Aristoteles Latinus VI 1-3, De sophisticis elenchis. Translatio Boethii, Fragmenta Translationis Iacobi, et Recensio Guillelmi de Moerbeke, edidit B. G. Dod, Leiden-Bruxelles 1975, 5-60 (Corpus Philosophorum Medii Aeui)
The subject of this work is the sophistic proof, a method of arguing in favor of or against a given thesis of only apparent validity. Its first part (chapters 1-15) explains the contents and limits of the treatise, offering definitions of ‘syllogism’ and ‘proof,’ setting forth language as the scope of the exposition, and describing ‘sophists’ as those who use an apparent syllogism to advance a misleading use of wisdom for the sake of profit. Sections 4-11 consider apparent proofs and questions related to them: the distinction between proofs in dictione and proofs extra dictionem, which are discussed together with all their possible typologies; the subjective conditions of appearance, i.e. the reasons why some individuals do not recognize appearances as such, instead mistaking them for reality; and the differences between proofs that are apparent because of their apparent conclusiveness and those that are apparent because they are apparently based on reality. Moving to the concrete level of dialectic confrontation, the work then demonstrates the ways in which, in the course of an argument, questions are able to be posed sophistically, i.e. in a manner that confounds the interlocutor; the best response is that which impedes the progression of the sophistic argument to the greatest extent possible by interrupting the progress of the apparent proof; in order to do this, one must understand the theory of sophistic arguments, and also know the tactics the sophist will employ in his attack when he undertakes an interrogation of specifics. The second part of the work (chapters 16-34) treats the resolution of such argumentation, which depends both on one’s theoretical knowledge of the solutions and on one’s ability to use them effectively during a discussion. The work proceeds to treat the resolution of all the apparent proofs in dictione (those based on homonymy and amphibole, on conjunction and division, on accentuation, on the form of the word, etc.), then turns to the resolution of those that are extra dictionem (e.g. those of chance, those based on the relationship between ‘simply’ and ‘solely,’ those of ignoratio elenchi, those of logical sequence, those of non causa, etc.). Of particular relevance in this section is the skill of responding through differentiation at the precise moments when questions arise in order to interrupt the progression of the sophistic argument through its own premises. Since the sophists are willfully deceitful, even the use of stratagems aimed solely at confounding one’s interlocutor is considered acceptable.
The Boethian translation of the Elenchi is transmitted by about 250 manuscripts of the 13th and 14th c. [Arist. Lat. Cod. II, Cambridge 1955]; none of these, however, bears the name ‘Boethius,’ and Boethius himself never makes explicit reference to his translation of this work (Brandt 1903), which seems to have been forgotten until the first half of the 12th c., when Abelardo read and cited it (Glossae, ed. Geyer, 400 and 489). One of the 12th c. manuscripts of the “vulgate” version of the Elenchi (viz. cod. 498, Chartres Bibl. Municip.) was destroyed in 1944; the only one still extant is now Ambrosianus I.195 inf., with the next oldest being Cod. O.7.9, Trinity College, Cambridge (start of the 13th c.). The decision to attribute the version witnessed by these codices to Boethius is based on linguistic analysis and comparison with other translations that Boethius is known to have composed: the language of the “vulgate” edition of the Elenchi largely agrees with the “vulgate” edition of the Prior Analytics and the Topics (Minio Paluello 1954). Moreover, in this version of the Elenchi one finds a characteristic of Boethius that distinguishes him from other Medieval translators, namely his tendency to substitute Aristotle’s explanatory citations of Greek authors with the same number of citations from Latin authors (e.g. cfr. El., Bekker 166b, 3-8, where Hor. Carm. 1.25.8-9 and Verg. A. 5.13 replace the Homeric verses cited by Aristotle). [M. Ferroni; tr. C. L. Caterine].