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Russia and the Emails as an Ethical Dilemma

Consider the following argument:
(1) Information is provided that appears to be evidence that someone has committed a crime or otherwise acted inappropriately in ways that are very significant. It may also provide evidence that exposes systematic corruption.
(2) But the information was provided by a source that is disreputable and possibly even hostile.
(3) Therefore the information should be ignored.

Some might say that the information itself and who is providing it are two separate issues. If you take the present actors out of the situation and look at it as a question of ethical norms, it does appear that a case could be made for either side and that there might actually be cases where you might agree with (3) for the good of the country. I think it poses an interesting ethical dilemma and not one easily resolved for or against (3).
In the case of the present election, I think it turns out that the further a Trump presidency fades from reality, the more it begins to look as if the Russians have actually done us a service by exposing possible corruption. It will hopefully make our political processes less suspect by exposing corruption where it exists and make us into less of a country where elites who are able to manipulate the system are able to get the upper hand. If there is a flaw it really is that Trump’s side is the side presenting the information and for that reason it will likely be ignored for partisan reasons. But it will be interesting to see what happens after the election.

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Aristotle’s four modes of perseity (Posterior Analytics I.4): Introduction (parts 3 and 4)

Perseity and Identification

{The texts in Aristotle’s corpus relevant to the following discussion have been placed at the end of the essay for ease of reference}

The general way in which the notion of persiety can be characterized has been explained above  (See Introduction I and II ).  Part 1 in the present series emphasized the difference between necessary and accidental connections, while Aristotle’s “said of all” was explored in part 2 as a criterion for necessity.  What remains to be seen is the way in which each of these two discussions help to situate the notion of an essential attribute, and prepare the way for a deeper understanding of the role that kath’hauto (per se) predicates play in Aristotle’s larger schema for organizing knowledge.


What I would like to argue, as a preliminary matter, is that kath’hauto predicates indicate that one term is related to another in such a way that it may be said to be entailed by the very possibility of the existence (or being) of another thing.  Thus, in the example given above, “point” bears a kath’hauto or per se relationship to “line” because it is one of the conditions necessary for there to be a line.  (See Note* below)  But the true importance of the role such predicates play, is that they serve to anchor one term to another, thus enabling a schema for identifying a certain subject/substance as one thing or another.  As will be seen, this has the further consequence that kath’hauto predicates help to give “atomic” subjects their atomicity.

In keeping with Aristotle’s recommended procedure for exploring a subject, we will proceed from what is better known to us toward a formulation that will be more intelligible in itself.  I will proceed to show how the identification of smallpox sorts with Aristotle’s overall scheme for identifying a thing as something or other, and in the process, make clear the role that kath’hauto predicates play within this framework.  In brief, my contention will be that they can be viewed as a necessary term or as a conjuction of necessary terms that are sufficient to identify a particular subject.  The precise way in which they are sufficient will have to be worked out as we proceed.  If all that I am about to say is correct, it will show the way in which Aristotle’s theories of research and syllogistic proof are actually quite compatible with modern scientific methods.  As will become clear, it is by emphasizing the role of identification in having an account of a thing that the theory of demonstration can come to be seen as useful for the purposes of scientific research.

The smallpox example

Suppose that you are a nurse working in a hospital.  One day someone comes into the hospital with the following symptoms: flu-like symptoms, including a headache, vomiting, and high fever.  Moreover, there are the beginnings of a kind of rash in the patient’s mouth, and the patients complains of a backache and overall fatigue.  What can be concluded from these symptoms?  Not much in the way of identifying their precise cause, since they could apply to many causes.  It is always possible that even all the syptoms together, which are the symptoms of smallpox, might not be enough to conclude that the patient has smallpox.  It could be the case, for example, that the rash in the patient’s mouth is due to an infection of some kind that is totally unrelated to the other symptoms.

