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