arguments seem to lead to solecism which do not really do so, as
happens in the case of refutations.
Almost all apparent solecisms depend upon the word 'this' (tode),
and upon occasions when the inflection denotes neither a masculine nor
a feminine object but a neuter. For 'he' (outos) signifies a
masculine, and 'she' (aute) feminine; but 'this' (touto), though
meant to signify a neuter, often also signifies one or other of the
former: e.g. 'What is this?' 'It is Calliope'; 'it is a log'; 'it is
Coriscus'. Now in the masculine and feminine the inflections are all
different, whereas in the neuter some are and some are not. Often,
then, when 'this' (touto) has been granted, people reason as if 'him'
(touton) had been said: and likewise also they substitute one
inflection for another. The fallacy comes about because 'this'
(touto) is a common form of several inflections: for 'this' signifies
sometimes 'he' (outos) and sometimes 'him' (touton). It should
signify them alternately; when combined with 'is' (esti) it should be
'he', while with 'being' it should be 'him': e.g. 'Coriscus
(Kopiskos) is', but 'being Coriscus' (Kopiskon). It happens in the
same way in the case of feminine nouns as well, and in the case of the
so-called 'chattels' that have feminine or masculine designations. For
only those names which end in o and n, have the designation proper
to a chattel, e.g. xulon ('log'), schoinion ('rope'); those which do
not end so have that of a masculine or feminine object, though some of
them we apply to chattels: e.g. askos ('wineskin') is a masculine
noun, and kline ('bed') a feminine. For this reason in cases of this
kind as well there will be a difference of the same sort between a
construction with 'is' (esti) or with 'being' (to einai). Also,
Solecism resembles in a certain way those refutations which are said
to depend on the like expression of unlike things. For, just as
there we come upon a material solecism, so here we come upon a verbal:
for 'man' is both a 'matter' for expression and also a 'word': and
so is white'.
It is clear, then, that for solecisms we must try to construct our
argument out of the aforesaid inflections.
These, then, are the types of contentious arguments, and the
subdivisions of those types, and the methods for conducting them
aforesaid. But it makes no little difference if the materials for
putting the question be arranged in a certain manner with a view to
concealment, as in the case of dialectics. Following then upon what we
have said, this must be discussed first.


With a view then to refutation, one resource is length-for it is
difficult to keep several things in view at once; and to secure length
the elementary rules that have been stated before' should be employed.
One resource, on the other hand, is speed; for when people are left
behind they look ahead less. Moreover, there is anger and
contentiousness, for when agitated everybody is less able to take care
of himself. Elementary rules for producing anger are to make a show of
the wish to play foul, and to be altogether shameless. Moreover, there
is the putting of one's questions alternately, whether one has more
than one argument leading to the same conclusion, or whether one has
arguments to show both that something is so, and that it is not so:
for the result is that he has to be on his guard at the same time
either against more than one line, or against contrary lines, of
argument. In general, all the methods described before of producing
concealment are useful also for purposes of contentious argument:
for the object of concealment is to avoid detection, and the object of
this is to deceive.
To counter those who refuse to grant whatever they suppose to help
one's argument, one should put the question negatively, as though
desirous of the opposite answer, or at any rate as though one put
the question without prejudice; for when it is obscure what answer one
wants to secure, people are less refractory. Also when, in dealing
with particulars, a man grants the individual case, when the induction
is done you should often not put the universal as a question, but take
it for granted and use it: for sometimes people themselves suppose
that they have granted it, and also appear to the audience to have
done so, for they remember the induction and assume that the questions
could not have been put for nothing. In cases where there is no term
to indicate the universal, still you should avail yourself of the
resemblance of the particulars to suit your purpose; for resemblance
often escapes detection. Also, with a view to obtaining your
premiss, you ought to put it in your question side by side with its
contrary. E.g. if it were necessary to secure the admission that 'A
man should obey his father in everything', ask 'Should a man obey
his parents in everything, or disobey them in everything?'; and to
secure that 'A number multiplied by a large number is a large number',
ask 'Should one agree that it is a large number or a small one?' For
then, if compelled to choose, one will be more inclined to think it
a large one: for the placing of their contraries close beside them
makes things look big to men, both relatively and absolutely, and
worse and better.
A strong appearance of having been refuted is often produced by
the most highly sophistical of all the unfair tricks of questioners,
when without proving anything, instead of putting their final
proposition as a question, they state it as a conclusion, as though
they had proved that 'Therefore so-and-so is not true'
It is also a sophistical trick, when a paradox has been laid down,
first to propose at the start some view that is generally accepted,
and then claim that the answerer shall answer what he thinks about it,
and to put one's question on matters of that kind in the form 'Do
you think that...?' For then, if the question be taken as one of the
premisses of one's argument, either a refutation or a paradox is bound
to result; if he grants the view, a refutation; if he refuses to grant
it or even to admit it as the received opinion, a paradox; if he
refuses to grant it, but admits that it is the received opinion,
something very like a refutation, results.
Moreover, just as in rhetorical discourses, so also in those aimed
at refutation, you should examine the discrepancies of the
answerer's position either with his own statements, or with those of
persons whom he admits to say and do aright, moreover with those of
people who are generally supposed to bear that kind of character, or
who are like them, or with those of the majority or of all men. Also
just as answerers, too, often, when they are in process of being
confuted, draw a distinction, if their confutation is just about to
take place, so questioners also should resort to this from time to
time to counter objectors, pointing out, supposing that against one
sense of the words the objection holds, but not against the other,
that they have taken it in the latter sense, as e.g. Cleophon does
in the Mandrobulus. They should also break off their argument and
cut down their other lines of attack, while in answering, if a man
perceives this being done beforehand, he should put in his objection
and have his say first. One should also lead attacks sometimes against
positions other than the one stated, on the understood condition
that one cannot find lines of attack against the view laid down, as
Lycophron did when ordered to deliver a eulogy upon the lyre. To
counter those who demand 'Against what are you directing your
effort?', since one is generally thought bound to state the charge
made, while, on the other hand, some ways of stating it make the
defence too easy, you should state as your aim only the general result
that always happens in refutations, namely the contradiction of his
thesis -viz. that your effort is to deny what he has affirmed, or to
affirm what he denied: don't say that you are trying to show that
the knowledge of contraries is, or is not, the same. One must not
ask one's conclusion in the form of a premiss, while some
conclusions should not even be put as questions at all; one should
take and use it as granted.


