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18. In regard to interrogation, its employment is especially opportune,
when the opponent has already stated the opposite, so that the addition of a question makes the result an absurdity1; as, for instance, when Pericles interrogated Lampon about initiation into the sacred rites of the savior goddess. On Lampon replying that it was not possible for one who was not initiated to be told about them, Pericles asked him if he himself was acquainted with the rites, and when he said yes, Pericles further asked, “How can that be, seeing that you are uninitiated?” [2] Again, interrogation should be employed when one of the two propositions is evident, and it is obvious that the opponent will admit the other if you ask him. But the interrogator, having obtained the second premise by putting a question, should not make an additional question of what is evident, but should state the conclusion. For instance, Socrates, when accused by Meletus of not believing in the gods, asked2 whether he did not say that there was a divine something; and when Meletus said yes, Socrates went on to ask if divine beings were not either children of the gods or something godlike. When Meletus again said yes, Socrates rejoined, [3] “Is there a man, then, who can admit that the children of the gods exist without at the same time admitting that the gods exist?” Thirdly, when it is intended to show that the opponent either contradicts himself or puts forward a paradox. [4] Further, when the opponent can do nothing else but answer the question by a sophistical solution; for if he answers, “Partly yes, and partly no,” “Some are, but some are not,” “In one sense it is so, in another not,” the hearers cry out against him as being in a difficulty.3 In other cases interrogation should not be attempted; for if the adversary raises an objection, the interrogator seems to be defeated; for it is impossible to ask a number of questions, owing to the hearer's weakness. Wherefore also we should compress our enthymemes as much as possible.

[5] Ambiguous questions should be answered by defining them by a regular explanation, and not too concisely; those that appear likely to make us contradict ourselves should be solved at once in the answer, before the adversary has time to ask the next question or to draw a conclusion; for it is not difficult to see the drift of his argument. Both this, however, and the means of answering will be sufficiently clear from the Topics.4 [6] If a conclusion is put in the form of a question, we should state the reason for our answer. For instance, Sophocles5 being asked by Pisander whether he, like the rest of the Committee of Ten, had approved the setting up of the Four Hundred, he admitted it. “What then?” asked Pisander, “did not this appear to you to be a wicked thing?” Sophocles admitted it. “So then you did what was wicked?” “Yes, for there was nothing better to be done.” The Lacedaemonian, who was called to account for his ephoralty, being asked if he did not think that the rest of his colleagues had been justly put to death, answered yes. “But did not you pass the same measures as they did?” “Yes.” “Would not you, then, also be justly put to death?” “No; for my colleagues did this for money; I did not, but acted according to my conscience.” For this reason we should not ask any further questions after drawing the conclusion,
nor put the conclusion itself as a question, unless the balance of truth is unmistakably in our favor.

[7] As for jests, since they may sometimes be useful in debates, the advice of Gorgias was good—to confound the opponents' earnest with jest and their jest with earnest. We have stated in the Poetics6 how many kinds of jests there are, some of them becoming a gentleman, others not. You should therefore choose the kind that suits you. Irony is more gentlemanly than buffoonery; for the first is employed on one's own account, the second on that of another.

1 The words ὅταν . . . have been variously translated: (1) when one of the two alternatives has already been stated; (2) when the opponent has stated what is different from the fact; (3) when the opponent has already conceded so much, “made one admission” (Jebb).

2 Reading ἤρετο.

3 For the first of the quibbles Sandys refers to Aristoph. Ach. 396, where Cephisophon, being asked if Euripides was indoors, replies, “Yes and no, if you understand me”; and he gives the explanation, his mind is outside, collecting scraps of poetry, while he himself is upstairs ( ἀναβάδην, unless it means “with his legs up”) composing a tragedy. The reference in the second instance is to the adversary being reduced to such a position that he cannot answer without having recourse to sophistical divisions and distinctions, which seem to imply uncertainty. Aristotle himself is fond of such “cautiously limited judgements” (Gomperz). The translation is that of the reading ἀποροῦντος, a conjecture of Spengel's. The audience will be ready to express its disapproval of his shuffling answers, which are evidence of his perplexity. The ordinary reading ἀποροῦντες attributes the “perplexity” to the hearers. Or, “the hearers, thinking he is puzzled, applaud us [the interrogator]” (Jebb).

4 Aristot. Top. 8.4.

5 Cp. 1.14.3.

6 The chapters are lost (cp. 1.11.29).

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