On Sophistical Refutations
On Sophistical Refutations
Written 350 B.C.E
Translated by W. A. Pickard-Cambridge
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 truth.
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 fallacy.
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 argument.