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of our opponent, i.e., with truth as it appears to him. The latter
mode of arguing a question produces only a relative conviction, and
makes no difference whatever to the objective truth of the matter.

II. The two courses that we may pursue are (1) the direct, and (2) the
indirect refutation. The direct attacks the reason for the thesis; the
indirect, its results. The direct refutation shows that the thesis is
not true; the indirect, that it cannot be true.

The direct course admits of a twofold procedure. Either we may
show that the reasons for the statement are false (_nego majorem,
minorem_); or we may admit the reasons or premisses, but show that the
statement does not follow from them (_nego consequentiam)_; that is,
we attack the conclusion or form of the syllogism.

The direct refutation makes use either of the _diversion_ or of the

_(a)_ The _diversion_. - We accept our opponent's proposition as true,
and then show what follows from it when we bring it into connection
with some other proposition acknowledged to be true. We use the two
propositions as the premisses of a syllogism giving a conclusion which
is manifestly false, as contradicting either the nature of things,[1]
or other statements of our opponent himself; that is to say, the
conclusion is false either _ad rem_ or _ad hominem_.[2] Consequently,
our opponent's proposition must have been false; for, while true
premisses can give only a true conclusion, false premisses need not
always give a false one.

[Footnote 1: If it is in direct contradiction with a perfectly
undoubted, truth, we have reduced our opponent's position _ad

[Footnote 2: Socrates, in _Hippia Maj. et alias_.]

_(b) The instance_, or the example to the contrary. - This consists in
refuting the general proposition by direct reference to particular
cases which are included in it in the way in which it is stated, but
to which it does not apply, and by which it is therefore shown to be
necessarily false.

Such is the framework or skeleton of all forms of disputation; for to
this every kind of controversy may be ultimately reduced. The whole of
a controversy may, however, actually proceed in the manner described,
or only appear to do so; and it may be supported by genuine or
spurious arguments. It is just because it is not easy to make out
the truth in regard to this matter, that debates are so long and so

Nor can we, in ordering the argument, separate actual from apparent
truth, since even the disputants are not certain about it beforehand.
Therefore I shall describe the various tricks or stratagems without
regard to questions of objective truth or falsity; for that is a
matter on which we have no assurance, and which cannot be determined
previously. Moreover, in every disputation or argument on any subject
we must agree about something; and by this, as a principle, we must be
willing to judge the matter in question. We cannot argue with those
who deny principles: _Contra negantem principia non est disputandum_.



The _Extension_. - This consists in carrying your opponent's
proposition beyond its natural limits; in giving it as general a
signification and as wide a sense as possible, so as to exaggerate it;
and, on the other hand, in giving your own proposition as restricted
a sense and as narrow limits as you can, because the more general a
statement becomes, the more numerous are the objections to which it is
open. The defence consists in an accurate statement of the point or
essential question at issue.

Example 1. - I asserted that the English were supreme in drama. My
opponent attempted _to_ give an instance to the contrary, and replied
that it was a well-known fact that in music, and consequently in
opera, they could do nothing at all. I repelled the attack by
reminding him that music was not included in dramatic art, which
covered tragedy and comedy alone. This he knew very well. What he had
done was to try to generalise my proposition, so that it would apply
to all theatrical representations, and, consequently, to opera and
then to music, in order to make certain of defeating me. Contrarily,
we may save our proposition by reducing it within narrower limits
than we had first intended, if our way of expressing it favours this

Example 2. - A. declares that the Peace of 1814 gave back their
independence to all the German towns of the Hanseatic League. B. gives
an instance to the contrary by reciting the fact that Dantzig, which
received its independence from Buonaparte, lost it by that Peace. A.
saves himself thus: "I said 'all German towns,' and Dantzig was in

This trick was mentioned by Aristotle in the _Topica_ (bk. viii., cc.
11, 12).

