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Aristotle on False Reasoning

Language and the World in the Sophistical Refutations

Scott G. Schreiber

Publication Year: 2003

Presenting the first book-length study in English of Aristotle’s Sophistical Refutations, this work takes a fresh look at this seminal text on false reasoning. Through a careful and critical analysis of Aristotle’s examples of sophistical reasoning, Scott G. Schreiber explores Aristotle’s rationale for his taxonomy of twelve fallacy types. Contrary to certain modern attempts to reduce all fallacious reasoning to either errors of logical form or linguistic imprecision, Aristotle insists that, as important as form and language are, certain types of false reasoning derive their persuasiveness from mistaken beliefs about the nature of language and the nature of the world.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-x

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xv

My interest in Aristotle’s Sophistical Refutations was prompted by one extraordinarily bold claim that he makes early in the treatise. He says that there are twelve ways and only twelve ways by which false arguments can appear to be persuasive. How could that be, I wondered. Does not the rich history of human gullibility suggest a nearly unlimited number of ways that...

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pp. 1-8

Central to Aristotle’s philosophic method is his analysis of reasoning or the syllogism (sullogism¬V).1 He defines a syllogism as “an argument in which, when certain things are set down, something different from the things set down follows necessarily by means of the things set down...

Part 1 Fallacies Due to Language

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Chapter 1 The Power of Names

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pp. 11-18

One of the primary sources of sophistical reasoning is the equivocation between different significations of the same word or phrase within an argument. Aristotle believes that no language can avoid words of multiple signification and, therefore, that possible sophistical reasonings will be endemic...

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Chapter 2 Homonymy and Amphiboly

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pp. 19-36

...In the hands of later Greek writers on rhetoric and grammar, the term becomes increasingly narrowed to various technical specifications. Although Aristotle is one of the movers in that direction, it would be premature in this book (and historically...

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Chapter 3 Form of the Expression

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pp. 37-54

...Aristotle transforms the expression from a rhetorical term to a description of one of the sources of philosophical error. The examples of this fallacy are of somewhat more philosophical interest than the previous examples of homonymy and amphiboly. They include...

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Chapter 4 Composition, Division, and Accent

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pp. 55-76

...problems. First, there is a modern tradition of labeling errors based upon partswhole confusions as errors of Composition and Division. According to this interpretation, an error due to Composition...

Part 2 Resolutions of False Arguments

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Chapter 5 Resolutions of False Arguments

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pp. 79-94

There is a natural division in S.E. between chapters 15 and 16. In the first half of the treatise, Aristotle is mostly concerned with the production of apparent arguments. The question being addressed is “how does the sophist accomplish the effective simulation of argument?” The answer...

Part 3 Fallacies Outside of Language

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Chapter 6 Begging the Question and Non-Cause As Cause

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pp. 97-112

Of the six fallacies outside of language, Begging the Question violates clause (1), Secundum Quid violates clause (3c), and the remaining four all violate clause (2) in various ways. I also have shown that a complete resolution of the confusion created by a false refutation requires more than...

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Chapter 7 Accident and Consequent

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pp. 113-140

constitutes a special subset of the former class.1 I argue below that Aristotle’s attempt to distinguish Consequent from Accident fails. In actual fact, what we have here is one single fallacy with one single resolution. Historically, there have been two common ways to analyze these fallacies. One is to account for them by appeal...

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Chapter 8 Secundum Quid

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pp. 141-152

The next fallacy outside of language is identified in S.E. by several cumbersome phrases: “due to something being said either without qualification, or in some way and not standardly” (S.E. 5), “due to something being said either standardly, or in some way or some...

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Chapter 9 Many Questions

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pp. 153-172

Fallacies due to “making many questions into one” (henceforth, “Many Questions”) arise when someone overlooks there being many [questions] and a single answer is given as if there is one question.1 Because questions in dialectic become the premises of arguments, this fallacy arises when one concedes a premise having...

Appendix 1

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pp. 173-176

Appendix 2

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pp. 177-178

Appendix 3

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pp. 179-186

Appendix 4

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pp. 187-190


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pp. 191-232


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pp. 233-240

Index of Names

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pp. 241-244

Subject Index

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pp. 245-248

E-ISBN-13: 9780791487181
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791456590
Print-ISBN-10: 0791456595

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 2 tables, 4 figures
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: SUNY series in Ancient Greek Philosophy
Series Editor Byline: Anthony Preus