previous next

[13arg] The retort which the philosopher Diogenes made, when he was challenged by a logician with an impudent sophistry.


AT Athens during the Saturnalia we engaged in a pleasant and improving diversion of this kind: when a number of us who were interested in the same study had met at the time of the bath, we discussed the catch questions which are called “sophisms,” and each one of us cast them before the company in his turn, like knuckle-bones or dice. The prize for solving a problem, or the penalty for failing to understand it, was a single sestertius. From the money thus collected, as if it had been won at dice, a little dinner was provided for all of us who had taken part in the game. Now the sophisms were somewhat as follows, although they cannot be expressed very elegantly in Latin, or even without clumsiness: “What snow is, that hail is not; but snow is white, therefore hail is not white.” A somewhat similar one is this: “What man is, that a horse is not; man is an animal, therefore a horse is not an animal.” The one who was called upon by the throw of the dice to solve and refute the sophistry was expected to tell in what part of the proposition and in what word the fallacy consisted, and what ought not to be granted and conceded; if he did not succeed, he was fined one sestertius. The fine contributed to the dinner.

I must tell you how wittily Diogenes paid back a sophism of that kind which I have mentioned above, proposed with insulting intent by a logician of the Platonic school. For when the logician had [p. 343] asked: “You are not what I am, are you?” and Diogenes had admitted it, he added: “But I am a man.” And when Diogenes had assented to that also and the logician had concluded: “Then you are not a man,” Diogenes retorted: “That is a lie, but if you want it to be true, begin your proposition with me.”

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Introduction (John C. Rolfe, 1927)
load focus Latin (John C. Rolfe, 1927)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: