The Attempts To Refute the Principle of Contradiction- UPDATED x 2

Attempts to refute the principle of contradiction involve the same error as saying nothing is self-evident or known in itself (per se): Such supposed refutations leave us saying that all things are known through another; i.e. that all things are said per accidens. The classical attempt to refute the principle of contradiction was this:

White is not a man (it’s a color)
Some men are white

Some men are not men.

This argument- though valid in form*- exploits the per accidens, for it is accidental to white that it be “not a man”, and its accidental to men that they be white. If one tries to make a syllogism like this one using terms that are said per se (like “rational animal” or “animal”), it is impossible to get to the conclusion that “some man is not a man”. One will end with a logical fallacy; like in:

Not every animal is a man
All men are animals
not every man is a man

Which is a glaring case of an undistributed middle.

Another species of argument involves the following inference:

Man can come to mean “not man”, so if we compare the two meanings (perhaps developing over history), then “man is not man”.

We only ask: “does the word’s meaning change per se or per accidens?” If the first, it is not the same word, if the second, it is not an essentially different word. Either way, the word did not change per se. Once again, the sophistical trick of treating everything as if it were accidental is clear.

All denials of the Principle of Contradiction- and in general, any self evident principle- end in this way. The only further objection after this is if one were to say “fine, you set forth the difference between the per se and the per accidens, but no one can tell the difference between the two in any actual case.” If this is his claim it is certainly true of himself. Fair enough. If he has never seen the difference between the per se and the per accidens in anything, then I in fact have nothing left to say to him. Until he admits or sees this I can’t speak with him.


* it’s a first figure EI, or “ferio”, for all you lovers of the old names.

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