Posterior Analytics (Bouchier)/Book I/Chapter VI

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Posterior Analytics (Bouchier) by Aristotle, translated by E. S. Bouchier
Book I, Chapter VI

Chapter VI: Demonstration is founded on Necessary and Essential Principles[edit]

For necessary conclusions necessary premises are required.

If then demonstrative knowledge be derived from necessary principles (and that which one knows is never contingent), and if the essential attributes of a subject be necessary (and essential attributes either inhere in the definition of the subject, or, in cases where one of a pair of opposites must necessarily be true, have the subjects inhering in their definition), then it is clear that the demonstrative syllogism must proceed from necessary premises Every attribute is predicable either in the way mentioned or accidentally, but accidental attributes are not necessary. We should then either express ourselves as above or lay it down as an elementary principle that demonstration is something necessary, and that if a thing has been demonstrated it can never be other than it is; and consequently that the demonstrative syllogism must proceed from necessary premises. It is indeed possible to syllogize from true premises without demonstrating anything, but not so if the premises be also necessary, for this very necessity is the characteristic of demonstration.

An empirical confirmation of the view that demonstration results from necessary premises is that when we bring forward objections against persons who imagine themselves to be producing a demonstration, we bring our objections in the form ‘There is no necessity.’ Whether we hold that the things in question are really contingent or only considered to be so for the sake of a particular argument. It is clear from this that it is folly to suppose oneself to have made a good choice of scientific principles so long as the premise be generally accepted and also true, after the manner of the sophists who assume that ‘Knowing is identical with possessing knowledge.’ It is not in fact that which is generally accepted or rejected which constitutes a principle, but the primary properties of the genus with which the demonstration deals; nor is everything which is true also appropriate to the conclusion to be demonstrated.

It is also clear from the following considerations that the syllogism can proceed from necessary premises only. If one who, in a case where demonstration is possible, is not acquainted with the cause, can have no real knowledge of the demonstration, then one who knows that A is necessarily predicable of C, whilst B, the middle term by means of which the demonstration has been effected, is not necessary, must be ignorant of the cause of the thing, for in this case the conclusion is not rendered necessary by the middle term; in fact the middle, since it is not necessary, may not exist at all, but the conclusion is necessary.

Moreover if one who now knows (accidentally) the cause of a necessary conclusion remain unchanged while the thing itself remains unchanged, and if, though he has not forgotten it, yet he has no real knowledge of it, then he can never have had any real knowledge of it before. When the middle term is not anything necessary, it may pass away. In such a case, if the man remain unchanged while the thing remains unchanged, he may hold fast the cause of the thing, but he has no real knowledge of the thing itself, nor has he ever had such knowledge. But if the thing denoted by the middle term has not passed away, but yet is capable of doing so, that which results from it is only the possible, not the necessary; and when one’s inference is derived only from the possible one cannot be said to have knowledge in the true sense of the word. When the conclusion is necessary there is nothing to prevent the middle term, by means of which the conclusion was proved from being necessary, for it is possible to infer the necessary from the not necessary, just as one may infer the true from the untrue.

But when the middle term is necessary the conclusion also is necessary, just as true premises always produce a true conclusion. Thus, suppose A to be necessarily predicable of B, and B of C; A then must be necessarily predicable of C. But when the conclusion is not necessary, it is impossible that the middle should be necessary.

Suppose that, Some C is A, and again that All B is A, and that All C is B. But then All C will be A, which is contrary to our original hypothesis.

Since then that which one knows demonstratively must be necessary, it is clear that one ought to obtain the demonstration by means of a necessary middle term. Otherwise one will neither know the cause of the thing demonstrated nor the necessity of its being what it is, but one will either think one knows it without doing so (that is if one suppose to be necessary that which is not necessary), or one will think one knows it in a different way if one knows the fact of the conclusion with the help of middle terms, and when one knows its cause without the help of middle terms. Now there is no demonstrative science of accidents (attributes) which are not essential according to our definition of ‘essential.’ It is not in this connection possible to prove that the conclusion is necessarily true, for the accidental may not be true; (it is of accidents of this kind that I am speaking).

A difficulty might perhaps be raised as to why accidental premises are asked for for the purposes of a conclusion, if the conclusion drawn from them be not necessary; for it might be maintained that it would make no difference if any sort of premise were brought forward and then the conclusion were subjoined. Premises should however be laid down not because the conclusion is necessarily true because of them, but because the person who admits the premises must necessarily admit the conclusion, and his admission will be correct if the premises are true.

Now since only the essential attributes of any genus and those belonging to it as such are necessary, it is clear that scientific demonstrations both deal with and are drawn from essential attributes. As accidental attributes are not necessary one does not require to know the cause of the conclusion, not even if this be an eternal attribute without being essential, as in the case of syllogisms based on universal concomitance. In this latter connection the essential will be known, but not the fact that it is essential, nor yet why it is so. (By ‘knowledge of why it is essential’ I mean ‘knowing its cause.’) In order then to possess knowledge of this sort the middle term must result from the nature of the minor, and the major from the nature of the middle.