These symptoms could be said to be the necessary conditions for having smallpox.  Note that these conditions/symptoms are not even sufficient when taken together or conjunctively to make an identification.  What is lacking are the truly characteristic markers that will yield such an identification according to which one can make a determination that what is before us is smallpox and not something else.

There are two ways that such an identification might be made.  One way would be to wait until further symptoms present themselves, such as the characteristic pustules that can yield a positive diagnosis.  Another way might be to give the patient a blood test whereby the virus that causes smallpox, variola major, can be identified.  In the case of the former method, the patient will become highly contagious and in 30% of cases death occurs.  Moreover, in the initial stages of the formation the characteristic pustules the disease may be mistaken for chickenpox.  These potential problems make it a much better idea to take a blood test.  The identification of variola major requires another set of conditions and chararcteristic markers, and the fact of identification will suffice for our purposes.

The Variola Major virusVariola Major

Now let’s apply this story about the identification of a virus to Aristotle’s tools for identification.  Aristotle’s tool kit includes such items as properties, predicates that are “said of all” or “in every case” of their subject, essential predicates (kath’hauto/per se predicates), generic predicates, and accidents.  Let’s consider these in order from least to best in terms of their capacity for identifying a subject.

Aristotle’s tool box

Accidents In terms of identification, true accidents serve very little purpose if any at all.  They are the attributes of a thing that may or may not belong to a subject.  They may be said to have various grades, from those that appear in many instances but not all to those that are purely fortuitous, such as being “next to a pillar” when said of a man (an example that appears in Renaissance texts).  Here I mean to speak of accidents in the strict sense, as those that may belong to a thing but by themselves indicate very little or nothing about what a thing is.  (I)  These would apply to the purely accidental features that a patient would present.  Perhaps the patient has a broken leg: in this case, since having a broken leg is unrelated to having smallpox, it is purely accidental.  It cannot be considered a symptom, and nothing can be inferred from it.

Properties Properties, again, come in various grades.  In the strict sense, a property is an attribute that belongs to one kind of thing and not another in every case.  Thus, properties play a comparatively important role in the identification of a thing although he says that they do not indicate the essence of a thing.  But Aristotle goes further and provides a criterion for property-hood.  The ability to learn grammar is a property of man (i.e. it applies to “man” alone and in every case) if and only if the following two propositions are both true:

(1) If x is a man, then x is able to learn grammar.

(2) If x is able to learn grammar, then x is a man.

(2) is more likely to be acceptable to readers than (1).  Sometimes, an attempt is made to resolve skepticism about (1) by appealing to the notion of the nature of a thing: that cases that do not fit are merely unnatural accidents.  I propose to clarify this somewhat by adding that one might think of a predicate such as “able to learn grammar” along the same lines as one can think of the predicate “living being”: not all things that are “man” are actually living beings, although it is a class of things that “man” may be said to belong to by nature. (II)  If one were to think of a typical member of the species homo sapiens and to try to find an attribute of that species that distinguishes it from any other, the ability to learn grammar, might (in the 4th Century BC at least) count as such a distinguishing mark. In the story above, the rash that appears in the mouth is a characteristic mark of smallpox. Chickenpox, by contrast, breaks out over the skin.  Hence, since smallpox breaks out first in the throat and mouth while chickenpox never does, the initial rash in the mouth may be thought of as a property of smallpox relative to chickenpox.  This is not quite the essence of smallpox, for which the virus, variola major seems a better candidate due to its priority.

Predicates that aresaid of all” were discussed above (III).  The main point to be remembered for our purposes here is that they are necessary conditions.  The fact that one predicate is said of another in every case means that one term is implied by another.  For example, since “point” may be said to belong to “line” in every case, “point” is implied by “line”.  It is important to note that such predicates are not essential predicates but only necessary ones.  Thus, although they directly precede Aristotle’s discussion of perseity in I.4, they are not the same as per se predicates.  They correspond to all the symptoms of smallpox in the smallpox example, since they signify the presence of smallpox in every case, although they are not sufficient by themselves to do so.

