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Aristotle on Dialectic

Hamlyn, D. W

Philosophy, 1990, Vol.65(254), pp.465-476 [Peer Reviewed Journal]

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  • Title:
    Aristotle on Dialectic
  • Author: Hamlyn, D. W
  • Description: There have in recent years been at least two important attempts to get to grips with Aristotle's conception of dialectic. I have in mind those by Martha C. Nussbaum in ‘Saving Aristotle's appearances’, which is chapter 8 of her The Fragility of Goodness , and by Terence H. Irwin in his important, though in my opinion somewhat misguided, book Aristotle's First Principles . There is a sense in which both of these writers are reacting to the work of G. E. L. Owen on cognate matters, particularly his well-known paper ‘ Tithenai ta phainomena ’. Owen himself was in part reacting to what I suppose is the traditional view of how Aristotle regarded dialectic, as revealed in Topics I. 1. On that view dialectic is for Aristotle a lesser way of proceeding than is demonstration, the method of science. For demonstration proceeds from premises which are accepted as true in themselves (that is to say that they are essentially and thus in some sense necessarily true) and moves from them to conclusions which follow necessarily from those premises; and the middle term of such a demonstrative syllogism then provides the ‘reason why’ for the truth of the conclusion. Dialectic proceeds from premises which are accepted on a lesser basis ‘by everyone or by the majority or by the wise, i.e. by all, or by the majority, or by the most notable and reputable of them’ ( Topics I.1, 100b21–3), and proceeds deductively from them to further conclusions.
  • Is Part Of: Philosophy, 1990, Vol.65(254), pp.465-476
  • Identifier: ISSN: 0031-8191 ; E-ISSN: 1469-817X ; DOI: 10.1017/S003181910006469X
  • Subjects: Nussbaum, Martha C ; Irwin, Terence H ; Aristotle (384-22 Bc) ; Science ; Philosophy ; Literature ; Aristotle

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