We have now therefore dealt with the sources of questions, and the
methods of questioning in contentious disputations: next we have to
speak of answering, and of how solutions should be made, and of what
requires them, and of what use is served by arguments of this kind.
The use of them, then, is, for philosophy, twofold. For in the first
place, since for the most part they depend upon the expression, they
put us in a better condition for seeing in how many senses any term is
used, and what kind of resemblances and what kind of differences occur
between things and between their names. In the second place they are
useful for one's own personal researches; for the man who is easily
committed to a fallacy by some one else, and does not perceive it,
is likely to incur this fate of himself also on many occasions.
Thirdly and lastly, they further contribute to one's reputation,
viz. the reputation of being well trained in everything, and not
inexperienced in anything: for that a party to arguments should find
fault with them, if he cannot definitely point out their weakness,
creates a suspicion, making it seem as though it were not the truth of
the matter but merely inexperience that put him out of temper.
Answerers may clearly see how to meet arguments of this kind, if our
previous account was right of the sources whence fallacies came, and
also our distinctions adequate of the forms of dishonesty in putting
questions. But it is not the same thing take an argument in one's hand
and then to see and solve its faults, as it is to be able to meet it
quickly while being subjected to questions: for what we know, we often
do not know in a different context. Moreover, just as in other
things speed is enhanced by training, so it is with arguments too,
so that supposing we are unpractised, even though a point be clear
to us, we are often too late for the right moment. Sometimes too it
happens as with diagrams; for there we can sometimes analyse the
figure, but not construct it again: so too in refutations, though we
know the thing on which the connexion of the argument depends, we
still are at a loss to split the argument apart.


First then, just as we say that we ought sometimes to choose to
prove something in the general estimation rather than in truth, so
also we have sometimes to solve arguments rather in the general
estimation than according to the truth. For it is a general rule in
fighting contentious persons, to treat them not as refuting, but as
merely appearing to refute: for we say that they don't really prove
their case, so that our object in correcting them must be to dispel
the appearance of it. For if refutation be an unambiguous
contradiction arrived at from certain views, there could be no need to
draw distinctions against amphiboly and ambiguity: they do not
effect a proof. The only motive for drawing further distinctions is
that the conclusion reached looks like a refutation. What, then, we
have to beware of, is not being refuted, but seeming to be, because of
course the asking of amphibolies and of questions that turn upon
ambiguity, and all the other tricks of that kind, conceal even a
genuine refutation, and make it uncertain who is refuted and who is
not. For since one has the right at the end, when the conclusion is
drawn, to say that the only denial made of One's statement is
ambiguous, no matter how precisely he may have addressed his
argument to the very same point as oneself, it is not clear whether
one has been refuted: for it is not clear whether at the moment one is
speaking the truth. If, on the other hand, one had drawn a
distinction, and questioned him on the ambiguous term or the
amphiboly, the refutation would not have been a matter of uncertainty.
Also what is incidentally the object of contentious arguers, though
less so nowadays than formerly, would have been fulfilled, namely that
the person questioned should answer either 'Yes' or 'No': whereas
nowadays the improper forms in which questioners put their questions
compel the party questioned to add something to his answer in
correction of the faultiness of the proposition as put: for certainly,
if the questioner distinguishes his meaning adequately, the answerer
is bound to reply either 'Yes' or 'No'.
If any one is going to suppose that an argument which turns upon
ambiguity is a refutation, it will be impossible for an answerer to
escape being refuted in a sense: for in the case of visible objects
one is bound of necessity to deny the term one has asserted, and to
assert what one has denied. For the remedy which some people have
for this is quite unavailing. They say, not that Coriscus is both
musical and unmusical, but that this Coriscus is musical and this
Coriscus unmusical. But this will not do, for to say 'this Coriscus is
unmusical', or 'musical', and to say 'this Coriscus' is so, is to
use the same expression: and this he is both affirming and denying
at once. 'But perhaps they do not mean the same.' Well, nor did the
simple name in the former case: so where is the difference? If,
however, he is to ascribe to the one person the simple title
'Coriscus', while to the other he is to add the prefix 'one' or
'this', he commits an absurdity: for the latter is no more
applicable to the one than to the other: for to whichever he adds
it, it makes no difference.
All the same, since if a man does not distinguish the senses of an
amphiboly, it is not clear whether he has been confuted or has not
been confuted, and since in arguments the right to distinguish them is
granted, it is evident that to grant the question simply without
drawing any distinction is a mistake, so that, even if not the man
himself, at any rate his argument looks as though it had been refuted.
It often happens, however, that, though they see the amphiboly, people
hesitate to draw such distinctions, because of the dense crowd of
persons who propose questions of the kind, in order that they may
not be thought to be obstructionists at every turn: then, though
they would never have supposed that that was the point on which the
argument turned, they often find themselves faced by a paradox.
Accordingly, since the right of drawing the distinction is granted,
one should not hesitate, as has been said before.
If people never made two questions into one question, the fallacy
that turns upon ambiguity and amphiboly would not have existed either,
but either genuine refutation or none. For what is the difference
between asking 'Are Callias and Themistocles musical?' and what one
might have asked if they, being different, had had one name? For if
the term applied means more than one thing, he has asked more than one
question. If then it be not right to demand simply to be given a
single answer to two questions, it is evident that it is not proper to
give a simple answer to any ambiguous question, not even if the
predicate be true of all the subjects, as some claim that one
should. For this is exactly as though he had asked 'Are Coriscus and
Callias at home or not at home?', supposing them to be both in or both
out: for in both cases there is a number of propositions: for though
the simple answer be true, that does not make the question one. For it
is possible for it to be true to answer even countless different
questions when put to one, all together with either a 'Yes' or a 'No':
but still one should not answer them with a single answer: for that is
the death of discussion. Rather, the case is like as though
different things has actually had the same name applied to them. If
then, one should not give a single answer to two questions, it is
evident that we should not say simply 'Yes' or 'No' in the case of
ambiguous terms either: for the remark is simply a remark, not an
answer at all, although among disputants such remarks are loosely
deemed to be answers, because they do not see what the consequence is.
As we said, then, inasmuch as certain refutations are generally
taken for such, though not such really, in the same way also certain
solutions will be generally taken for solutions, though not really
such. Now these, we say, must sometimes be advanced rather than the
true solutions in contentious reasonings and in the encounter with
ambiguity. The proper answer in saying what one thinks is to say
'Granted'; for in that way the likelihood of being refuted on a side
issue is minimized. If, on the other hand, one is compelled to say
something paradoxical, one should then be most careful to add that 'it
seems' so: for in that way one avoids the impression of being either
refuted or paradoxical. Since it is clear what is meant by 'begging
the original question', and people think that they must at all costs
overthrow the premisses that lie near the conclusion, and plead in
excuse for refusing to grant him some of them that he is begging the
original question, so whenever any one claims from us a point such
as is bound to follow as a consequence from our thesis, but is false
or paradoxical, we must plead the same: for the necessary consequences
are generally held to be a part of the thesis itself. Moreover,
whenever the universal has been secured not under a definite name, but
by a comparison of instances, one should say that the questioner
assumes it not in the sense in which it was granted nor in which he
proposed it in the premiss: for this too is a point upon which a
refutation often depends.
If one is debarred from these defences one must pass to the argument
that the conclusion has not been properly shown, approaching it in the
light of the aforesaid distinction between the different kinds of
In the case, then, of names that are used literally one is bound
to answer either simply or by drawing a distinction: the tacit
understandings implied in our statements, e.g. in answer to
questions that are not put clearly but elliptically-it is upon this
that the consequent refutation depends. For example, 'Is what
belongs to Athenians the property of Athenians?' Yes. 'And so it is
likewise in other cases. But observe; man belongs to the animal
kingdom, doesn't he?' Yes. 'Then man is the property of the animal
kingdom.' But this is a fallacy: for we say that man 'belongs to'
the animal kingdom because he is an animal, just as we say that
Lysander 'belongs to' the Spartans, because he is a Spartan. It is
evident, then, that where the premiss put forward is not clear, one
must not grant it simply.
Whenever of two things it is generally thought that if the one is
true the other is true of necessity, whereas, if the other is true,
the first is not true of necessity, one should, if asked which of them
is true, grant the smaller one: for the larger the number of
premisses, the harder it is to draw a conclusion from them. If, again,
the sophist tries to secure that has a contrary while B has not,
suppose what he says is true, you should say that each has a contrary,
only for the one there is no established name.
Since, again, in regard to some of the views they express, most
people would say that any one who did not admit them was telling a
falsehood, while they would not say this in regard to some, e.g. to
any matters whereon opinion is divided (for most people have no
distinct view whether the soul of animals is destructible or
immortal), accordingly (1) it is uncertain in which of two senses
the premiss proposed is usually meant-whether as maxims are (for
people call by the name of 'maxims' both true opinions and general
assertions) or like the doctrine 'the diagonal of a square is
incommensurate with its side': and moreover (2) whenever opinions
are divided as to the truth, we then have subjects of which it is very
easy to change the terminology undetected. For because of the
uncertainty in which of the two senses the premiss contains the truth,
one will not be thought to be playing any trick, while because of
the division of opinion, one will not be thought to be telling a
falsehood. Change the terminology therefore, for the change will
make the position irrefutable.
Moreover, whenever one foresees any question coming, one should
put in one's objection and have one's say beforehand: for by doing
so one is likely to embarrass the questioner most effectually.


Inasmuch as a proper solution is an exposure of false reasoning,
showing on what kind of question the falsity depends, and whereas
'false reasoning' has a double meaning-for it is used either if a
false conclusion has been proved, or if there is only an apparent
proof and no real one-there must be both the kind of solution just
described,' and also the correction of a merely apparent proof, so
as to show upon which of the questions the appearance depends. Thus it
comes about that one solves arguments that are properly reasoned by
demolishing them, whereas one solves merely apparent arguments by
drawing distinctions. Again, inasmuch as of arguments that are
properly reasoned some have a true and others a false conclusion,
those that are false in respect of their conclusion it is possible
to solve in two ways; for it is possible both by demolishing one of
the premisses asked, and by showing that the conclusion is not the
real state of the case: those, on the other hand, that are false in
respect of the premisses can be solved only by a demolition of one
of them; for the conclusion is true. So that those who wish to solve
an argument should in the first place look and see if it is properly
reasoned, or is unreasoned; and next, whether the conclusion be true
or false, in order that we may effect the solution either by drawing
some distinction or by demolishing something, and demolishing it
either in this way or in that, as was laid down before. There is a
very great deal of difference between solving an argument when being
subjected to questions and when not: for to foresee traps is
difficult, whereas to see them at one's leisure is easier.


Of the refutations, then, that depend upon ambiguity and amphiboly
some contain some question with more than one meaning, while others
contain a conclusion bearing a number of senses: e.g. in the proof
that 'speaking of the silent' is possible, the conclusion has a double
meaning, while in the proof that 'he who knows does not understand
what he knows' one of the questions contains an amphiboly. Also the
double-edged saying is true in one context but not in another: it
means something that is and something that is not.
Whenever, then, the many senses lie in the conclusion no
refutation takes place unless the sophist secures as well the
contradiction of the conclusion he means to prove; e.g. in the proof
that 'seeing of the blind' is possible: for without the
contradiction there was no refutation. Whenever, on the other hand,
the many senses lie in the questions, there is no necessity to begin
by denying the double-edged premiss: for this was not the goal of
the argument but only its support. At the start, then, one should
reply with regard to an ambiguity, whether of a term or of a phrase,
in this manner, that 'in one sense it is so, and in another not so',
as e.g. that 'speaking of the silent' is in one sense possible but
in another not possible: also that in one sense 'one should do what
must needs be done', but not in another: for 'what must needs be'
bears a number of senses. If, however, the ambiguity escapes one,
one should correct it at the end by making an addition to the
question: 'Is speaking of the silent possible?' 'No, but to speak of
while he is silent is possible.' Also, in cases which contain the
ambiguity in their premisses, one should reply in like manner: 'Do
people-then not understand what they know? "Yes, but not those who
know it in the manner described': for it is not the same thing to
say that 'those who know cannot understand what they know', and to say
that 'those who know something in this particular manner cannot do
so'. In general, too, even though he draws his conclusion in a quite
unambiguous manner, one should contend that what he has negated is not
the fact which one has asserted but only its name; and that
therefore there is no refutation.


It is evident also how one should solve those refutations that
depend upon the division and combination of words: for if the
expression means something different when divided and when combined,
as soon as one's opponent draws his conclusion one should take the
expression in the contrary way. All such expressions as the
following depend upon the combination or division of the words: 'Was X
being beaten with that with which you saw him being beaten?' and
'Did you see him being beaten with that with which he was being
beaten?' This fallacy has also in it an element of amphiboly in the
questions, but it really depends upon combination. For the meaning
that depends upon the division of the words is not really a double
meaning (for the expression when divided is not the same), unless also
the word that is pronounced, according to its breathing, as eros and
eros is a case of double meaning. (In writing, indeed, a word is the
same whenever it is written of the same letters and in the same
manner- and even there people nowadays put marks at the side to
show the pronunciation- but the spoken words are not the same.)
Accordingly an expression that depends upon division is not an
ambiguous one. It is evident also that not all refutations depend upon
ambiguity as some people say they do.
The answerer, then, must divide the expression: for
'I-saw-a-man-being-beaten with my eyes' is not the same as to say 'I
saw a man being-beaten-with-my-eyes'. Also there is the argument of
Euthydemus proving 'Then you know now in Sicily that there are
triremes in Piraeus': and again, 'Can a good man who is a cobbler be
bad?' 'No.' 'But a good man may be a bad cobbler: therefore a good
cobbler will be bad.' Again, 'Things the knowledge of which is good,
are good things to learn, aren't they?' 'Yes.' 'The knowledge,
however, of evil is good: therefore evil is a good thing to know.'
'Yes. But, you see, evil is both evil and a thing-to-learn, so that
evil is an evil-thing-to-learn, although the knowledge of evils is
good.' Again, 'Is it true to say in the present moment that you are
born?' 'Yes.' 'Then you are born in the present moment.' 'No; the
expression as divided has a different meaning: for it is true to
say-in-the-present-moment that "you are born", but not "You are
born-in-the-present-moment".' Again, 'Could you do what you can, and
as you can?' 'Yes.' 'But when not harping, you have the power to harp:
and therefore you could harp when not harping.' 'No: he has not the
power to harp-while-not-harping; merely, when he is not doing it, he
has the power to do it.' Some people solve this last refutation in
another way as well. For, they say, if he has granted that he can do
anything in the way he can, still it does not follow that he can
harp when not harping: for it has not been granted that he will do
anything in every way in which he can; and it is not the same thing'
to do a thing in the way he can' and 'to do it in every way in which
he can'. But evidently they do not solve it properly: for of arguments
that depend upon the same point the solution is the same, whereas this
will not fit all cases of the kind nor yet all ways of putting the
questions: it is valid against the questioner, but not against his


Accentuation gives rise to no fallacious arguments, either as
written or as spoken, except perhaps some few that might be made up;
e.g. the following argument. 'Is ou katalueis a house?' 'Yes.' 'Is
then ou katalueis the negation of katalueis?' 'Yes.' 'But you
said that ou katalueis is a house: therefore the house is a
negation.' How one should solve this, is clear: for the word does
not mean the same when spoken with an acuter and when spoken with a
graver accent.


It is clear also how one must meet those fallacies that depend on
the identical expressions of things that are not identical, seeing
that we are in possession of the kinds of predications. For the one
man, say, has granted, when asked, that a term denoting a substance
does not belong as an attribute, while the other has shown that some
attribute belongs which is in the Category of Relation or of Quantity,
but is usually thought to denote a substance because of its
expression; e.g. in the following argument: 'Is it possible to be
doing and to have done the same thing at the same time?' 'No.' 'But,
you see, it is surely possible to be seeing and to have seen the
same thing at the same time, and in the same aspect.' Again, 'Is any
mode of passivity a mode of activity?' 'No.' 'Then "he is cut", "he is
burnt", "he is struck by some sensible object" are alike in expression
and all denote some form of passivity, while again "to say", "to run",
"to see" are like one like one another in expression: but, you see,
"to see" is surely a form of being struck by a sensible object;
therefore it is at the same time a form of passivity and of activity.'
Suppose, however, that in that case any one, after granting that it is
not possible to do and to have done the same thing in the same time,
were to say that it is possible to see and to have seen it, still he
has not yet been refuted, suppose him to say that 'to see' is not a
form of 'doing' (activity) but of 'passivity': for this question is
required as well, though he is supposed by the listener to have
already granted it, when he granted that 'to cut' is a form of
present, and 'to have cut' a form of past, activity, and so on with
the other things that have a like expression. For the listener adds
the rest by himself, thinking the meaning to be alike: whereas
really the meaning is not alike, though it appears to be so because of
the expression. The same thing happens here as happens in cases of
ambiguity: for in dealing with ambiguous expressions the tyro in
argument supposes the sophist to have negated the fact which he (the
tyro) affirmed, and not merely the name: whereas there still wants the
question whether in using the ambiguous term he had a single meaning
in view: for if he grants that that was so, the refutation will be
Like the above are also the following arguments. It is asked if a
man has lost what he once had and afterwards has not: for a man will
no longer have ten dice even though he has only lost one die. No:
rather it is that he has lost what he had before and has not now;
but there is no necessity for him to have lost as much or as many
things as he has not now. So then, he asks the questions as to what he
has, and draws the conclusion as to the whole number that he has:
for ten is a number. If then he had asked to begin with, whether a man
no longer having the number of things he once had has lost the whole
number, no one would have granted it, but would have said 'Either
the whole number or one of them'. Also there is the argument that 'a
man may give what he has not got': for he has not got only one die.
No: rather it is that he has given not what he had not got, but in a
manner in which he had not got it, viz. just the one. For the word
'only' does not signify a particular substance or quality or number,
but a manner relation, e.g. that it is not coupled with any other.
It is therefore just as if he had asked 'Could a man give what he
has not got?' and, on being given the answer 'No', were to ask if a
man could give a thing quickly when he had not got it quickly, and, on
this being granted, were to conclude that 'a man could give what he
had not got'. It is quite evident that he has not proved his point:
for to 'give quickly' is not to give a thing, but to give in a certain
manner; and a man could certainly give a thing in a manner in which he
has not got it, e.g. he might have got it with pleasure and give it
with pain.
Like these are also all arguments of the following kind: 'Could a
man strike a blow with a hand which he has not got, or see with an eye
which he has not got?' For he has not got only one eye. Some people
solve this case, where a man has more than one eye, or more than one
of anything else, by saying also that he has only one. Others also
solve it as they solve the refutation of the view that 'what a man
has, he has received': for A gave only one vote; and certainly B, they
say, has only one vote from A. Others, again, proceed by demolishing
straight away the proposition asked, and admitting that it is quite
possible to have what one has not received; e.g. to have received
sweet wine, but then, owing to its going bad in the course of receipt,
to have it sour. But, as was said also above,' all these persons
direct their solutions against the man, not against his argument.
For if this were a genuine solution, then, suppose any one to grant
the opposite, he could find no solution, just as happens in other
cases; e.g. suppose the true solution to be 'So-and-so is partly
true and partly not', then, if the answerer grants the expression
without any qualification, the sophist's conclusion follows. If, on
the other hand, the conclusion does not follow, then that could not be
the true solution: and what we say in regard to the foregoing examples
is that, even if all the sophist's premisses be granted, still no
proof is effected.
Moreover, the following too belong to this group of arguments. 'If
something be in writing did some one write it?' 'Yes.' 'But it is
now in writing that you are seated-a false statement, though it was
true at the time when it was written: therefore the statement that was
written is at the same time false and true.' But this is fallacious,
for the falsity or truth of a statement or opinion indicates not a
substance but a quality: for the same account applies to the case of
an opinion as well. Again, 'Is what a learner learns what he
learns?' 'Yes.' 'But suppose some one learns "slow" quick'. Then his
(the sophist's) words denote not what the learner learns but how he
learns it. Also, 'Does a man tread upon what he walks through?
'Yes.' 'But X walks through a whole day.' No, rather the words
denote not what he walks through, but when he walks; just as when
any one uses the words 'to drink the cup' he denotes not what he
drinks, but the vessel out of which he drinks. Also, 'Is it either
by learning or by discovery that a man knows what he knows?' 'Yes.'
'But suppose that of a pair of things he has discovered one and
learned the other, the pair is not known to him by either method.' No:
'what' he knows, means' every single thing' he knows, individually;
but this does not mean 'all the things' he knows, collectively. Again,
there is the proof that there is a 'third man' distinct from Man and
from individual men. But that is a fallacy, for 'Man', and indeed
every general predicate, denotes not an individual substance, but a
particular quality, or the being related to something in a
particular manner, or something of that sort. Likewise also in the
case of 'Coriscus' and 'Coriscus the musician' there is the problem,
Are they the same or different?' For the one denotes an individual
substance and the other a quality, so that it cannot be isolated;
though it is not the isolation which creates the 'third man', but
the admission that it is an individual substance. For 'Man' cannot
be an individual substance, as Callias is. Nor is the case improved
one whit even if one were to call the clement he has isolated not an
individual substance but a quality: for there will still be the one
beside the many, just as 'Man' was. It is evident then that one must
not grant that what is a common predicate applying to a class
universally is an individual substance, but must say that denotes
either a quality, or a relation, or a quantity, or something of that