Example 3. - Lamarck, in his _Philosophic Zoologique_ (vol. i., p.
208), states that the polype has no feeling, because it has no nerves.
It is certain, however, that it has some sort of perception; for it
advances towards light by moving in an ingenious fashion from branch
to branch, and it seizes its prey. Hence it has been assumed that its
nervous system is spread over the whole of its body in equal measure,
as though it were blended with it; for it is obvious that the polype
possesses some faculty of perception without having any separate
organs of sense. Since this assumption refutes Lamarck's position, he
argues thus: "In that case all parts of its body must be capable of
every kind of feeling, and also of motion, of will, of thought. The
polype would have all the organs of the most perfect animal in every
point of its body; every point could see, smell, taste, hear, and so
on; nay, it could think, judge, and draw conclusions; every particle
of its body would be a perfect animal and it would stand higher than
man, as every part of it would possess all the faculties which man
possesses only in the whole of him. Further, there would be no reason
for not extending what is true of the polype to all monads, the most
imperfect of all creatures, and ultimately to the plants, which are
also alive, etc., etc." By using dialectical tricks of this kind a
writer betrays that he is secretly conscious of being in the wrong.
Because it was said that the creature's whole body is sensitive to
light, and is therefore possessed of nerves, he makes out that its
whole body is capable of thought.


The _Homonymy_. - This trick is to extend a proposition to something
which has little or nothing in common with the matter in question but
the similarity of the word; then to refute it triumphantly, and so
claim credit for having refuted the original statement.

It may be noted here that synonyms are two words for the same
conception; homonyms, two conceptions which are covered by the same
word. (See Aristotle, _Topica_, bk. i., c. 13.) "Deep," "cutting,"
"high," used at one moment of bodies at another of tones, are
homonyms; "honourable" and "honest" are synonyms.

This is a trick which may be regarded as identical with the sophism
_ex homonymia_; although, if the sophism is obvious, it will deceive
no one.

_Every light can be extinguished.
The intellect is a light.
Therefore it can be extinguished_.

Here it is at once clear that there are four terms in the syllogism,
"light" being used both in a real and in a metaphorical sense. But if
the sophism takes a subtle form, it is, of course, apt to mislead,
especially where the conceptions which are covered by the same word
are related, and inclined to be interchangeable. It is never subtle
enough to deceive, if it is used intentionally; and therefore cases of
it must be collected from actual and individual experience.

It would be a very good thing if every trick could receive some short
and obviously appropriate name, so that when a man used this or that
particular trick, he could be at once reproached for it.

I will give two examples of the homonymy.

Example 1. - A.: "You are not yet initiated into the mysteries of the
Kantian philosophy."

B.: "Oh, if it's mysteries you're talking of, I'll have nothing to do
with them."

Example 2. - I condemned the principle involved in the word _honour_
as a foolish one; for, according to it, a man loses his honour by
receiving an insult, which he cannot wipe out unless he replies with a
still greater insult, or by shedding his adversary's blood or his own.
I contended that a man's true honour cannot be outraged by what he
suffers, but only and alone by what he does; for there is no saying
what may befall any one of us. My opponent immediately attacked
the reason I had given, and triumphantly proved to me that when a
tradesman was falsely accused of misrepresentation, dishonesty, or
neglect in his business, it was an attack upon his honour, which in
this case was outraged solely by what he suffered, and that he could
only retrieve it by punishing his aggressor and making him retract.

Here, by a homonymy, he was foisting _civic honour_, which is
otherwise called _good name_, and which may be outraged by libel and
slander, on to the conception of _knightly honour_, also called _point
d'honneur_, which may be outraged by insult. And since an attack on
the former cannot be disregarded, but must be repelled by public
disproof, so, with the same justification, an attack on the latter
must not be disregarded either, but it must be defeated by still
greater insult and a duel. Here we have a confusion of two essentially
different things through the homonymy in the word _honour_, and a
consequent alteration of the point in dispute.


