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c h a p te r 6

The origins of non-deductive inference

i
God, as we know, did not leave it to Aristotle to make men rational. But he
did leave it to Aristotle to make philosophers take account of the fact that
there is more to men’s rationality than the ability to construct syllogisms.
The ability to reason from signs, or more generally, the use of evidence,
came to be a central topic in the Hellenistic philosophers’ discussions of
rationality, and it was Aristotle who first proposed an analysis of the notion
of sign (sēmeion). His treatment set both a precedent and a standard of
accomplishment for his successors. So it is with Aristotle that we should
begin.
The notion of sign itself is of course virtually as old as the Greeks’
habit of giving grounds or evidence for their assertions. The term ‘sēmeion’
may be found in tragedy, in the orators, in the historians, in the medical
writers, in the philosophers. Reporting the illegal burial of Polyneices, a
sentry says, ‘There were no signs of any beast or dog having come and
mauled the body’ (Soph. Ant. –). Near Heracleia is a place ‘where they
now show the signs of Heracles’ descent to Hades’ (Xen. Anab. vi..).
An orator pleads, ‘Don’t seek any other test of my good will but the
signs furnished by my present conduct’ (Andoc. .). The accused argues
that the fact that a man was not stripped is not a sign that he was not
murdered for his clothing (Antiphon i..). Any number of persons marshal
grounds for a claim by saying ‘Here are the signs for it,’ or words to that
effect (e.g., Ar. Nub. ; Diog. Apoll. frag. ; Hippoc. VM .–; Isoc.
Paneg. ; Pl. Tht. a), where the signs which follow are as likely to
be abstract and argumentative as concrete and observational. There is no
fixed preference for using ‘sēmeion’ of observable things or  observable
states of affairs, any more than there is in the English usage of ‘sign’ for
‘a token or indication (visible or otherwise) of some fact or quality’. In

OED s.v. ‘sign’, italics mine.



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194–195] The origins of non-deductive inference 
any one of the examples cited ‘evidence’ would be as good a translation as
‘sign’.
Given this background, we naturally assume, when first Aristotle and
then later the Stoics propose an analysis of sign, that it will be a technical
analysis of a notion in common use, not the stipulation of a technical
concept. We expect no restriction on the range of things that can serve as
a sign or evidence of something, for existing usage displays none. It is not
even correct to say that a sign is what we would call empirical evidence for
something. Often this is so, but in the Eleatic tradition, when Parmenides’
‘signposts’ (sēmata, frag. .) became Melissus’ signs (sēmeia, frag. .), they
were intended to give demonstrative proof of an inescapable conclusion.
Likewise in Sextus Empiricus it is regularly reported that demonstrative
proof is one species of sign (PH ii., , , ; M viii., , ,
, ). If so, if ‘sign’ covers any kind of ground, evidence, or reason for
believing something, including demonstrative evidence, we might expect
that a rough, general first sketch of the notion as it functions in everyday
discourse could take the following simple form: For X to be a sign or
evidence of Y requires (i) that X should be evident or manifest to us in some
appropriate way, (ii) that it should be evidence of something else in that Y
can be inferred from it. The task of the technical analysis would then be to
explain the relationship between X and Y which sustains and justifies the
inferring of the second from the first.
Let us see how far Aristotle fulfils these expectations.

ii
The official account is Prior Analytics ii.. Aristotle’s starting point is not
so much the ordinary man’s notion of sēmeion as the inferences to which it
is applied. People say, for example, ‘She is pregnant because she has milk’,
‘Wise men are good, for Pittacus is good,’ ‘She is pregnant because she is
sallow.’ The forms of  inference exemplified in these unstudied locutions
are all capable, Aristotle thinks, of winning truths. But none of them is
formally valid as they stand and, more important, with many of them no

Cf.  &' 4 . . . =$ 4 a–, >*    .

By contrast, the examples in the closely related discussion in Rhetoric i. make an explicit claim that
one thing is sēmeion of another, e.g., ‘If someone were to say it is a sign that the wise are just, that
Socrates was wise and just’ (b–).