It is a general rule in dealing with arguments that depend on
language that the solution always follows the opposite of the point on
which the argument turns: e.g. if the argument depends upon
combination, then the solution consists in division; if upon division,
then in combination. Again, if it depends on an acute accent, the
solution is a grave accent; if on a grave accent, it is an acute. If
it depends on ambiguity, one can solve it by using the opposite
term; e.g. if you find yourself calling something inanimate, despite
your previous denial that it was so, show in what sense it is alive:
if, on the other hand, one has declared it to be inanimate and the
sophist has proved it to be animate, say how it is inanimate. Likewise
also in a case of amphiboly. If the argument depends on likeness of
expression, the opposite will be the solution. 'Could a man give
what he has not got? 'No, not what he has not got; but he could give
it in a way in which he has not got it, e.g. one die by itself.'
Does a man know either by learning or by discovery each thing that
he knows, singly? but not the things that he knows, collectively.'
Also a man treads, perhaps, on any thing he walks through, but not
on the time he walks through. Likewise also in the case of the other


In dealing with arguments that depend on Accident, one and the
same solution meets all cases. For since it is indeterminate when an
attribute should be ascribed to a thing, in cases where it belongs
to the accident of the thing, and since in some cases it is
generally agreed and people admit that it belongs, while in others
they deny that it need belong, we should therefore, as soon as the
conclusion has been drawn, say in answer to them all alike, that there
is no need for such an attribute to belong. One must, however, be
prepared to adduce an example of the kind of attribute meant. All
arguments such as the following depend upon Accident. 'Do you know
what I am going to ask you? you know the man who is approaching', or
'the man in the mask'? 'Is the statue your work of art?' or 'Is the
dog your father?' 'Is the product of a small number with a small
number a small number?' For it is evident in all these cases that
there is no necessity for the attribute which is true of the thing's
accident to be true of the thing as well. For only to things that
are indistinguishable and one in essence is it generally agreed that
all the same attributes belong; whereas in the case of a good thing,
to be good is not the same as to be going to be the subject of a
question; nor in the case of a man approaching, or wearing a mask,
is 'to be approaching' the same thing as 'to be Coriscus', so that
suppose I know Coriscus, but do not know the man who is approaching,
it still isn't the case that I both know and do not know the same man;
nor, again, if this is mine and is also a work of art, is it therefore
my work of art, but my property or thing or something else. (The
solution is after the same manner in the other cases as well.)
Some solve these refutations by demolishing the original proposition
asked: for they say that it is possible to know and not to know the
same thing, only not in the same respect: accordingly, when they don't
know the man who is coming towards them, but do know Corsicus, they
assert that they do know and don't know the same object, but not in
the same respect. Yet, as we have already remarked, the correction
of arguments that depend upon the same point ought to be the same,
whereas this one will not stand if one adopts the same principle in
regard not to knowing something, but to being, or to being is a in a
certain state, e.g. suppose that X is father, and is also yours: for
if in some cases this is true and it is possible to know and not to
know the same thing, yet with that case the solution stated has
nothing to do. Certainly there is nothing to prevent the same argument
from having a number of flaws; but it is not the exposition of any and
every fault that constitutes a solution: for it is possible for a
man to show that a false conclusion has been proved, but not to show
on what it depends, e.g. in the case of Zeno's argument to prove
that motion is impossible. So that even if any one were to try to
establish that this doctrine is an impossible one, he still is
mistaken, and even if he proved his case ten thousand times over,
still this is no solution of Zeno's argument: for the solution was all
along an exposition of false reasoning, showing on what its falsity
depends. If then he has not proved his case, or is trying to establish
even a true proposition, or a false one, in a false manner, to point
this out is a true solution. Possibly, indeed, the present
suggestion may very well apply in some cases: but in these cases, at
any rate, not even this would be generally agreed: for he knows both
that Coriscus is Coriscus and that the approaching figure is
approaching. To know and not to know the same thing is generally
thought to be possible, when e.g. one knows that X is white, but
does not realize that he is musical: for in that way he does know
and not know the same thing, though not in the same respect. But as to
the approaching figure and Coriscus he knows both that it is
approaching and that he is Coriscus.
A like mistake to that of those whom we have mentioned is that of
those who solve the proof that every number is a small number: for if,
when the conclusion is not proved, they pass this over and say that
a conclusion has been proved and is true, on the ground that every
number is both great and small, they make a mistake.
Some people also use the principle of ambiguity to solve the
aforesaid reasonings, e.g. the proof that 'X is your father', or
'son', or 'slave'. Yet it is evident that if the appearance a proof
depends upon a plurality of meanings, the term, or the expression in
question, ought to bear a number of literal senses, whereas no one
speaks of A as being 'B's child' in the literal sense, if B is the
child's master, but the combination depends upon Accident. 'Is A
yours?' 'Yes.' 'And is A a child?' 'Yes.' 'Then the child A is yours,'
because he happens to be both yours and a child; but he is not 'your
There is also the proof that 'something "of evils" is good'; for
wisdom is a 'knowledge "of evils"'. But the expression that this is
