Topics (Aristotle)/Book 3

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Topics by Aristotle, translated by Octavius Freire Owen
Book 3

(1853) Translator's annotations not included.

Chapter 1[edit]

From these things, we must consider which of two or more, is the more eligible or better, and this is first to be determined, that we do not make those the subjects of consideration, which are very remote and greatly differ from each other, (since no one doubts whether happiness or wealth is preferable,) but those which are near, and about which we entertain a doubt, to whether of them, "more" should be added, because we see no superiority of one to the other. Now in these it is clear, that one or more excellencies being shown, the reasoning faculty will grant, that this is more eligible whichever of them happens to excel.

First, then, that which is longer in duration or is more certain, is more eligible, than that which is less such; and that which a wise or good man would rather choose, or upright law, or the studious about each would prefer, so far as they are such; or the scientific in each genus; or whatever the great number, or all; (as in medicine or in carpentering, what the greater number of physicians, or all, would choose;) or such things, in short, as most or all things (choose), for instance, good, for all desire what is good. Yet we must bring what shall be said, to that which is useful, but simply the better and more eligible, is that which is according to the better science, but to a certain one, that which is according to his proper science.

Next, whatever is in genus (is more eligible) than that which is not in genus, for instance, justice than a just man, for the one is in genus, that is, in good, but the other, not, and the one is what is good, but the other not, since nothing is said to be what genus is, which does not happen to be in genus, thus a white man, is not what colour is, and similarly of the rest.

That, also, which is eligible for itself, is preferable, to what is eligible for the sake of something else, as to be well, is preferable to being exercised, for the one is eligible for itself, but the other for something else. Also what is per se, than what is accidental, as that friends, rather than that enemies, should be just, for the one is eligible per se, but the latter accidentally, since we wish our enemies to be just, from accident, that they may not injure us. This, however, is the same with what is prior to it, but it differs in the mode, as we desire our friends, to be just, for their own sake, even if nothing should happen to us, and they should be in India, but our enemies, for something else, viz. that they may do us no injury.

The cause also, per se, of good, is preferable to the accidental cause, as virtue than fortune, for the one, is the cause of good, per se, but the other accidentally; also, if there is any thing else of the kind. It will be the same, too, in the contrary (to the eligible), for what is per se, the cause of evil, is more to be avoided, than the accidental cause, for instance, vice and fortune, for the one is evil per se, but fortune from accident.

The simple good, again, is more eligible than that which is (so) to a certain person, as to be well than to be cut, for the one is simply good, but the other to some one who requires to be cut. Also what is naturally (good, is preferable) to what is not naturally (so), as justice than a just man, since the one is by nature, but the other is acquired. That also is preferable, which is present with the better and more honourable, as (that which is present) with God, than with man, and with the soul, than with the body. The property, also, of the better is better than that of the worse, e. g. that of God than that of man, for according to what are common in both, they do not differ from each other, but the one excels the other in properties. Whatever, also, is in the better, or the prior, or the more honourable, is better, as health than strength and beauty, for the one is in the moist, and the dry, and the hot, and the cold, in short, (in those things) whereof primarily the animal consists, but the other in things posterior, for strength is in nerves and bones, but beauty seems to be a certain symmetry of the members. The end, also, appears to be preferable to those things tending to the end, and of two things, that which is nearer to the end, and in short, what contributes to the end of life, is preferable to what (tends) to something else, as that which contributes to felicity, than what tends to prudence. Moreover, the possible than the impossible, and when there are two efficients, that of which the end is better. The efficient, however, and the end, (we must consider) from analogy when one end more surpasses another, than that, its own efficient cause, thus, if felicity more excels health than health the salubrious, what is productive of felicity will be better than health, for as far as felicity surpasses health, so far what is productive of felicity surpasses the salubrious. Nevertheless, health less surpasses the salubrious, so that what is productive of felicity more surpasses the salubrious then does health the salubrious. Evidently, then, what is productive of felicity is preferable to health, since it more surpasses the same thing.

Once more, the more beautiful per se, and the more honourable and praiseworthy, as friendship than wealth, and justice than strength, for the one are per se amongst things honourable and praiseworthy, but the other not per se, but on some other account, since no one honours wealth for itself, but for something else, but friendship for itself, even if nothing else should result to us from it.

Chapter 2[edit]

Moreover, when two things are very like each other, and we cannot perceive any superiority of the one to the other, we must investigate from the consequents, for whichever the greater good follows, is the preferable. Still, if the consequents be evil, that which the less evil follows is preferable, for both being eligible, there is nothing to prevent something troublesome resulting. The investigation indeed from the consequent is two-fold, since it follows both prior and posterior, as to the learner ignorance is prior, but knowledge posterior; for the most part however the latter consequent is better, so that we must take whichever consequent may be useful.

