Brief summary of modem research Aristotle's Topics is a handbook on how to argue successfully in a debate that is structured in a certain way. It consists of eight books which fall into two main parts: the six middle books (B-Z) deliver a list of the so-called topoil which are designed to help a disputant win a debate; the outer books (A and E>) describe what could be called the context of the debate as well as certain notions that are important for the understanding of the topoi. The Topics is also, so to speak, the official version of Aristotle's dialectic that originates in the argument between two persons who learn through debate how to find arguments pro and contra a thesis as displayed in the Topics. For a very long time the Aristotelian Topics was a fairly neglected work. One important reason for this seems to have been the wide-spread opinion that its contents were just a muddled theory of argumentation out of which the Prior Analytics finally crystallized: Aristotle proceeded from Platonic dialectic to his syllogistic. 2 Hence, it appeared to be better to work on the latter straightaway. 3 Another reason seems to have been the generally agreed opinion that Aristotle had a low regard for dialectic.4 Of course, these opinions are not entirely incorrect. Clearly, the Topics was strongly influenced by Plato, especially the late dialogues, and it is also true that many concepts are found in the Topics which only crystallized later in the Analytics or various other writings. Even so, scarcely any scholar seemed concerned to demonstrate this: the Topics was simply ignored. Thus in the period between 1900 and 1950 we do not have many pertinent texts; however the texts we do have are very useful, even though they usually only deal with certain aspects of the Topics. Thus Hambruch (1908) shows many similarities between Plato's dialogues and Aristotle's Topics. Von Amim (1927) investigates the ethical content of book f of the Topics. So1msen (1929) deals mainly with the Rhetoric, but also deals much with the Topics and clearly recognizes that the notion of syllogism in the Topics is not that of a categorical syllogism, but of something different. LeBlond (1939) stresses that despite the fact that dialectic has merely to do with reputable opinions and Aristotle sometimes speaks derogatively of it, dialectic and reputable opinions actually have a great importance in Aristotle's method of work in his writings.
1 Topos (pl. topoi) is the transliteration of the Greek T07fo<; (pl. T01fOt) which I shall be using throughout this book rather than any of the possible English translations such as 'topic' or 'commonplace' which can be misleading. 2 Cf. e.g. Maier (1896-1900), II, 2, p.77, Chroust (1963), pp. 27-57, Kneale (1989 10), p. 33. 3 Cf. e.g. Ross (19956, 1923 1), p. 57: "We have neither the space nor the wish to follow Aristotle in his laborious exploration of the T07fOI, the pigeon-holes from which dialectical reasoning is to draw its arguments. The discussion belongs to a by-gone mode of thought [ ... ];it is his [Aristotle's] own Analytics that have made his Topics out of date." 4 Cf. Maier (1896-1900), II I, p. 29; Hamelin (1920), p. 230. 2 INTRODUCTION
The fifties saw an important publication in an article by Bochenski (1951a) who was the first scholar in this century to deal with topoi in the Topics and define the question which later occupied many scholars, namely whether a topos is a rule or a law; as the title of his article shows-"Non analytical Laws and Rules in Aristotle"-Bochenski does not commit himself to either. Colli (1955) writes a commentary on the Organon, which includes the Topics. Braun (1959) represents the first book which is entirely dedicated to the Topics; the author tries to show the unity of all eight books of the Topics and points out their similarities. From the sixties onwards scholars began to take more and more interest in the Topics. The erudite and exact work of de Pater (1965) is certainly the best monograph on the Topics to date. Not much later, probably the most important book on the Topics appeared, namely the edition of the first four books of the Topics with a long introduction and notes by Brunschwig (1967).5 The Third Symposium Aristotelicum was devoted to the Topics and there are many interesting articles in its published proceedings edited by Owen (1968a). Sainati (1968) offers illuminating theories about the predicables and the topoi. The works by de Pater and especially those by Brunschwig and Sainati are certainly the best on the Topics and most pertinent to the subject of this book and their views will be scrutinized accordingly. A few more books have been published since then, such as Zadro (1974) who provides a full-scale commentary on the Topics and, more recently, Pelletier (1991), but none of them as impressive as those mentioned above.6 Interestingly, excellent books have been published on the tradition and influence of the Topics in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, especially by N.J. Green-Pedersen and E. Stump.7 However, substantial research has been published in the form of articles on various dialectical notions such as predication, predicables and dialectical syllogism and especially on dialectical method in other Aristotelian writings; to cite some of these authors-J. Barnes, E. Berti, T. Ebert, D. Hadgopoulos and, more recently, especially R. Bolton and R. Smith.8 One important result seems to have been achieved as a result of most of these works, namely the insight that the Topics is not just a predecessor of the Analytics, but that it represents something quite different, which is of great importance with respect to Aristotle's philosophy as a whole. There are also a number of articles on the topoi and how they work. However, the authors do not seem to have gone further than de Pater, Brunschwig or Sainati: either the views of the above-mentioned three scholars are adopted or the authors try to find something out about topoi without taking the larger context into consideration and using all sorts of modern theories of logic or argumentation. However, if one does not take the larger
5 Regrettably, the edition of the four remaining books has still not appeared. 6 Most recently, a monograph by Oliver Primavesi, Die Aristotelische Topik, Zetemata 94, Miinchen 1996 has been published which unfortunately could not be taken into account in time for this publication. 7 Cf. section U in the classified bibliography. 8 Cf sections Q, especially Q 5, P, M and N in the classified bibliography.