'of so and-so' (='so-and-so's') has not a number of meanings: it means
that it is 'so-and-so's property'. We may suppose of course, on the
other hand, that it has a number of meanings-for we also say that
man is 'of the animals', though not their property; and also that
any term related to 'evils' in a way expressed by a genitive case is
on that account a so-and-so 'of evils', though it is not one of the
evils-but in that case the apparently different meanings seem to
depend on whether the term is used relatively or absolutely. 'Yet it
is conceivably possible to find a real ambiguity in the phrase
"Something of evils is good".' Perhaps, but not with regard to the
phrase in question. It would occur more nearly, suppose that 'A
servant is good of the wicked'; though perhaps it is not quite found
even there: for a thing may be 'good' and be 'X's' without being at
the same time 'X's good'. Nor is the saying that 'Man is of the
animals' a phrase with a number of meanings: for a phrase does not
become possessed of a number of meanings merely suppose we express
it elliptically: for we express 'Give me the Iliad' by quoting half
a line of it, e.g. 'Give me "Sing, goddess, of the wrath..."'


Those arguments which depend upon an expression that is valid of a
particular thing, or in a particular respect, or place, or manner,
or relation, and not valid absolutely, should be solved by considering
the conclusion in relation to its contradictory, to see if any of
these things can possibly have happened to it. For it is impossible
for contraries and opposites and an affirmative and a negative to
belong to the same thing absolutely; there is, however, nothing to
prevent each from belonging in a particular respect or relation or
manner, or to prevent one of them from belonging in a particular
respect and the other absolutely. So that if this one belongs
absolutely and that one in a particular respect, there is as yet no
refutation. This is a feature one has to find in the conclusion by
examining it in comparison with its contradictory.
All arguments of the following kind have this feature: 'Is it
possible for what is-not to be? "No." But, you see, it is something,
despite its not being.' Likewise also, Being will not be; for it
will not he some particular form of being. Is it possible for the same
man at the same time to be a keeper and a breaker of his oath?' 'Can
the same man at the same time both obey and disobey the same man?'
Or isn't it the case that being something in particular and Being
are not the same? On the other hand, Not-being, even if it be
something, need not also have absolute 'being' as well. Nor if a man
keeps his oath in this particular instance or in this particular
respect, is he bound also to be a keeper of oaths absolutely, but he
who swears that he will break his oath, and then breaks it, keeps this
particular oath only; he is not a keeper of his oath: nor is the
disobedient man 'obedient', though he obeys one particular command.
The argument is similar, also, as regards the problem whether the same
man can at the same time say what is both false and true: but it
appears to be a troublesome question because it is not easy to see
in which of the two connexions the word 'absolutely' is to be
rendered-with 'true' or with 'false'. There is, however, nothing to
prevent it from being false absolutely, though true in some particular
respect or relation, i.e. being true in some things, though not 'true'
absolutely. Likewise also in cases of some particular relation and
place and time. For all arguments of the following kind depend upon
this.' Is health, or wealth, a good thing?' 'Yes.' 'But to the fool
who does not use it aright it is not a good thing: therefore it is
both good and not good.' 'Is health, or political power, a good
thing?' 'Yes. "But sometimes it is not particularly good: therefore
the same thing is both good and not good to the same man.' Or rather
there is nothing to prevent a thing, though good absolutely, being not
good to a particular man, or being good to a particular man, and yet
not good or here. 'Is that which the prudent man would not wish, an
evil?' 'Yes.' 'But to get rid of, he would not wish the good:
therefore the good is an evil.' But that is a mistake; for it is not
the same thing to say 'The good is an evil' and 'to get rid of the
good is an evil'. Likewise also the argument of the thief is mistaken.
For it is not the case that if the thief is an evil thing, acquiring
things is also evil: what he wishes, therefore, is not what is evil
but what is good; for to acquire something good is good. Also, disease
is an evil thing, but not to get rid of disease. 'Is the just
preferable to the unjust, and what takes place justly to what takes
place unjustly? 'Yes.' 'But to to be put to death unjustly is
preferable.' 'Is it just that each should have his own?' 'Yes.' 'But
whatever decisions a man comes to on the strength of his personal
opinion, even if it be a false opinion, are valid in law: therefore
the same result is both just and unjust.' Also, should one decide in
favour of him who says what is unjust?' 'The former.' 'But you see, it
is just for the injured party to say fully the things he has suffered;
and these are fallacies. For because to suffer a thing unjustly is
preferable, unjust ways are not therefore preferable, though in this
particular case the unjust may very well be better than the just.
Also, to have one's own is just, while to have what is another's is
not just: all the same, the decision in question may very well be a
just decision, whatever it be that the opinion of the man who gave the
decision supports: for because it is just in this particular case or
in this particular manner, it is not also just absolutely. Likewise
also, though things are unjust, there is nothing to prevent the
speaking of them being just: for because to speak of things is just,
there is no necessity that the things should be just, any more than
because to speak of things be of use, the things need be of use.
Likewise also in the case of what is just. So that it is not the
case that because the things spoken of are unjust, the victory goes to
him who speaks unjust things: for he speaks of things that are just to
speak of, though absolutely, i.e. to suffer, they are unjust.


Refutations that depend on the definition of a refutation must,
according to the plan sketched above, be met by comparing together the
conclusion with its contradictory, and seeing that it shall involve
the same attribute in the same respect and relation and manner and
time. If this additional question be put at the start, you should
not admit that it is impossible for the same thing to be both double
and not double, but grant that it is possible, only not in such a
way as was agreed to constitute a refutation of your case. All the
following arguments depend upon a point of that kind. 'Does a man
who knows A to be A, know the thing called A?' and in the same way,
'is one who is ignorant that A is A ignorant of the thing called A?'
'Yes.' 'But one who knows that Coriscus is Coriscus might be
ignorant of the fact that he is musical, so that he both knows and
is ignorant of the same thing.' Is a thing four cubits long greater
than a thing three cubits long?' 'Yes.' 'But a thing might grow from
three to four cubits in length; 'now what is 'greater' is greater than
a 'less': accordingly the thing in question will be both greater and
less than itself in the same respect.


As to refutations that depend on begging and assuming the original
point to be proved, suppose the nature of the question to be
obvious, one should not grant it, even though it be a view generally
held, but should tell him the truth. Suppose, however, that it escapes
one, then, thanks to the badness of arguments of that kind, one should
make one's error recoil upon the questioner, and say that he has
brought no argument: for a refutation must be proved independently
of the original point. Secondly, one should say that the point was
granted under the impression that he intended not to use it as a
premiss, but to reason against it, in the opposite way from that
adopted in refutations on side issues.


Also, those refutations that bring one to their conclusion through
the consequent you should show up in the course of the argument
itself. The mode in which consequences follow is twofold. For the
argument either is that as the universal follows on its
particular-as (e.g.) 'animal' follows from 'man'-so does the
particular on its universal: for the claim is made that if A is always
found with B, then B also is always found with A. Or else it
proceeds by way of the opposites of the terms involved: for if A
follows B, it is claimed that A's opposite will follow B's opposite.
On this latter claim the argument of Melissus also depends: for he
claims that because that which has come to be has a beginning, that
which has not come to be has none, so that if the heaven has not
come to be, it is also eternal. But that is not so; for the sequence
is vice versa.


In the case of any refutations whose reasoning depends on some
addition, look and see if upon its subtraction the absurdity follows
none the less: and then if so, the answerer should point this out, and
say that he granted the addition not because he really thought it, but
for the sake of the argument, whereas the questioner has not used it
for the purpose of his argument at all.


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.
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.


With regard to those who draw one into repeating the same thing a
number of times, it is clear that one must not grant that predications
of relative terms have any meaning in abstraction by themselves,
e.g. that 'double' is a significant term apart from the whole phrase
'double of half' merely on the ground that it figures in it. For ten
figures in 'ten minus one' and in 'not do', and generally the
affirmation in the negation; but for all that, suppose any one were to
say, 'This is not white', he does not say that it is white. The bare
word 'double', one may perhaps say, has not even any meaning at all,
any more than has 'the' in 'the half': and even if it has a meaning,
yet it has not the same meaning as in the combination. Nor is
'knowledge' the same thing in a specific branch of it (suppose it,
e.g. to be 'medical knowledge') as it is in general: for in general it
was the 'knowledge of the knowable'. In the case of terms that are
predicated of the terms through which they are defined, you should say
the same thing, that the term defined is not the same in abstraction
as it is in the whole phrase. For 'concave' has a general meaning
which is the same in the case of a snub nose, and of a bandy leg,
but when added to either substantive nothing prevents it from
differentiating its meaning; in fact it bears one sense as applied
to the nose, and another as applied to the leg: for in the former
connexion it means 'snub' and in the latter 'bandyshaped'; i.e. it
makes no difference whether you say 'a snub nose' or 'a concave nose'.
Moreover, the expression must not be granted in the nominative case:
for it is a falsehood. For snubness is not a concave nose but
something (e.g. an affection) belonging to a nose: hence, there is
no absurdity in supposing that the snub nose is a nose possessing
the concavity that belongs to a nose.


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
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.