Generic predicates are those that are predicated as answering to the question, “what (sort of thing) is it?”, and thus characterize the ousia (or substance) of a subject.  They may be thought of as predicates that are said of a species in such a way that they fall in the same category as the species and are not accidents.  In terms of identification, they again mark necessary but not sufficient conditions.  For example, if there is a man there is necessarily an animal (or mobile being, or substance); but if there is an animal, there is not necessarily a man.

Finally, we come to kath’hauto-1 predicates.  Kath’hauto-1 predicates are essential attributes and hence indicate the presence of a certain subject in every case.  Unlike properties, Aristotle does not go as far as saying that they are convertible with their subject.  For this reason, they seem far more sound in terms of their logic than properties.  In this case, these would seem to correspond either to the characteristic pustules that smallpox produces, or to the variola major virus that causes smallpox.  Each can be construed as fitting the constraints Aristotle’s “line and point” example in I.4 provides, since in every instance where there is an instance of smallpox there is either the variola major virus or else the characteristic pustules.  Moreover, they fulfill the requirement that the implication “where there is smallpox there is variola major” must hold, although the converse might not hold in every case (this is also true of the line and point example).  Finally, it may be seen that variola major is related to smallpox in such a way that it could be said to be part of its definition.  Some kath’hauto attributes may be said to be kath’hauto in such a way that they are also part of the explicit definition of a thing although this need not actually be the case.  They may, in particular belong to the genus-differentia paradigm for definitions that Aristotle uses quite frequently in the corpus.

A final comment on this particular case should probably be made before moving on.  There is an order of priority among these elements that begins with kath’hauto attributes and extends to all the necessary conditions/symptoms.  Aristotle makes use of the notion of ontological dependency to establish this priority as a causal priority.  In this case, since, apparently, the presence of the variola major virus is the underlying cause of all the symptoms, the virus must first be present if they are to arise as symptoms of smallpox.  Moreover, the presence of variola major gives the symptoms a unity; it unites them to some underlying entity that makes them attributes of some particular kind of thing and not simply a collection of accidents. (III)  Hence, although one could perhaps make do with simply mentioning variola major to convey the idea of what kind of condition the patient is in, a full account would have to include the symptoms and could not omit them.

All these components may be arranged together on the following chart for ease of reference:


As the chart suggests, the search for a proper diagnosis/identification of a thing can be thought of as reducible to the project of apprehending an attribute that will serve to distinguish the thing in question from all other things. Let’s take a closer look at how this works:

There is a sense in which one must already know what one is looking for when one is attempting to identify a thing as something else (IV).  This is because identification fundamentally involves relating some present experience to pre-existing knowledge.  It means, in other words, being able to identify some particular before us as one that ought to fall under some concept (Aristotle gives an extended discussion of this aspect of what it means to know in the introductory chapter to the Posterior Analytics (I.1)).  In yet other words, it means, in an ideal case, that one has the tools to identify something in a “scientific” manner, which means being able to distinguish it from everything else.  This means having a knowledge of its essence.

Understanding the books of the Analytics as being basically about identification and creating patterns for identification bears on the question of what Aristotle’s intention was for them.  This has been debated somewhat recently, especially with regard to book I of the Posterior Analytics.  It has been said by some that demonstration is a tool for discovery.  I do not think this is correct.  The countervailing view propounded by Jonathan Barnes is that it is rather a didactic tool to be used in a school setting.  The view I am arguing for, that it is basically a pattern for identification, is compatible with this view, but gives its range of application a broader scope and shows how it may be of service to scientists working in the field.

