Virtuous Circles

In Anil Gupta & Andre Chapuis (eds.), Circularity, Definition, and Truth. Indian Council of Philosophical Research (2000)

G. Aldo Antonelli
University of California, Davis
In the Posterior Analytics, Aristotle takes up the position of those who hold that all knowledge is demonstrable, and, hence, scientific. Such people are said to base their arguments on the fact that some demonstrations are circular or reciprocal (72b251). As Aristotle makes clear in the text, a circular demonstration consists of an argument (form) in which the conclusion is equivalent to one of the premises. But as Aristotle hastens to point out, demonstrations cannot be circular, for the essence of demonstration is to proceed from what is prior to what is posterior, and the same things cannot be both prior and posterior. A circular demonstration has the form ‘if A is, then B must be;’ and ‘if B is, then A must be’: “consequently, the upholders of circular demonstration are in the position of saying that if A is, A must be—a simple way of proving anything” (73a5)
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