 
 ( D .$5    (a–) is open to two interpretations: (a) that
just given, according to which these forms of inference are respectable methods (in a sense yet to be
elucidated) of reaching true conclusions; (b) a deflating interpretation according to which the point
is something that can be said of any inference whatsoever, valid or invalid, respectable or otherwise,

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 I Logic and Dialectic [195–196
plausible filling-out of the reasoning will be formally valid either. Let us use
the phrase ‘the reconstruction of an inference’ to include everything that
is involved in supplying unexpressed assumptions and arranging premises
and conclusion in proper logical form. Then Aristotle sees his chief task
in An. pr. ii. as that of sorting his examples into those that do and those
that do not admit of a formally valid reconstruction.
Aristotle’s only means of exhibiting formal validity was syllogistic, so
with some strain (e.g., admitting singular terms) syllogistic has to serve.
Thus for the milk example we supply ‘All who have milk are pregnant,’
and continue ‘This woman has milk; therefore, this woman is pregnant’,
to get the form ‘All B are A; this C is B; therefore, this C is A’ – a valid first-
figure syllogism. By analogous procedures the Pittacus example becomes
‘Pittacus is good; Pittacus is wise; therefore, all the wise are good’, to which
Aristotle ascribes the form of an invalid third-figure syllogism.  Finally, ‘All
who are pregnant are sallow; this woman is sallow; therefore, this woman
is pregnant’ has the form of an invalid second-figure syllogism. Taking
these examples to be representative enough to cover all reasoning from
signs (a–), Aristotle concludes that the only examples which can be
made formally valid are those with a first-figure reconstruction (a–).
Since the second- and third-figure reconstructions are invalid, in the other
cases the conclusion reached may be true, but it does not follow necessarily
(a, ) from the premises set out in the reconstruction.
I want to argue that it should be perfectly plain that the purpose of
this technical exercise is not to reject the inferences which do not admit of
that its conclusion may be true. I defer defence of (a) over (b) until the picture it yields has taken
shape.

For deductive argument Aristotle gives his own account of this process at An. pr. i.–. He calls
it $'. + )  * , reducing or resolving an argument into the figures, and it
includes among other things the specification of missing premises (a–). It is important here
that reduction to syllogistic form does not mean showing that the argument is in fact already a
syllogism in disguise (cf. esp. a–. Alex. In An. pr. .ff.), any more than reducing a second-
figure syllogism to the first figure means showing that it was a first-figure syllogism all along (cf.
Patzig () –,  n. ). In both cases, although in different ways, one recasts the original
argument into a form the validity or invalidity of which is already known and thereby determines
the validity or otherwise of the original. A fortiori to undertake the reconstruction of a sign-inference
in the manner of ii. is not to claim that the inference is or is meant to be a syllogism already.

Rh. b– confirms that this was the project: ‘In the Analytics we have defined them more clearly
and stated why some of them are valid (4 '&), others invalid (4!' ).’

The chapter should not be listed as an exception to the exclusion of singular terms from syllogistic,
as by Patzig () –. Rather, syllogistic is applied to material it was not originally designed to
handle, as happens also with ‘the practical syllogism’.

By the letter of Aristotle’s instructions at a– and – we get ‘All who have milk are pregnant’
here, and ‘All who are pregnant are sallow’ later. But he surely means ‘All women (human females)
who . . . ’ on both occasions: cf. + 4 a, 4 + a. On extra-logical aspects of the milk
example, see n.  below.