We must also observe that of all the arguments aforesaid it is
easier with some to see why and where the reasoning leads the hearer
astray, while with others it is more difficult, though often they
are the same arguments as the former. For we must call an argument the
same if it depends upon the same point; but the same argument is apt
to be thought by some to depend on diction, by others on accident, and
by others on something else, because each of them, when worked with
different terms, is not so clear as it was. Accordingly, just as in
fallacies that depend on ambiguity, which are generally thought to
be the silliest form of fallacy, some are clear even to the man in the
street (for humorous phrases nearly all depend on diction; e.g. 'The
man got the cart down from the stand'; and 'Where are you bound?'
'To the yard arm'; and 'Which cow will calve afore?' 'Neither, but
both behind;' and 'Is the North wind clear?' 'No, indeed; for it has
murdered the beggar and the merchant." Is he a Good enough-King?' 'No,
indeed; a Rob-son': and so with the great majority of the rest as
well), while others appear to elude the most expert (and it is a
symptom of this that they often fight about their terms, e.g.
whether the meaning of 'Being' and 'One' is the same in all their
applications or different; for some think that 'Being' and 'One'
mean the same; while others solve the argument of Zeno and
Parmenides by asserting that 'One' and 'Being' are used in a number of
senses), likewise also as regards fallacies of Accident and each of
the other types, some of the arguments will be easier to see while
others are more difficult; also to grasp to which class a fallacy
belongs, and whether it is a refutation or not a refutation, is not
equally easy in all cases.
An incisive argument is one which produces the greatest
perplexity: for this is the one with the sharpest fang. Now perplexity
is twofold, one which occurs in reasoned arguments, respecting which
of the propositions asked one is to demolish, and the other in
contentious arguments, respecting the manner in which one is to assent
to what is propounded. Therefore it is in syllogistic arguments that
the more incisive ones produce the keenest heart-searching. Now a
syllogistic argument is most incisive if from premisses that are as
generally accepted as possible it demolishes a conclusion that is
accepted as generally as possible. For the one argument, if the
contradictory is changed about, makes all the resulting syllogisms
alike in character: for always from premisses that are generally
accepted it will prove a conclusion, negative or positive as the
case may be, that is just as generally accepted; and therefore one
is bound to feel perplexed. An argument, then, of this kind is the
most incisive, viz. the one that puts its conclusion on all fours with
the propositions asked; and second comes the one that argues from
premisses, all of which are equally convincing: for this will
produce an equal perplexity as to what kind of premiss, of those
asked, one should demolish. Herein is a difficulty: for one must
demolish something, but what one must demolish is uncertain. Of
contentious arguments, on the other hand, the most incisive is the one
which, in the first place, is characterized by an initial
uncertainty whether it has been properly reasoned or not; and also
whether the solution depends on a false premiss or on the drawing of a
distinction; while, of the rest, the second place is held by that
whose solution clearly depends upon a distinction or a demolition, and
yet it does not reveal clearly which it is of the premisses asked,
whose demolition, or the drawing of a distinction within it, will
bring the solution about, but even leaves it vague whether it is on
the conclusion or on one of the premisses that the deception depends.
Now sometimes an argument which has not been properly reasoned is
silly, supposing the assumptions required to be extremely contrary
to the general view or false; but sometimes it ought not to be held in
contempt. For whenever some question is left out, of the kind that
concerns both the subject and the nerve of the argument, the reasoning
that has both failed to secure this as well, and also failed to reason
properly, is silly; but when what is omitted is some extraneous
question, then it is by no means to be lightly despised, but the
argument is quite respectable, though the questioner has not put his
questions well.
Just as it is possible to bring a solution sometimes against the
argument, at others against the questioner and his mode of
questioning, and at others against neither of these, likewise also
it is possible to marshal one's questions and reasoning both against
the thesis, and against the answerer and against the time, whenever
the solution requires a longer time to examine than the period


As to the number, then, and kind of sources whence fallacies arise
in discussion, and how we are to show that our opponent is
committing a fallacy and make him utter paradoxes; moreover, by the
use of what materials solescism is brought about, and how to
question and what is the way to arrange the questions; moreover, as to
the question what use is served by all arguments of this kind, and
concerning the answerer's part, both as a whole in general, and in
particular how to solve arguments and solecisms-on all these things
let the foregoing discussion suffice. It remains to recall our
original proposal and to bring our discussion to a close with a few
words upon it.
Our programme was, then, to discover some faculty of reasoning about
any theme put before us from the most generally accepted premisses
that there are. For that is the essential task of the art of
discussion (dialectic) and of examination (peirastic). Inasmuch,
however, as it is annexed to it, on account of the near presence of
the art of sophistry (sophistic), not only to be able to conduct an
examination dialectically but also with a show of knowledge, we
therefore proposed for our treatise not only the aforesaid aim of
being able to exact an account of any view, but also the aim of
ensuring that in standing up to an argument we shall defend our thesis
in the same manner by means of views as generally held as possible.
The reason of this we have explained; for this, too, was why
Socrates used to ask questions and not to answer them; for he used
to confess that he did not know. We have made clear, in the course
of what precedes, the number both of the points with reference to
which, and of the materials from which, this will be accomplished, and
also from what sources we can become well supplied with these: we have
shown, moreover, how to question or arrange the questioning as a
whole, and the problems concerning the answers and solutions to be
used against the reasonings of the questioner. We have also cleared up
the problems concerning all other matters that belong to the same
inquiry into arguments. In addition to this we have been through the
subject of Fallacies, as we have already stated above.
That our programme, then, has been adequately completed is clear.
But we must not omit to notice what has happened in regard to this
inquiry. For in the case of all discoveries the results of previous
labours that have been handed down from others have been advanced
bit by bit by those who have taken them on, whereas the original
discoveries generally make advance that is small at first though
much more useful than the development which later springs out of them.
For it may be that in everything, as the saying is, 'the first start
is the main part': and for this reason also it is the most
difficult; for in proportion as it is most potent in its influence, so
it is smallest in its compass and therefore most difficult to see:
whereas when this is once discovered, it is easier to add and
develop the remainder in connexion with it. This is in fact what has
happened in regard to rhetorical speeches and to practically all the
other arts: for those who discovered the beginnings of them advanced
them in all only a little way, whereas the celebrities of to-day are
the heirs (so to speak) of a long succession of men who have
advanced them bit by bit, and so have developed them to their
present form, Tisias coming next after the first founders, then
Thrasymachus after Tisias, and Theodorus next to him, while several
people have made their several contributions to it: and therefore it
is not to be wondered at that the art has attained considerable
dimensions. Of this inquiry, on the other hand, it was not the case
that part of the work had been thoroughly done before, while part
had not. Nothing existed at all. For the training given by the paid
professors of contentious arguments was like the treatment of the
matter by Gorgias. For they used to hand out speeches to be learned by
heart, some rhetorical, others in the form of question and answer,
each side supposing that their arguments on either side generally fall
among them. And therefore the teaching they gave their pupils was
ready but rough. For they used to suppose that they trained people
by imparting to them not the art but its products, as though any one
professing that he would impart a form of knowledge to obviate any
pain in the feet, were then not to teach a man the art of
shoe-making or the sources whence he can acquire anything of the kind,
but were to present him with several kinds of shoes of all sorts:
for he has helped him to meet his need, but has not imparted an art to
him. Moreover, on the subject of Rhetoric there exists much that has
been said long ago, whereas on the subject of reasoning we had nothing
else of an earlier date to speak of at all, but were kept at work
for a long time in experimental researches. If, then, it seems to
you after inspection that, such being the situation as it existed at
the start, our investigation is in a satisfactory condition compared
with the other inquiries that have been developed by tradition,
there must remain for all of you, or for our students, the task of
extending us your pardon for the shortcomings of the inquiry, and
for the discoveries thereof your warm thanks.



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