Epictetus
Epictetus


Chapter 8: Concerning Faculties and the Uninstructed

Just as we can change things which are equivalent to one another in an algebraic equation, we can change the forms of arguments. Here is an example: "If you have borrowed and not repaid, you owe me the money. If you have not borrowed and you have not repaid, then you do not owe me the money." To do this skillfully is suitable to no man more than to the philosopher. If the enthymeme is an imperfect syllogism, it is plain that he who has been exercised in the perfect syllogism must be equally expert in the imperfect also.

An enthymeme is a spurious and often facetious form of argument. It generally makes a statement that leaves out the major premise. A good example is when Mark Twain said of the Composer Wagner, "There is no law against composing music when one has no ideas whatsoever. The music of Wagner, therefore, is perfectly legal." Although he was implying that Wagner had no ideas, the conclusion did not follow logically. Enthymeme was a form often used by Sophists to create an impression of something that was not true as actually true. Its very structure, which presumes only one possibility when many are possible, is not logically pure and its conclusions, though often humorous, are even more often erroneous.

Logic is a powerful tool. Epictetus makes no bones about this. It is handy for philosophers as well as the common man. It is good to be able to see the sense in something someone says and also pick out the flaws of an argument. If we do not recognize such Sophistries as enthymemes, how can we then know what is true or false base on deduction?

Chapter 8:

  1. Concerning Faculties and the Uninstructed
  2. Why Not Sophistry? (8a)
  3. Sophistry No Virtue (8b)
Stoicism and Christianity Index

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This is a translation and explanation of the first book of the Discourses of Epictetus. His words are in regular text, comments are in bold.

Biographical Information on Epictetus


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