Another trick is to take a proposition which is laid down relatively,
and in reference to some particular matter, as though it were uttered
with a general or absolute application; or, at least, to take it in
some quite different sense, and then refute it. Aristotle's example is
as follows:

A Moor is black; but in regard to his teeth he is white; therefore, he
is black and not black at the same moment. This is an obvious sophism,
which will deceive no one. Let us contrast it with one drawn from
actual experience.

In talking of philosophy, I admitted that my system upheld the
Quietists, and commended them. Shortly afterwards the conversation
turned upon Hegel, and I maintained that his writings were mostly
nonsense; or, at any rate, that there were many passages in them where
the author wrote the words, and it was left to the reader to find a
meaning for them. My opponent did not attempt to refute this assertion
_ad rem_, but contented himself by advancing the _argumentum ad
hominem_, and telling me that I had just been praising the Quietists,
and that they had written a good deal of nonsense too.

This I admitted; but, by way of correcting him, I said that I had
praised the Quietists, not as philosophers and writers, that is to
say, for their achievements in the sphere of _theory_, but only as
men, and for their conduct in mere matters of _practice_; and that in
Hegel's case we were talking of theories. In this way I parried the

The first three tricks are of a kindred character. They have this
in common, that something different is attacked from that which was
asserted. It would therefore be an _ignoratio elenchi_ to allow
oneself to be disposed of in such a manner.

For in all the examples that I have given, what the opponent says is
true, but it stands in apparent and not in real contradiction with the
thesis. All that the man whom he is attacking has to do is to deny the
validity of his syllogism; to deny, namely, the conclusion which he
draws, that because his proposition is true, ours is false. In this
way his refutation is itself directly refuted by a denial of his
conclusion, _per negationem consequentiae_. Another trick is to refuse
to admit true premisses because of a foreseen conclusion. There are
two ways of defeating it, incorporated in the next two sections.


If you want to draw a conclusion, you must not let it be foreseen, but
you must get the premisses admitted one by one, unobserved, mingling
them here and there in your talk; otherwise, your opponent will
attempt all sorts of chicanery. Or, if it is doubtful whether your
opponent will admit them, you must advance the premisses of these
premisses; that is to say, you must draw up pro-syllogisms, and get
the premisses of several of them admitted in no definite order.
In this way you conceal your game until you have obtained all the
admissions that are necessary, and so reach your goal by making a
circuit. These rules are given by Aristotle in his _Topica_, bk.
viii., c. 1. It is a trick which needs no illustration.


To prove the truth of a proposition, you may also employ previous
propositions that are not true, should your opponent refuse to admit
the true ones, either because he fails to perceive their truth, or
because he sees that the thesis immediately follows from them. In that
case the plan is to take propositions which are false in themselves
but true for your opponent, and argue from the way in which he thinks,
that is to say, _ex concessis_. For a true conclusion may follow
from false premisses, but not _vice versâ_. In the same fashion
your opponent's false propositions may be refuted by other false
propositions, which he, however, takes to be true; for it is with him
that you have to do, and you must use the thoughts that he uses. For
instance, if he is a member of some sect to which you do not belong,
you may employ the declared, opinions of this sect against him, as

[Footnote 1: Aristotle, _Topica_ bk. viii., chap. 2.]


Another plan is to beg the question in disguise by postulating what
has to be proved, either (1) under another name; for instance, "good
repute" instead of "honour"; "virtue" instead of "virginity," etc.;
or by using such convertible terms as "red-blooded animals" and
"vertebrates"; or (2) by making a general assumption covering the
particular point in dispute; for instance, maintaining the uncertainty
of medicine by postulating the uncertainty of all human knowledge. (3)
If, _vice versâ_, two things follow one from the other, and one is to
be proved, you may postulate the other. (4) If a general proposition
is to be proved, you may get your opponent to admit every one of the
particulars. This is the converse of the second.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Idem_, chap. 11. The last chapter of this work contains
some good rules for the practice of Dialectics.]