Before moving on to the next section, which will continue the present synthesis, let’s take stock now of what has yet to be shown.  It remains to be seen whether Aristotle himself actually used the sort of schema for identification presented above.  This will be shown by taking account of what Aristotle says in Posterior Analytics II.13.  Furthermore, having shown Aristotle’s own process of identifying an object to be consonant with the method of the chart, it will become a much simpler to show that Aristotle’s whole theory of syllogism and demonstration may be related to the project of identifying an object.  Lastly, the overall objective of characterizing kath’hauto attributes will finally be fully realized when both these objectives have been achieved.


Note*: I would like to suggest that the logic for conditions for being or existing in cases involving things that mathematical objects can be understood in terms of conditional statements.  Thus, in a statement like “if there is a line, then there is a point” the conditional should be read as saying “if there were a point, there would be a line”.  Thus, we can talk intelligibly about the conditions for existence in a hypothetical sense.  At present I dont have any other textual support for this reading than the text itself, which seems to require such an interpretation in order to account for this way of speaking about such objects.

(I) See the discussion of essence vs. accident in the first article in this series here.

(II) I think there are genuine problems for Aristotle when it comes to his example and to his formulation of properties in general.  It is sometimes said in defence that Aristotle’s notion of a species is not that of a set, but this too will not square with his criterion or with other criteria that appear in his corpus.  Aristotle is serious when he means “said of all” or “true in every instance“.  It seems that he could have made do with (2) alone and treated the fact that the ability to learn grammar applies only to man as an empirical fact.

(III) On the points of both priority and unity the reader may wish to see Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Book Z, chapter 17.

(IV) Consider this in relation to “the problem of the Meno”.


Posterior Analytics I.4 on kath’hauto attributes in the first and second senses of perseity:

Since the object of pure scientific knowledge cannot be other than it is, the truth obtained by demonstrative knowledge will be necessary. And since demonstrative knowledge is only present when we have a demonstration, it follows that demonstration is an inference from necessary premisses. So we must consider what are the premisses of demonstration-i.e. what is their character: and as a preliminary, let us define what we mean by an attribute ‘true in every instance of its subject’, an ‘essential’ attribute, and a ‘commensurate and universal’ attribute. I call ‘true in every instance’ what is truly predicable of all instances-not of one to the exclusion of others-and at all times, not at this or that time only; e.g. if animal is truly predicable of every instance of man, then if it be true to say ‘this is a man’, ‘this is an animal’ is also true, and if the one be true now the other is true now. A corresponding account holds if point is in every instance predicable as contained in line. There is evidence for this in the fact that the objection we raise against a proposition put to us as true in every instance is either an instance in which, or an occasion on which, it is not true. Essential attributes are (1) such as belong to their subject as elements in its essential nature (e.g. line thus belongs to triangle, point to line; for the very being or ‘substance’ of triangle and line is composed of these elements, which are contained in the formulae defining triangle and line): (2) such that, while they belong to certain subjects, the subjects to which they belong are contained in the attribute’s own defining formula. Thus straight and curved belong to line, odd and even, prime and compound, square and oblong, to number; and also the formula defining any one of these attributes contains its subject-e.g. line or number as the case may be.

Text on demonstration as relevant to identification (recognition of the particular as falling under some concept): (Posterior Analytics, I.1)

All instruction given or received by way of argument proceeds from pre-existent knowledge. This becomes evident upon a survey of all the species of such instruction. The mathematical sciences and all other speculative disciplines are acquired in this way, and so are the two forms of dialectical reasoning, syllogistic and inductive; for each of these latter make use of old knowledge to impart new, the syllogism assuming an audience that accepts its premisses, induction exhibiting the universal as implicit in the clearly known particular. Again, the persuasion exerted by rhetorical arguments is in principle the same, since they use either example, a kind of induction, or enthymeme, a form of syllogism. 


