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[2arg] The nature of the rule of the logicians in disputation and declamation, and the defect of that rule.

THEY say that it is a rule of the dialectic art, that if there is inquiry and discussion of any subject, and you are called upon to answer a question which is asked, you should answer the question by a simple “yes” or “no.” And those who do not observe that rule, but answer more than they were asked, or differently, are thought to be both uneducated and unobservant of the customs and laws of debate. As a matter of fact this dictum undoubtedly ought to be followed in very many debates. For a discussion will become endless and hopelessly involved, unless it is confined to simple questions and answers. But there seem to be some discussions in which, if you answer what you are asked briefly and directly, you are caught in a trap. For if anyone should put a question in these words: “I ask you to tell me whether you have given up committing adultery or not,” whichever way you answer according to this rule of debate, whether you say “yes” or “no,” you will be caught in a dilemma, equally if you should say that you are an adulterer, or should deny it; for one who has not given up a thing has not of necessity ever done it. That then is a deceptive kind of catch-question, and can by no means lead to the inference and conclusion that he commits adultery who says that he has not given up doing it. But what will the defenders of that rule do in that dilemma, in which they must necessarily be caught, if they give a simple answer to the question? For [p. 135] if I should ask any one of them: “Do you, or do you not, have what you have not lost? I demand the answer 'yes' or no,'” whichever way he replies briefly, he will be caught. For if he says that he does not have what he has not lost, the conclusion will be drawn that he has no eyes, since he has not lost them; but if he says that he has it, it will be concluded that he has horns, because he has not lost them. Therefore it will be more cautious and more correct to reply as follows: “I have whatever I had, if I have not lost it.” But an answer of that kind is not made in accordance with the rule which we have mentioned; for more is answered than was asked. Therefore this proviso also is commonly added to the rule, that one need not answer catchquestions.

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