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Silly Syllogism or not?

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This is from my ENG555 Class. I don’t know if I understood the subject clearly or not, and since no one responded on the class discussion board, I figure I’d throw it out there. (Marlen, you DON’T have to reply, but are always welcome to.)

Aristotle introduced syllogisms into his arguments on persuasion and such. I know I’ve seen them before, but never fully understood them. So, take a look, let me know if I have it right…or not.

From my class:

First I must admit that I have always had difficulty understanding the ideas behind syllogisms. Finally, I think that I grasp them. So is this right, “Greek philosophers give me a headache. Aristotle is a Greek philosopher. Therefore, Aristotle gave me a headache.”

Now, having made that premise and statement, I examine it. Based on what we read in Book II, part 25, my syllogism must be based on one of the following: 1) Probability, 2) Example, 3) Infallible Signs or 4) Ordinary Signs. Let’s examine the strength of each one:

Probability – It is usually true that long reading will cause me a headache. Whether or not that is applicable to all doesn’t matter. It’s a fact that is USUALLY true. I do have the ability to read for a long period without a headache, so probability IS NOT the STRONGEST basis.

Example – To provide examples, I would have to produce WITNESSES of the fact that long readings cause me to have a headache. In this situation, counter-arguments could be made and the CREDIBILITY of my witnesses becomes an issue.

Infallible Signs – I could argue that if I sit down to read for a long period that I will INEVITABLY get a headache. Since the future cannot be proven, this is likely the weakest argument I could make concerning my statement.

Ordinary Signs – If I can find studies or show that my physical posture while reading causes the headache, I may argue that is a UNIVERSAL point, BUT if I blame it on my physical posture, then the headache has NOTHING TO DO with reading Greek philosophy.


A much stronger statement or syllogism for me and this situation could be: “When I read, I practice poor posture. Poor posture increases my chances of a headache. Because I read for a long time, I developed a headache.”

I believe I could apply all four of those basis to my argument. Most agree that poor posture PROBABLY has negative physical affects. Medical STUDIES could provide examples. My poor posture could be EXPECTED to produce a headache. UNIVERSALLY good posture is more conducive to health, otherwise the opposite could not be named POOR posture.

Someone, PLEASE post and let me know if I understand all that correctly.

In Book III, Aristotle addresses the three parts to an effective speech. I am sure by now that I shared that during my time in the Army I was an interrogator. No, I never participated or knew of any torture, so please don’t ask me about it. Every interrogation I performed, last number I noticed was around 350, was an exercise in those three points discussed in Section 1, Book III. It was so important to determine beforehand WHAT I KNEW about the detainee (audience). I had to be ready and prepared to refute any counter-arguments and that I chose my words well. HOW I SPOKE was amazingly crucial. Negotiation, interrogation, discourse, discussion, whatever you want to call it, the importance of TONE CONTROL cannot be overstated. That lesson on TONE also plays a big role when dealing with students or in any confrontation. When someone raises their voice volume, lower yours. It’s amazing!



  1. Quo says:

    I have only just taken a look at this blog entry. I must admit, in my discussion post for the same week I mentioned how I had never heard of syllogisms and I must agree with you, I am still unclear, but I appreciate your trying to write about it and I must say that I laughed out loud.

    After laughing, I re-read your post and I think I sort of got it. My dog, Puff, always makes a big to do about going outside because he wants a treat upon his return. The probability that he goes is usually true but sometimes I think he wills himself to give the tiniest tinkle in hopes he will get a treat upon his return. Again, as you have stated, I need witnesses that might at least collaborate my story, but I know that not everyone believes me when I tell them that Puff does this on purpose for treats. If I find studies that show that all dogs know how to pretend for treats then it would be a universal point, right? Or, if it is just applicable to the way I have trained Puff then it is not, right? Am I following your line of thinking correctly? Sigh . . .


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Richard says:

    Hi Quo!

    Thanks for leaving a comment. Pups are funny, aren’t they? Sounds like Puff knows he has a sweet deal. I guess, if he used a doggy syllogism, it would be something like, “I’m happy whenever I get treats. I get treats every time I go potty. So I’m happy when I go potty.”

    As for the probability or likelihood, whatever you want to call it, some things don’t have to be proven – things like, water is always wet; our hearts need to beat for us to live; fire burns, etc. Those are known and impossible to refute. A situation I had to come to terms with was when I was interrogating detainees in Iraq. They had ALREADY been found guilty by the Iraqi court, so whether they “argued” or tried to “persuade” ME of their innocence.

    Witnesses, studies, research are all things that can help lessen doubt, so increase probability. Aristotle even mentions (please don’t ask me where exactly) that the status of the witness increases or decreases the value of their testimony.

    I hope this helps clarify for you. I think one reason I get headaches (thanks for giving me one because now I had to think about Greek philosophers (LOL)) is that there are always deeper and deeper questions to ask on any topic. I know sometimes that causes me to second guess or doubt my understanding.

    Take care!


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