Prior Analytics - The Syllogism

The Syllogism

The Prior Analytics represents the first formal study of logic which is the study of arguments; argument being in logic a series of true or false statements which lead to a true or false conclusion. In the Prior Analytics, Aristotle identifies valid and invalid forms of arguments called syllogisms. A syllogism is an argument consisting of three sentences: two premises and a conclusion. Although Aristotles does not call them "categorical sentences," tradition does; he deals with them briefly in the Analytics and more extensively in On Interpretation. Each proposition (statement that is a thought of the kind expressible by a declarative sentence) of a syllogism is a categorical sentence which has a subject and a predicate connected by a verb. The usual way of connecting the subject and predicate of a categorical sentence as Aristotle does in On Interpretation is by using a linking verb e.g. P is S. However, in the Prior Analytics Aristotle rejects the usual form in favor of three of his inventions: 1) P belongs to S, 2) P is predicated of S and 3) P is said of S. Aristotle does not explain why he introduces these innovative expressions but scholars conjecture that the reason may have been that it facilitates the use of letters instead of terms avoiding the ambiguity that results in Greek when letters are used with the linking verb. In his formulation of syllogistic propositions, instead of the copula ("All/some... are/are not..."), Aristotle uses the expression, "... belongs to/does not belong to all/some..." or "... is said/is not said of all/some..." There are four different types of categorical sentences: universal affirmative (A), particular affirmative (I), universal negative (E) and particular negative (O).

  • A - A belongs to every B
  • E — A belongs to no B
  • I - A belongs to some B
  • O - A does not belong to some B

A method of symbolization that originated and was used in the Middle Ages greatly simplifies the study of the Prior Analytics. Following this tradition then, let:

a = belongs to every

e = belongs to no

i = belongs to some

o = does not belong to some

Categorical sentences may then be abbreviated as follows:

AaB = A belongs to every B (Every B is A)

AeB = A belongs to no B (No B is A)

AiB = A belongs to some B (Some B is A)

AoB = A does not belong to some B (Some B is not A)

From the viewpoint of modern logic, only a few sentences may be represented in this way.

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