Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dialectic and Method in Aristotle

Portrait of Aristoteles. Pentelic marble, copy...Aristotle. Image via Wikipedia


Aristotle's overall method is described as a philosophical inquiry beginning with appearances and undertaking to resolve apparent puzzles. Dialectic arguments originate from endoxa, or commonly held opinions. The enoxa serve as the first series of premises of scientific demonstrations. Arguements are classified according to their premises: some are in accordance with a particular art (field of study), i.e. rest on premises peculiar to that art, whereas others are general. It is the general arguements which are available for dialectic inquiry; the focus is on deriving the general truth as opposed to circumstancial truth.

Aristotle came to see the inadequacy of of the appeal to intuition for the justification of arguements and sought its replacement through dialectical proofs. To establish truth, a method allowing participants to syllogize from common beliefs needed establishment. This is known as the dialectic.

Since Aristotle believed everyone has a built-in grasp of the truth, the opinions of the many, as well as the wise are acceptable, although each needed clarification and correction. The dialectician is to collect the views from each type of person and use them to gauge the acceptability of premises to a particular opponent. However, not everyone's opinion is treated with equal weight.

When a general agreement is initially reached when attempting dialectic dialogue, it is acceptable in some instances to perpetuate false premises for examination. The false premise than can be argued for and against to establish truth in dialectic dialogue. The key property of dialectic is to examine completely the opinions presented on the topic from the truths contained therein.
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