Should the disputation be conducted on somewhat strict and formal
lines, and there be a desire to arrive at a very clear understanding,
he who states the proposition and wants to prove it may proceed
against his opponent by question, in order to show the truth of the
statement from his admissions. The erotematic, or Socratic, method was
especially in use among the ancients; and this and some of the tricks
following later on are akin to it.[1]

[Footnote 1: They are all a free version of chap. 15 of Aristotle's
_De Sophistici Elenchis_.]

The plan is to ask a great many wide-reaching questions at once, so as
to hide what you want to get admitted, and, on the other hand, quickly
propound the argument resulting from the admissions; for those who are
slow of understanding cannot follow accurately, and do not notice any
mistakes or gaps there may be in the demonstration.


This trick consists in making your opponent angry; for when he is
angry he is incapable of judging aright, and perceiving where
his advantage lies. You can make him angry by doing him repeated
injustice, or practising some kind of chicanery, and being generally


Or you may put questions in an order different from that which the
conclusion to be drawn from them requires, and transpose them, so
as not to let him know at what you are aiming. He can then take no
precautions. You may also use his answers for different or even
opposite conclusions, according to their character. This is akin to
the trick of masking your procedure.


If you observe that your opponent designedly returns a negative answer
to the questions which, for the sake of your proposition, you want
him to answer in the affirmative, you must ask the converse of the
proposition, as though it were that which you were anxious to see
affirmed; or, at any rate, you may give him his choice of both, so
that he may not perceive which of them you are asking him to affirm.


If you make an induction, and your opponent grants you the particular
cases by which it is to be supported, you must refrain from asking him
if he also admits the general truth which issues from the particulars,
but introduce it afterwards as a settled and admitted fact; for, in
the meanwhile, he will himself come to believe that he has admitted
it, and the same impression will be received by the audience, because
they will remember the many questions as to the particulars, and
suppose that they must, of course, have attained their end.


If the conversation turns upon some general conception which has
no particular name, but requires some figurative or metaphorical
designation, you must begin by choosing a metaphor that is favourable
to your proposition. For instance, the names used to denote the two
political parties in Spain, _Serviles_ and _Liberates_, are obviously
chosen by the latter. The name _Protestants_ is chosen by themselves,
and also the name _Evangelicals_; but the Catholics call them
_heretics_. Similarly, in regard to the names of things which admit
of a more exact and definite meaning: for example, if your opponent
proposes an _alteration_, you can call it an _innovation_, as this is
an invidious word. If you yourself make the proposal, it will be the
converse. In the first case, you can call the antagonistic principle
"the existing order," in the second, "antiquated prejudice." What an
impartial man with no further purpose to serve would call "public
worship" or a "system of religion," is described by an adherent as
"piety," "godliness": and by an opponent as "bigotry," "superstition."
This is, at bottom, a subtle _petitio principii_. What is sought to be
proved is, first of all, inserted in the definition, whence it is then
taken by mere analysis. What one man calls "placing in safe custody,"
another calls "throwing into prison." A speaker often betrays his
purpose beforehand by the names which he gives to things. One man
talks of "the clergy"; another, of "the priests."

Of all the tricks of controversy, this is the most frequent, and it is
used instinctively. You hear of "religious zeal," or "fanaticism"; a
"_faux pas_" a "piece of gallantry," or "adultery"; an "equivocal," or
a "bawdy" story; "embarrassment," or "bankruptcy"; "through influence
and connection," or by "bribery and nepotism"; "sincere gratitude," or
"good pay."


To make your opponent accept a proposition, you must give him the
counter-proposition as well, leaving him his choice of the two; and
you must render the contrast as glaring as you can, so that to avoid
being paradoxical he will accept the proposition, which is thus made
to look quite probable. For instance, if you want to make him admit
that a boy must do everything that his father tells him to do, ask him
"whether in all things we must obey or disobey our parents." Or, if
a thing is said to occur "often," ask whether by "often" you are to
understand few or many cases; and he will say "many." It is as though
you were to put grey next black, and call it white; or next white, and
call it black.


