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19. Let us first speak of the possible and the impossible. If of two contrary things it is possible that one should exist or come into existence, then it would seem that the other is equally possible; for instance, if a man can be cured, he can also be ill; for the potentiality of contraries, qua contraries, is the same.1 Similarly, if of two like things the one is possible, so also is the other. [2] And if the harder of two things is possible, so also is the easier. [3] And if it is possible for a thing to be made excellent or beautiful, [4] it is possible for it to be made in general; for it is harder for a beautiful house to be made than a mere house.2 [5] Again, if the beginning is possible, so also is the end; for no impossible thing comes, or begins to come, into existence; for instance, that the diameter of a square should be commensurable with the side of a square is neither possible nor could be possible. And when the end is possible, so also is the beginning; for all things arise from a beginning. [6] And if that which is subsequent in
being or generation can come into being, so then can that which is antecedent; for instance, if a man can come into being, so can a child, for the child is antecedent; and similarly, if a child can come into being, so can a man, for the child is a beginning. [7] And things which we love or desire naturally are possible; for as a rule no one loves the impossible or desires it. [8] And those things which form the subject of sciences or arts can also exist and come into existence. [9] And so with all those things, the productive principles of which reside in those things which we can control by force or persuasion, when they depend upon those whose superiors, masters, or friends we are. [10] And if the parts are possible, so also is the whole; and if the whole is possible, so also are the parts, speaking generally; for instance, if the front, toe-cap, and upper leather,3 can be made, then shoes can be made, and if shoes, then the above parts. [11] And if the whole genus
is among things possible to be made, so is the species, and if the species, so the genus; for example, if a vessel can be built, so can a trireme, if a trireme can, so can a vessel. [12] If of two naturally corresponding things one is possible, so also is the other; for instance, if the double is possible, so is the half, if the half, so the double. [13] If a thing can be made without art or preparation, much the more can it be made with the help of art and carefulness. Whence it was said by Agathon4: “ And moreover we have to do some things by art, while others fall to our lot by compulsion or chance.

” [14] And if a thing is possible for those who are inferior, or weaker, or less intelligent, it will be still more so for those whose qualities are the opposite; as Isocrates said, it would be very strange if he were unable by himself to find out what Euthynus had learnt [with the help of others]. [15] As for the impossible, it is clear that there is a supply of arguments to be derived from the opposite of what has been said about the possible.

[16] The question whether a thing has or has not happened must be considered from the following points of view. [17] In the first place, if that which is naturally less likely has happened, then that which is more likely will most probably have happened. If that which usually happens afterwards has happened, then that which precedes must also have happened; for instance, if a man has forgotten a thing, he must once have learnt it. [18] If a man was able and wished to do a thing, he has done it; for all men
do a thing, when they are able and resolve to do it, for nothing hinders them. [19] Further, if a man wished to do it and there was no external obstacle; if he was able to do it and was in a state of anger; if he was able and desired to do it; for men as a rule, whenever they can, do those things which they long for, the vicious owing to want of self-control, the virtuous because they desire what is good. [20] And if anything was on the point of being done, it most probably was done; for it is likely that one who was on the point of doing something has carried it out. [21] And if all the natural antecedents or causes of a thing have happened; for instance, if it has lightened, it has also thundered; and if a man has already attempted a crime, he has also committed it. And if all the natural consequences or motives of actions have happened, then the antecedent or the cause has happened; for instance, if it has thundered, it has also lightened, and if a man has committed a crime, he has also attempted it. [22] Of all these things some are so related necessarily, others only as a general rule. To establish that a thing has not happened, it is evident that our argument must be derived from the opposite of what has been said.

[23] In regard to the future, it is clear that one can argue in the same way; for if we are able and wish to do a thing, it will be done; and so too will those things which desire, anger, and reasoning urge us to do, if we have the power. For this reason also, if a man has an eager desire, or intention, of doing a thing, it will probably be done; since, as a rule, things that are about to happen are more likely to happen than those which are not. [24] And if all the natural antecedents have happened; for instance, if the sky is cloudy, it will probably rain. [25] And if one thing has been done with a view to another, it is probable that the latter will also be done; for instance, if a foundation has been laid, a house will probably be built.

[26] What we have previously said clearly shows the nature of the greatness and smallness of things, of the greater and less, and of things great and small generally. For, when treating of deliberative rhetoric,5 we spoke of greatness of goods, and of the greater and less generally. Therefore, since in each branch of Rhetoric the end set before it is a good, such as the expedient, the noble, or the just, it is evident that all must take the materials of amplification from these. [27] To make any further inquiry as to magnitude and superiority absolutely would be waste of words; for the particular has more authority than the general for practical purposes.
Let this suffice for the possible and impossible; for the question whether a thing has happened, or will happen, or not; and for the greatness or smallness of things.

1 As a general rule, from their nature as contraries, although it may not be true in particular cases. If a man is ill, he may also be well, although in particular cases certain qualities may make him more liable to one or the other, e.g. he may suffer from an incurable disease (Schrader).

2 An argument a fortiori. If a beautiful house can be built, so can a house of any kind; for this is easier.

3 The meaning of the Greek words is quite uncertain.

4 T.G.F. p. 765.

5 Book 1.7.

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