Page images
PDF
EPUB

-

II.

BOOK absolutely — but they are likely in a certain and limited sense; that is, they may be expected sometimes to happen against general likelihood. Probability cannot be opposite to probability, when the words are taken in the same acceptation; but probability used generally and simply, may be opposite to probability with an adjunct or condition, that is, with probability taken in a particular sense. In all such specious and often perplexing sophistry, the deception arises from leaving out of sight the time, place, and other circumstances, the introduction of which would prevent the confusion, and enable us to distinguish between things really different. In teaching the artifices of this captious wrangling, the Rhetoric of Corax is employed. A man, for instance, is accused of an assault. If he appears to be of a feeble frame, how can he be suspected of it? Would he provoke, by blows, the anger of a person stronger than himself? If he appears, on the contrary, to be of an athletic form, exactly calculated for combat, how could he expose himself to an accusation which every one, who looks on him, will be inclined to believe.

In this manner, by neglecting the distinctions above mentioned, one probability may always be opposed by another, and the worse be made to appear the better reason. This sophistry, carried to the utmost height by Protagoras, provoked general indignation; for the probabilities which he assumed were fit only for the schools of disputants, and such as no man ever acted on in the real business of life. So much concerning

enthymemes or arguments; those that are solid, CHAP. and those only specious.

XXIV.

XXV.

number.

THE subject, naturally following, is that of CHA P. solutions; to explain how knotty arguments may be untied. Arguments may be exposed and Solutions and objecdefeated in two ways; either by a contrary ar- tions, their gument, or by an objection. As probable topics nature and may be opposed to each other, the enumeration before given will enable us to maintain any opinion, or its contrary; that is, to state the probabilities on the other side of the question. But arguments may not only be thus attacked by arguments, but resisted by an objection: this is done in four ways; since the objection may be drawn from the thing in question, from something like to it, from something contrary to it; or lastly, from a previous judgment passed on the contested point. First, from the thing itself: should we investigate the nature of love, whether it be good or evil; the objection may be either general, as that love implies want, and that want is an evil; or particular, that if all love were good, we should not hear a Kaunian love branded with infamy.56 Secondly, from the contrary; should it be argued that a good man benefits his friends, it may be objected, that bad men do not always injure their friends. Thirdly, from the like, that is, from parity of reason, should it be mentioned that men hate those who have done them ill, the objec

36 The incestuous amours of Kaunus and his sister Biblis.

II.

BOOK tion may be made, that they do not always love those who have done them good. Fourthly, from a previous decision of the question by persons in high estimation. Thus, should it be pretended, that men ought not to be made answerable for crimes committed by them in a state of intoxication it may ; be objected, "the sage Pittacus then decided most unwisely, when he decreed a greater punishment for drunkards."

An argument can be maintained in four ways only. First, as probable, that is, conformable to what happens for the most part; secondly, we may produce an example in its favour; thirdly, we may reason from a simple sign or indication 57; fourthly, from a test or criterion. To all these forms of reasoning, except the last, objections may always be made. For that which happens only for the most part, cannot be necessary: arguments from likelihood, therefore, always admit of an answer: their conclusion may be shown not necessarily to follow; and when this is done, the judge will often think the objector in the right, or the case too nice for his decision. For this reason, the defender enjoys an undue advantage over the accuser. The accuser was only bound to prove the probability of his charge, not its certainty; for, to be guided by probability, is to use our best judgment, and to proceed on the surest ground that the nature of the question affords. A fair objection, there

57 The author here repeats, briefly and obscurely, concerning examples and signs, what he had said fully and clearly, in the second chapter of the first book,

XXV.

fore, is that which opposes a smaller probability CHAP. by a greater; one founded on examples more numerous or of more frequent occurrence. The proof will be the strongest, when both circumstances concur; in which case the adversary must endeavour to show that these examples are of an inferior quality to his own; either less weighty in themselves, or less apposite to the point in question. The last form of argument is alone irrefragable; for the criterion is the test of truth: nothing can resist it, but showing that it does not apply to the subject; for when it does apply, conviction is inevitable.

distin

Topics are the principles of enthymemes, the Topics and centre in which they unite, the root from which arguments they branch. To amplify or extenuate, to aug- guished. ment or diminish, is not the business of topics; for there are arguments showing things to be great or little, as well as arguments showing them to be just or unjust, beneficial or hurtful, praise-worthy or blameable. If none of these latter are topics, neither are the former; for a topic is not an argument; but the place as it were of arguments, the principle in which they coincide, the source from which they flow. Neither are enthymemes which refute, different in kind from those which serve to prove: they consist of similar materials; for to refute is only to prove the contrary of that which is asserted that the thing is not, which is said to be, or that the thing said to have happened, has not taken place; and this it does, either by argument, or by an objection showing that the conclusion is

II.

BOOK not logical, or that some falsehood has been assumed in the premises. So much concerning examples, sentiments, enthymemes, the invention of arguments, and the refutation of them; that is, of all that part of rhetoric consisting in the thought or matter 58: we now proceed to treat of style and method.

58 This subject is treated in Cicero's two books de Inventione Rhetorica, in his Topica, and in the first and second books de Oratore. It also runs through no less than six books of Quintilian's Institutes. In writing on Rhetoric, these illustrious Romans display their own eloquence; but Aristotle writes on Rhetoric, by no means rhetorically. He is sparing of words, and rich in things: he adheres strictly to his subject, and his explanation of every thing essential to it, is pre-eminently copious, correct, and perspicuous. His Rhetoric, therefore, (as Cicero says with admirable candour,) is distinguished above every other, by his bringing to the study and improvement of an art, which he despised, the same powerful energies of thought, which he had gloriously exerted in the wide field of universal science. De Oratore, l. ii. c. 38.

« PreviousContinue »