Again, many goods (are to be preferred) to fewer, either simply, or when some are inherent in others, viz. the fewer in the more: it is objected if anywhere one thing is for the sake of another, for both are not at all preferable to the one; thus, to be made well and health are not preferable to health, as we choose to be made well on account of health, still there is nothing to prevent things which are not good, conjoined with such as are good, from being more eligible, as felicity and something else, which is not good, than justice and fortitude, and the same things with pleasure, rather than without pleasure, and the same things with painlessness than with pain.

Besides, each thing at the time of its greatest power is more eligible, as to be without pain in old age rather than in youth, for it is capable of effecting more in old age. So also prudence in old age is preferable, because no one chooses the young as leaders from not deeming them prudent. Courage indeed is contrary, for courageous energy is more necessary in youth; so also temperance, for the young are more burdened by desires than elderly men.

Whatever also is useful at every time or at most times, is more useful, thus justice ami temperance than courage, for the former are always, but the latter is sometimes useful. Again, that which all men possessing we require nothing else, (is more eligible) than that which (all) possessing we should require something else beside, as in the case of justice and courage, for if all men were just, courage would not at all be useful, but though all men were courageous, justice would be useful.

Further, (we can derive arguments) from corruptions and rejections, generations, assumptions, and contraries, for those, the corruptions of which are more to be avoided, are themselves more eligible. Likewise with rejections and contraries, for whether the rejection or the contrary is more to be avoided, it is itself more eligible. Still in generations and assumptions the contrary occurs, and those are more eligible whose assumptions and generations are so.

Another place is, that the nearer to the good is better and preferable, also the more similar to the good, as justice than a just man. Likewise what is more similar to the better than itself, as some say that Ajax was better than Ulysses, because he was more similar to Achilles. The objection to this is that it is not true, since nothing prevents Ajax from being more similar to Achilles, not so far as Achilles was the best; the other (Ulysses) being indeed good, yet not similar. We must also see whether the similar exists in things more ridiculous, as an ape is like a man, when a horse is not so, since the ape is not more beautiful, but more similar to man. Again, in two things, if one more resembles the better, but the other the worse, that will be the better which more resembles the better. Yet this also has an objection, since there is nothing to prevent the one being in a small degree similar to the better, but the other being very similar to the worse. As if Ajax was a little like Achilles, but Ulysses excessively like Nestor. Also if what resembles the better is like so far as pertains to the worse, but what resembles the worse so far as belongs to the better, as a horse with respect to an ass, and an ape to a man.

Another, the more illustrious, (is preferable) to that which is less so, likewise the more difficult, for the possession of those things is dearer to us which cannot easily be obtained. Again, the more peculiar than the more common. Also that which has less connexion with evils, for that is preferable which no molestation follows, rather than that which it does follow.

Again, if this is simply better than that, that which is the best in this, is better than that which is the best in the other, as, if man is better than horse, the best man also is better than the best horse, and if the best is better than the best, this also is simply better than that, thus, if the best man is better than the best horse, man also simply is better than horse.

Further, those things of which our friends can share are preferable to what they cannot partake of: also those which we would rather do for a friend, are preferable to what we would do for any one, as, to act justly and to do good are preferable to seeming (to do so), for we rather desire to benefit our friends than to seem (to benefit them), but contrarily with regard to casual persons.

Also those which are from abundance are better than such as are necessary, and sometimes indeed are more eligible, for to live well, is better than to live merely, but to live well is from the abundant, and to live itself, is necessary. Sometimes however things which are better are not also more eligible, for if they are better, it is not necessary that they should be more eligible, for instance, to philosophize is better than to get money, yet it is not more eligible to one in want of necessaries. Still it is from abundance, when necessaries being (supplied), a person procures certain other things good; yet perhaps the necessary is almost preferable, but that from abundance is better.

Again, that which cannot be supplied by another is better than what another may supply, as justice fares with regard to courage, also if this thing is eligible without that, but not that without this, as power is not eligible without prudence, but prudence is eligible without power. Also if we deny one of two, that the other may seem to be present with us, that is the more eligible which we desire to seem present, as we disclaim labour in order to appear talented.

Again, that, the absence of which we reprove persons less for bearing with difficulty, is more eligible, and that, the absence of which when it is not borne with difficulty, we rather reprove, is also more eligible.

Chapter 3[edit]

Moreover of things under the same species, that which possesses its own proper virtue (is preferable) to what does not, but when both possess it, that which has it in a greater degree. Further, if one thing causes that to be good with which it is present, but another does not, the efficient is preferable, as what heats is hotter than what does not, yet if both cause it, that which causes it the more, or that which renders the better and more principal thing good, as if one thing causes the soul, but another the body.