If he did not in an unqualified sense of the term know the existence of this triangle, how could he know without qualification that its angles were equal to two right angles? No: clearly he knows not without qualification but only in the sense that he knows universally. If this distinction is not drawn, we are faced with the dilemma in the Meno: either a man will learn nothing or what he already knows; for we cannot accept the solution which some people offer. A man is asked, ‘Do you, or do you not, know that every pair is even?’ He says he does know it. The questioner then produces a particular pair, of the existence, and so a fortiori of the evenness, of which he was unaware. The solution which some people offer is to assert that they do not know that every pair is even, but only that everything which they know to be a pair is even: yet what they know to be even is that of which they have demonstrated evenness, i.e. what they made the subject of their premiss, viz. not merely every triangle or number which they know to be such, but any and every number or triangle without reservation. For no premiss is ever couched in the form ‘every number which you know to be such’, or ‘every rectilinear figure which you know to be such’: the predicate is always construed as applicable to any and every instance of the thing. On the other hand, I imagine there is nothing to prevent a man in one sense knowing what he is learning, in another not knowing it. The strange thing would be, not if in some sense he knew what he was learning, but if he were to know it in that precise sense and manner in which he was learning it.

Topics, I .5 where Aristotle presents the elements of his ontological “tool box”:

We must now say what are ‘definition’, ‘property’, ‘genus’, and ‘accident’. A ‘definition’ is a phrase signifying a thing’s essence. It is rendered in the form either of a phrase in lieu of a term, or of a phrase in lieu of another phrase; for it is sometimes possible to define the meaning of a phrase as well. People whose rendering consists of a term only, try it as they may, clearly do not render the definition of the thing in question,because a definition is always a phrase of a certain kind. One may, however, use the word ‘definitory’ also of such a remark as ‘The “becoming” is “beautiful”‘, and likewise also of the question, ‘Are sensation and knowledge the same or different?’, for argument about definitions is mostly concerned with questions of sameness and difference. In a word we may call ‘definitory’ everything that falls under the same branch of inquiry as definitions; and that all the above-mentioned examples are of this character is clear on the face of them. For if we are able to argue that two things are the same or are different, we shall be well supplied by the same turn of argument with lines of attack upon their definitions as well: for when we have shown that they are not the same we shall have demolished the definition. Observe, please, that the converse of this last statement does not hold: for to show that they are the same is not enough to establish a definition. To show, however, that they are not the same is enough of itself to overthrow it. 

A ‘property’ is a predicate which does not indicate the essence of a thing, but yet belongs to that thing alone, and is predicated convertibly of it. Thus it is a property of man to-be-capable of learning grammar: for if A be a man, then he is capable of learning grammar, and if he be capable of learning grammar, he is a man. For no one calls anything a ‘property’ which may possibly belong to something else, e.g. ‘sleep’ in the case ofman, even though at a certain time it may happen to belong to him alone. That is to say, if any such thing were actually to be called a property, it will be called not a ‘property’ absolutely, but a ‘temporary’ or a ‘relative’property: for ‘being on the right hand side’ is a temporary property, while ‘two-footed’ is in point of fact ascribed as a property in certain relations; e.g. it is a property of man relatively to a horse and a dog. That nothingwhich may belong to anything else than A is a convertible predicate of A is clear: for it does not necessarily follow that if something is asleep it is a man. 

A ‘genus’ is what is predicated in the category of essence of a number of things exhibiting differences in kind. We should treat as predicates in the category of essence all such things as it would be appropriate tomention in reply to the question, ‘What is the object before you?’; as, for example, in the case of man, if asked that question, it is appropriate to say ‘He is an animal’. The question, ‘Is one thing in the same genus as another or in a different one?’ is also a ‘generic’ question; for a question of that kind as well falls under the same branch of inquiry as the genus: for having argued that ‘animal’ is the genus of man, and likewise also of ox, we shall have argued that they are in the same genus; whereas if we show that it is the genus of the one but not of the other, we shall have argued that these things are not in the same genus. 