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196–197] The origins of non-deductive inference 
a formally valid reconstruction. The invalidity is to be noted and appro-
priated for the classification and understanding of certain common and
useful inferences of ordinary life. When the technical work is done, Aris-
totle reserves the word ‘tekmērion’ for use in connection with examples
which do admit of formally valid (i.e. first-figure) reconstruction, leaving
it open whether ‘sēmeion’ should collect the rest (those with second- and
third-figure reconstructions) or should continue to stand as the genus of
which tekmērion is one species (b–). This is hardly to dismiss sēmeion
as no more than an invalidity. It is an act of linguistic regimentation which
finds its justification in the claim (b–) that for ordinary parlance that
which makes us know something is the tekmērion of it, or in the claim
(Rh. b–) that etymologically ‘tekmērion’ connotes conclusiveness.
These two contentions, whether correct or incorrect about the usage of
‘tekmērion’, belong together and the implied contrast surely is correct,
that the evidence indicated by sēmeion need not be conclusive enough for
knowledge. Someone who infers that a woman is pregnant from the fact
that she is sallow does not know that she is pregnant; but  his belief is
reasonably based on a useful piece of evidence (a– takes it as true
that sallowness is a concomitant of pregnancy: in case of doubt, substitute
morning sickness). There are different grades of evidential support and
Aristotle explicitly states (b–) that inference through the first figure,
i.e. from a tekmērion, is the most reputable (endoxotaton) and the most
true (malista alēthes), i.e. the most productive of true conclusions. This
implies that the inferences reconstructed in other figures do have some,
though a lesser, claim to reputability and truth. Recall Heracles’ descent
to Hades and the signs listed earlier: they were evidence but not all of
them were conclusive evidence. Aristotle’s thesis in An. pr. ii. is that they
would be conclusive evidence (tekmēria), sufficient for knowledge, if and


Rh. a– seems to think the Analytics decided for the first alternative: ‘It is clear from the
Analytics that every sēmeion is invalid (4!' )’ (cf. b–). Rh. b– is better:
using ‘sign’ in the generic sense, Aristotle remarks that the invalid class of sign has no specific name.

Incorrect even for Aristotle’s own usage of the word, to judge by the passages listed in Bonitz, Index
Aristotelicus s.v. Nor has the distinction Aristotle makes between tekmērion and sēmeion any basis
in earlier rhetoric: see Radermacher () –. On the other hand, the formula for tekmērion in
the pseudo-Platonic Definitions e is !5   2.

On the importance of translating / 5  by ‘reputable’, ‘respectable’, I agree with Barnes (a).

For what it is worth, something like this interpretation is known to the subsequent rhetorical
tradition. Alexander Numenius (second century ad) expounds Aristotle as calling X a tekmērion of
Y when Y invariably follows X, and a sēmeion of Y when Y follows on more or fewer occasions than
not (for ‘fewer’ the example is ‘If he is a grave-robber, he will find treasure’) (Rhetores Graeci, ed.
Walz v, –, vii, –). Without express reference to Aristotle, Quintilian, Inst. v., offers a
more sophisticated version of the same line of thought.

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 I Logic and Dialectic [197–198
only if a true universal generalisation (cf. a) can be supplied to give
the inference a valid first-figure reconstruction.
What, then, is a sign according to Aristotle? The question may be
answered at two levels. The non-technical dictionary definition, so to
speak, which Aristotle gives at a–, records simply that one thing (state
of affairs, event), X, is sign of another, Y, being the case or having come
about if and only if, given that X is the case or that X came about, Y is the
case or has come about before or after X. This amounts to saying that X is
a sign of Y if and only if, given X, Y’s being or happening (earlier or later)
may be inferred. It gives no guidance on the question with what warrant
or assurance it may be inferred – that investigation comes elsewhere in
the chapter – but it does recognise that the sign is not the bare fact as
such that she has milk (that Pittacus is good, that she is sallow), but that
fact as the basis for an (actual or possible) inference to something further.
The point is highlighted when the non-technical definition supports (gar
in .) a logician’s technical  explication of what a sign is (a–):
protasis apodeiktikē, a premise for an inference or a proposition used to
show something. A proposition used to show something is a proposition
asserted as true, so Aristotle is not moving as far from ordinary language
as he might seem to be doing when he construes the sign as a proposition
rather than a thing (state of affairs, event) which is or happens. Ordinary
Greek and ordinary English license both ‘X is a sign of . . . ’ and ‘That p
is a sign of . . . ’, with the choice repeated for the blanks. But given the
point we have been emphasising, that signs belong in inferences, it is much
clearer to proceed in terms of propositions. That is why I called a– a
definition but a– an explication, in other words a ‘construal . . . which
is intended to replace a familiar but vague and ambiguous notion by a


