Aristotle’s original 13 fallacies

Without question, Aristotle was the first to have engaged in a systematic study of logical fallacies.   In his de Sophisticis Elenchis (On Sophistical Refutations) he sketches out a general definition of logical fallacy (an argument which appears valid, but in fact is not), identifies two major types of fallacy (those depending on language, and those not depending on language) and sketches out an account of 13 of these.  Much could and ought to be said about Aristotle’s discussion.  For the time being, we’ll content ourselves, for historical purposes, with briefly outlining them.

I.  Fallacies dependent on Language (De Soph Elen 4, 165b24-166b28) 

  1. Ambiguity (equivocation or homonymy)
  2. Amphiboly (or ambiguity)
  3. Combination
  4. Division
  5. Accent
  6. Form of expression

II.  Fallacies outside of language (De Soph Elen 5, 166b28-168a18)

  1. Accident
  2. The use of words absolutely or in a certain respect
  3. Misconception of refutation
  4. Begging the question
  5. Consequent
  6. Non causa pro causa
  7. Complex question


5 thoughts on “Aristotle’s original 13 fallacies”

  1. Thank you for the listing , by name, of Aristotle’s “Thirteen Fallacies” in connection with your article on the non sequitur.  I’ve yet to review the corresponding definitions, but appreciate the added support for  criticism of the 2nd Amendment as a fallacious and ambiguous argument constructed  on a non-sequitur.  Much more about the amendment , however, deserves severe criticism, as you may agree, which I won’t include here.  But, if you happen to be as astounded as I that so many revered legal minds  have managed to misinterprete what the amendment actually states–though poorly–I’d be glad to hear back from you.

  2. There should be little ambiguity about the meaning and intent of the 2nd amendment if one looks at the Federalist Papers, no?  The Bill of Rights as a whole is well discussed and defined. 
    Citizens were to be allowed to keep and maintain arms that were in general use by the military at the time.  Is it not true that the term 'regulations' in regard to arms was meant to include the arms and all needed accessories?  A well regulated militia would be a group of citizens who were armed with current military type armaments and any other accessories that would be required of them to use those armaments to best effect.  There was never any mention of terminating the 2nd amendment in the event of the formation of a standing army.  Would it not be true that citizens would be allowed to remain armed even after the formation of a standing army?
    It has been said that the founding fathers never imagined that fully automatic rifles would be designed, and therefore, only arms in use at the time of the formation of the 2nd amendment should be covered.  Nonsense!  The founding fathers would have preferred to have citizens armed with the latest and best arms as these were developed.  Surely a rifle using a percussion cap would be allowed just as the older flintlocks were allowed.  Any incremental improvement would be accepted as well. 

  3. "Without question, Aristotle was the first…" Appears to be a perfect example of the fallacy  'begging the question' . Merely asserting that something is so does not constitute proof

  4. Sadly, Sam, this isn’t an instance of “begging the question.” It might just be false. Which, as you probably know, is different.

  5. If the author of such a claim (“Without question, Aristotle was the first…”) were to cite as his sole and adequate proof that no one before Aristotle did in fact engage in the study of logical fallacies, wouldn’t it not only NOT be’ begging the question’ but true until an evidentiary claim otherwise were made.?

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