Prior Analytics

The Prior Analytics is Aristotle's work on deductive reasoning, specifically the syllogism. It is also part of his Organon, which is the instrument or manual of logical and scientific methods.

Analytics comes from the Greek word "analutos" meaning "solvable" and the Greek verb "analuein" meaning "to solve". However, in Aristotle's corpus, there are distinguishable differences in the meaning of "analuein" and its cognates. There is also the possibility that Aristotle may have borrowed his use of the word "analysis" from his teacher Plato. On the other hand, the meaning that best fits the Analytics is one derived from the study of Geometry and this meaning is very close to what Aristotle calls έπιστήμη "episteme", knowing the reasoned facts. Therefore, Analysis is the process of finding the reasoned facts.

Of the entire Aristotelian corpus, Aristotle gives priority to the study of his treatises on Logic. However, he never gave a general name to his treatises on Logic nor did he coin the word Logic. Aristotle's Prior Analytics represents the first time in history when Logic is scientifically investigated. On those grounds alone, Aristotle could be considered the Father of Logic for as he himself says in Sophistical Refutations, "... When it comes to this subject, it is not the case that part had been worked out before in advance and part had not; instead, nothing existed at all."

A problem in meaning arises in the study of Prior Analytics for the word "syllogism" as used by Aristotle in general does not carry the same narrow connotation as it does at present; Aristotle defines this term in a way that would apply to a wide range of valid arguments. Some scholars prefer to use the word "deduction" instead as the meaning given by Aristotle to the Greek word συλλογισμός "sullogismos". At present, "syllogism" is used exclusively as the method used to reach a conclusion which is really the narrow sense in which it is used in the Prior Analytics dealing as it does with a much narrower class of arguments closely resembling the "syllogisms" of traditional logic texts: two premises followed by a conclusion each of which is a categorial sentence containing all together three terms, two extremes which appear in the conclusion and one middle term which appears in both premises but not in the conclusion. In the Analytics then, Prior Analytics is the first theoretical part dealing with the science of deduction and the Posterior Analytics is the second demonstratively practical part. Prior Analytics gives an account of deductions in general narrowed down to three basic syllogisms while Posterior Analytics deals with demonstration.

In the Prior Analytics, Aristotle defines syllogism as "... A deduction in a discourse in which, certain things being supposed, something different from the things supposed results of necessity because these things are so." In modern times, this definition has led to a debate as to how the word "syllogism" should be interpreted. Scholars Jan Lukasiewicz, Józef Maria Bocheński and Günther Patzig have sided with the Protasis-Apodosis dichotomy while John Corcoran prefers to consider a syllogism as simply a deduction.

In the third century AD, Alexander of Aphrodisias's commentary on the Prior Analytics is the oldest extant and one of the best of the ancient tradition and is presently available in the English language.

In the sixth century, the first translation of Prior Analytics by Boethius appeared in Latin. No Westerner between Boethius and Abelard is known to have read the Prior Analytics. Anonymus Aurelianensis III from the second half of the twelfth century is the first extant Latin commentary.

Read more about Prior AnalyticsThe Syllogism, Syllogism in The First Figure, Syllogism in The Second Figure, Syllogism in The Third Figure, Table of Syllogisms, The Fourth Figure