Again, from cases, uses, actions, and works, and these from those, for they follow each other; for example, if justly is preferable to courageously, justice also is preferable to courage, and if justice is preferable to courage, justly also is preferable to courageously, and similarly in other things.

Besides, if of the same thing one is the greater good, but the other the less, the greater is preferable, or if it is the good of the greater, it is the greater (good). But also if two things are preferable to a certain thing, the more eligible is to be preferred to the less eligible. Again, that of which the excess is more eligible than the excess (of another thing), is itself more eligible, as friendship than wealth, for the excess of friendship is preferable to the excess of wealth. Also that which a man would rather procure through himself, than which (he procures) through another, e.g. friends than money.

Again, also from addition, if any thing being added to the same, renders the whole more eligible: we must be careful, however, lest we propose such things, in which what is common is employed in one of the things added, or is in some other way co-operative with it, but the rest is not used nor is co-operative; for example, a saw and a sickle (being joined) by constructive art, the saw when conjoined is more eligible, but simply is not so. Again, if any thing being added to the less renders the whole greater. Likewise also from detraction, for when any thing being taken away from the same, the remainder is less, that (which was taken away) will be greater, since what is removed renders the remainder less.

Also, if one is eligible for itself, but the other on account of estimation, as health than beauty. Now, the definition of what is eligible on the score of estimation, is that if no one were conscious, we should not endeavour to obtain it. And it one thing is eligible for its own sake, and on account of estimation, but the other on account of one of them only. And that which is more honourable for its own sake is better and more eligible, but that would be more honourable per se, which, nothing else being about to result, we rather prefer for its own sake.

Moreover, we must distinguish in how many ways the eligible is predicated, and for the sake of what things, as for that of the profitable, or the beautiful, or the pleasant, for whatever is useful to all or to the greater number, would be more eligible than that which is not similarly (so useful). When, however, the same are present to both, we must consider with which they are more present, whether it be the more pleasant, or the more beautiful, or the more profitable. Again, what is for the sake of the better, is more eligible, as what is for the sake of virtue than what is for the sake of pleasure. It is the same also in things to be avoided, for that is more to be avoided which is more an impediment to the eligible, as disease than deformity, since disease is a greater impediment both to pleasure and probity.

Once more, from similarly demonstrating, that the thing proposed is to be avoided and chosen, for a thing of such a kind as that one may similarly choose and avoid it, is less eligible than another thing which is eligible only.

Chapter 4[edit]

We must make then, as we have said, comparisons of things with each other. The same places, however, are also useful for showing whatever is to be chosen or avoided, for it is only requisite to take away the excellence by which one thing surpasses another. For if the more honourable is more eligible, the honourable also is eligible, and if what is more useful is more eligible, the useful also is eligible, it is the same also in other things which have such a comparison. Still in some, by making a comparison of one with the other, we pronounce directly, that either, or that one of them, is eligible, as when we say, that one thing is naturally, but another not naturally, good, for what is naturally good is evidently eligible.

Chapter 5[edit]

Places pre-eminently universal are to be assumed of the more and greater, for when they are thus assumed they will be useful for more (problems); still we may render some of those we have mentioned, more universal by changing the appellation in a slight degree; thus, what is such by nature, is more such than what is not such by nature. Also, if the one causes, but the other does not cause, the thing which possesses that to be such, (or that) in which it is inherent; what is sometimes the cause, is more a thing of this kind than what is not the cause, but if both are causes, that which is rather the cause is a thing of this kind.

Further, if of the same thing, one is more, but another less such, and if the one of a thing of this kind is more such, but the other is not of such a thing such, it is evident that the first is more a thing of this kind. Moreover, from addition (we may derive) a topic, if something being added to the same, renders the whole more such, or if what is added to the less such, makes the whole more such. Likewise from detraction, for that which being taken away, the remainder is less such, is itself more such. Also things which are more unmixed with contraries are more such, as that is whiter which is more unmixed with black. Besides, what has been said before, there is that which is more recipient of the proper definition of the thing proposed, as, if the definition of whiteness be colour separating the sight, that is more white which is more colour separating the sight.

