Begging the Question as a Criticism of an Argument in Itself in Topics 8.11
At Topics 8.11 161b19–33 Aristotle lists five criticisms (
) which may be leveled against a dialectical argument ‘in
itself’ ( ). The five criticisms correspond in many respects to the familiar conditions Aristotle places on syllogism and refutation.
However, begging the question (BTQ)—the violation of the condition that the conclusion of a syllogism be something different ( )
from the premises—seems not to appear on the list of five criticisms . That this omission is only apparent becomes clear once it is seen
that the five criticisms are not independent but rather amount to five successive filters through which an argument may be passed before its non-genuineness (as a syllogism or refutation) is exposed. This result sheds light on Aristotle's curious insistence, in the face of the heterogeneity
of his examples of BTQ in Topics 8.13, that every question-begging refutation contains a premise that is ‘the same’ as the conclusion. The fact that the five criticisms expose BTQ as a defect in syllogistic reasoning (as opposed to a mere ‘dialectical’ foul)
suggests we may trace the origin of Aristotle's familiar definition of syllogism to the scoring system in the game of dialectic.
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