The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; the Art of Controversy eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 90 pages of information about The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; the Art of Controversy.
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.

II.

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.”

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