This, which is an impudent trick, is played as follows: When your
opponent has answered several of your questions without the answers
turning out favourable to the conclusion at which you are aiming,
advance the desired conclusion, - although it does not in the least
follow, - as though it had been proved, and proclaim it in a tone of
triumph. If your opponent is shy or stupid, and you yourself possess
a great deal of impudence and a good voice, the trick may easily
succeed. It is akin to the fallacy _non causae ut causae_.


If you have advanced a paradoxical proposition and find a difficulty
in proving it, you may submit for your opponent's acceptance or
rejection some true proposition, the truth of which, however, is not
quite palpable, as though you wished to draw your proof from it.
Should he reject it because he suspects a trick, you can obtain your
triumph by showing how absurd he is; should he accept it> you have got
reason on your side for the moment, and must now look about you; or
else you can employ the previous trick as well, and maintain that your
paradox is proved by the proposition which he has accepted. For this
an extreme degree of impudence is required; but experience shows cases
of it, and there are people who practise it by instinct.


Another trick is to use arguments _ad hominem_, or _ex concessis_[1]
When your opponent makes a proposition, you must try to see whether it
is not in some way - if needs be, only apparently - inconsistent with
some other proposition which he has made or admitted, or with the
principles of a school or sect which he has commended and approved, or
with the actions of those who support the sect, or else of those who
give it only an apparent and spurious support, or with his own actions
or want of action. For example, should he defend suicide, you may at
once exclaim, "Why don't you hang yourself?" Should he maintain that
Berlin is an unpleasant place to live in, you may say, "Why don't you
leave by the first train?" Some such claptrap is always possible.

[Footnote 1: The truth from which I draw my proof may he either (1) of
an objective and universally valid character; in that case my proof is
veracious, _secundum veritatem_; and it is such proof alone that has
any genuine validity. Or (2) it may be valid only for the person to
whom I wish to prove my proposition, and with whom I am disputing. He
has, that is to say, either taken up some position once for all as a
prejudice, or hastily admitted it in the course of the dispute; and
on this I ground my proof. In that case, it is a proof valid only for
this particular man, _ad kominem. I_ compel my opponent to grant
my proposition, but I fail to establish it as a truth of universal
validity. My proof avails for my opponent alone, but for no one else.
For example, if my opponent is a devotee of Kant's, and I ground my
proof on some utterance of that philosopher, it is a proof which in
itself is only _ad hominem_. If he is a Mohammedan, I may prove my
point by reference to a passage in the Koran, and that is sufficient
for him; but here it is only a proof _ad hominem_,]


If your opponent presses you with a counter-proof, you will often be
able to save yourself by advancing some subtle distinction, which, it
is true, had not previously occurred to you; that is, if the matter
admits of a double application, or of being taken in any ambiguous


If you observe that your opponent has taken up a line of argument
which will end in your defeat, you must not allow him to carry it to
its conclusion, but interrupt the course of the dispute in time, or
break it off altogether, or lead him away from the subject, and bring
him to others. In short, you must effect the trick which will be
noticed later on, the _mutatio controversiae_. (See § xxix.)


Should your opponent expressly challenge you to produce any objection
to some definite point in his argument, and you have nothing much to
say, you must try to give the matter a general turn, and then talk
against that. If you are called upon to say why a particular physical
hypothesis cannot be accepted, you may speak of the fallibility of
human knowledge, and give various illustrations of it.


When you have elicited all your premisses, and your opponent has
admitted them, you must refrain from asking him for the conclusion,
but draw it at once for yourself; nay, even though one or other of the
premisses should be lacking, you may take it as though it too had been
admitted, and draw the conclusion. This trick is an application of the
fallacy _non causae ut causae_.


When your opponent uses a merely superficial or sophistical argument
and you see through it, you can, it is true, refute it by setting
forth its captious and superficial character; but it is better to
meet him with a counter-argument which is just as superficial and
sophistical, and so dispose of him; for it is with victory that you
are concerned, and not with truth. If, for example, he adopts an

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