Chapter 6[edit]

If the problem should be laid down partially and not universally, all the above-mentioned universal places confirmatory or subversive are useful. For when we subvert or confirm universally, we also demonstrate particularly, since if a thing is present with every, it is also present with a certain one, and if with none, neither is it with any one. Notwithstanding, those places are above all opportune and common, which are assumed from opposites, coordinates, and cases, for it is similarly probable to assume, if every pleasure is good, that all pain likewise is an evil, and if a certain pleasure is good, that a certain pain also is an evil. Yet more, if a certain sense is not a power, a certain privation of sense also is not impotence, and if a certain thing being the subject of opinion is also that of science, a certain opinion also is science. Again, if any thing unjust is good, something just also is evil, and if any thing done justly is an evil, something done unjustly is good. Also, if something pleasant is to be avoided, a certain pleasure is to be avoided; on this account too, if any thing pleasant is profitable, a certain pleasure is profitable. In things corruptive also, and in generations and corruptions in like manner, for if any thing which is corruptive of pleasure or science is good, a certain pleasure or science would be of the number of things evil; similarly also if a certain corruption of science be among the number of good thing, or a generation be among evil things, a certain science will be amongst things evil, for instance, if to forget the base acts a person has committed, is among things good, or to remember them, is amongst things evil, to know the base acts which any one has perpetrated, will be amongst evils. It is the same also with the others, for in all there is similar probability.

Moreover, (there is a place) from the more, and the less, and the similarly. For if any one thing of those from another genus is more such, but no one of those is such, neither will what was mentioned be such, e.g. if a certain science is more a good than pleasure, but no science is good, neither will pleasure be. And in the same way from the similarly and the less, for both to subvert and to confirm, will be possible, except (that we may do) both from the similarly, but from the less, only confirm, and not subvert. For if a certain power is similarly good, and science, but a certain power is good, a certain science also is, but if no power, neither is science; still, if a certain power is less a good than science, but a certain power is good, science also is. On the other hand, if no power is good, it is not necessary also that no science should be good, wherefore we can evidently only confirm, from the less.

Notwithstanding, we may not only subvert from another genus, but also from the same, by assuming what is especially such; as if it is admitted that a certain science is good, but it should be shown that prudence is not good, neither will any other be, since what especially seems (good) is not (so). Once more, from hypothesis, when in the same way it is assumed, that if a thing is present or not, with one, it is also or not, with all, as if the soul of man is immortal, that other (souls) also are, but if this is not, that neither are the others. If indeed then a thing is assumed present with a certain one, it must be proved not present with a certain one, since it will follow through the hypothesis that it is present with nothing, but if it is laid down not present with any, we must show that it is present with some one, for thus it will follow that it is present with all. Indeed it is evident that he who makes this hypothesis, makes the problem universal, which was laid down as particular, for he requires that to be acknowledged universal, which was allowed to be particular, since if it is present with one, he assumes it similarly present with all.

The problem then being indefinite, it is possible to subvert it in one way, as if a person said that pleasure is good or not good, and added nothing else in the definition. For if he said that a certain pleasure is good, we must show universally that no pleasure is, if the proposition is to be subverted. In like manner, also, if he said that a certain pleasure is not good, we must show universally that all is, for otherwise subversion is impossible; since if we have shown that a certain pleasure is not good, or that it is good, the proposition is not yet subverted. It is evident then, that subversion is possible in one way, but confirmation in two, for both whether we show universally that all pleasure is good, or that a certain pleasure is good, the proposition will have been proved. Likewise if it should be required to be argued that a certain pleasure is not good, if we have proved that no pleasure is good, or that a certain one is not good, we shall have argued in both ways, both universally and particularly, that a certain pleasure is not good. The thesis indeed being defined, it will be possible to subvert in two ways, as if it should be laid down that good is present with a certain pleasure, but with a certain (pleasure) is not present, since whether all pleasure, or no pleasure, be proved good, the proposition will be subverted. Still, if it has been admitted that one pleasure only is good, subversion is possible in three ways, for by showing that all, or that none, or that more (pleasures) than one, are good, we shall have subverted the proposition. Nevertheless, the thesis having been defined to a greater extent, as that prudence alone of the virtues is a science, subversion is possible in four ways, for it having been shown that every virtue is science, or that none, or that some other (is a science), as justice, or that prudence itself is not a science, the proposition will have been subverted.

It is also useful to attend to singulars, in which something was said to be inherent or not, as in universal problems. Again, we must look to genera dividing according to species, as far as to individuals, as we observed before, for whether a thing appears present with every, or with none, (the opponent) must be required by him, who has adduced many things, to acknowledge universally, or to bring an objection, in what thing it is not so. Besides, in what things it is possible to define accident, whether in species or in number, it must be considered, if no one of these is present, as that time is not moved, and that neither is it motion, having enumerated how many species of motion there are, since if not one of these is present with time, it is evidently not moved, neither is it motion. Likewise also, (if we wish to show) that the soul is not number, (we must prove) by division, every number is either odd or even, as, if the soul is neither odd nor even, it is clearly not number.

For accident then we must argue through such (places) as these, and in such a manner.