An ‘accident’ is (i) something which, though it is none of the foregoing-i.e. neither a definition nor a property nor a genus yet belongs to the thing: (something which may possibly either belong or not belong to any one and the self-same thing, as (e.g.) the ‘sitting posture’ may belong or not belong to some self-same thing. Likewise also ‘whiteness’, for there is nothing to prevent the same thing being at one time white, and at another not white. Of the definitions of accident the second is the better: for if he adopts the first, any one is bound, if he is to understand it, to know already what ‘definition’ and ‘genus’ and ‘property’ are, whereas the second is sufficient of itself to tell us the essential meaning of the term in question. To Accident are to be attached also all comparisons of things together, when expressed in language that is drawn in any kind of way from what happens (accidit) to be true of them; such as, for example, the question, ‘Is the honourable or the expedient preferable?’ and ‘Is the life of virtue or the life of self-indulgence the pleasanter?’, and any other problem which may happen to be phrased in terms like these. For in all such cases the question is ‘to which of the two does the predicate in question happen (accidit) to belong more closely?’ It is clear on the face of it that there is nothing to prevent an accident from becoming a temporary or relative property. Thus the sitting posture is an accident, but will be a temporary property, whenever a man is the only person sitting, while if he be not the only one sitting, it is still a property relatively to those who are not sitting. So then, there is nothing to prevent an accident from becoming both a relative and a temporary property; but a propertyabsolutely it will never be

Metaphysics VII.17:

“Let us state what, i.e. what kind of thing, substance should be said to be, taking once more another starting-point; for perhaps from this we shall get a clear view also of that substance which exists apart from sensible substances. Since, then, substance is a principle and a cause, let us pursue it from this starting-point. The ‘why’ is always sought in this form–‘why does one thing attach to some other?’ For to inquire why the musical man is a musical man, is either to inquire–as we have said why the man is musical, or it is something else. Now ‘why a thing is itself’ is a meaningless inquiry (for (to give meaning to the question ‘why’) the fact or the existence of the thing must already be evident-e.g. that the moon is eclipsed-but the fact that a thing is itself is the single reason and the single cause to be given in answer to all such questions as why the man is man, or the musician musical’, unless one were to answer ‘because each thing is inseparable from itself, and its being one just meant this’; this, however, is common to all things and is a short and easy way with the question). But we can inquire why man is an animal of such and such a nature. This, then, is plain, that we are not inquiring why he who is a man is a man. We are inquiring, then, why something is predicable ofsomething (that it is predicable must be clear; for if not, the inquiry is an inquiry into nothing). E.g. why does it thunder? This is the same as ‘why is sound produced in the clouds?’ Thus the inquiry is about thepredication of one thing of another. And why are these things, i.e. bricks and stones, a house? Plainly we are seeking the cause. And this is the essence (to speak abstractly), which in some cases is the end, e.g. perhaps in the case of a house or a bed, and in some cases is the first mover; for this also is a cause. But while the efficient cause is sought in the case of genesis and destruction, the final cause is sought in the case of being also. 

“The object of the inquiry is most easily overlooked where one term is not expressly predicated of another (e.g. when we inquire ‘what man is’), because we do not distinguish and do not say definitely that certain elements make up a certain whole. But we must articulate our meaning before we begin to inquire; if not, the inquiry is on the border-line between being a search for something and a search for nothing. Since we must have the existence of the thing as something given, clearly the question is why the matter is some definite thing; e.g. why are these materials a house? Because that which was the essence of a house is present. Andwhy is this individual thing, or this body having this form, a man? Therefore what we seek is the cause, i.e. the form, by reason of which the matter is some definite thing; and this is the substance of the thing. Evidently, then, in the case of simple terms no inquiry nor teaching is possible; our attitude towards such things is other than that of inquiry. 

“Since that which is compounded out of something so that the whole is one, not like a heap but like a syllable-now the syllable is not its elements, ba is not the same as b and a, nor is flesh fire and earth (for when these are separated the wholes, i.e. the flesh and the syllable, no l

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