   in its relaxed sense (cf. Soph. el. b, Gen. corr. b, Metaph. b) which can
prescind not only from the standards of the An. post. notion of demonstrative proof from necessary
premises, but also, when as here Aristotle is discussing rhetorical argument, from the standards of
logical validity (e.g., Rh. a–b and n.  below). Pace Ross () , this    is
not the same as 4 ' : for the premise is asserted as true. Ross also goes wrong (ibid. )
in saying that the premise/states a connection between two characteristics; it states the presence of
one characteristic, on the strength of which another is inferred. Sēmeion as defined = premise/state
of affairs premised for an inference (a–) should be distinguished from the use of the term
later in the chapter to denominate, by a natural extension, the sign-inference itself (a–, –,
b). The latter seems to be the only sense recognised by Mignucci () –, for he speaks
throughout of the sign as having the form ‘p because q’. Lastly, = +  - (a) has called
forth some unnecessarily fanciful suggestions: it simply indicates ‘quo quid per naturam suam
tendit’ (Bonitz s.v.).

See the examples p.  above and compare LSJ s.v. >  with OED s.v. ‘sign’ or ‘evidence’. This
is surface grammar and settles nothing about what we call the question of logical form.

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198–199] The origins of non-deductive inference 
more precisely characterised and systematically fruitful and illuminating
one’.
The full explication of ‘sign’, however, is this: protasis apodeiktikē ē
anankaia ē endoxos, a proposition, either necessary or reputable, used to
show something. The further characterisation ‘either necessary or reputable’
sounds, puzzlingly, like a comment on the modal status of the proposition
itself. But what we need to complete the technical explication is a comment
on the warrant which the sign-proposition, as we may call it, confers on
the conclusion inferred from it: ‘I call those signs necessary (anankaia) 
from which a syllogism can be constructed (ex hōn ginetai syllogismos)’,
sc. a valid syllogism in which the conclusion follows necessarily from the
conjunction of the sign-proposition with the true generalisation supplied
in the reconstruction (Rh. b–; cf. a–). Thus ē anankaia ē
endoxos anticipates the distinction Aristotle will draw and defend between
tekmēria and other signs. Some evidence is conclusive. Given that she
has milk, it is necessary that she is pregnant (cf. Rh. b–); it is to
the highest degree a respectable thing to believe (endoxotaton, b). More
often evidence is not in this way conclusive or sufficient for knowledge. It
merely makes a conclusion a respectable or reputable thing (endoxon) to
believe.
That completes my account of Prior Analytics ii.. If the interpretation
is correct, it would be churlish not to hail the chapter as a pioneering start
to the study of non-deductive logic. But to back up this conclusion I
need to set it in a wider context and quell an alternative interpretation
according to which Aristotle means us to think that, when an inference

Hempel () . I would modify the above diagnosis if evidence emerged that Aristotle has in
view a thesis to the effect that ‘That p is a sign of . . . ’ gives the underlying logical form of ‘X is a
sign of . . . .’

Ross () , agrees, likewise Philoponus, In An. pr. .–. Pacius (),  translates
‘propositionem demonstrativam, sive necessario sive probabiliter demonstret’. The proposal of Maier
()  n. , to excise '  as a gloss is motivated only by the thought that the message
is already conveyed by   , i.e. Maier mistakenly (n.  above) reads into the latter term
elements of the An. post. notion of demonstrative proof. If '  comments not on the modal
status of the premise but on its inferential connection with the conclusion, the same must be true of
/ 5 . / 5  matches >*    a, and this, not ‘demonstrates with probability’,
is what ‘probabiliter demonstret’ meant when Pacius wrote.

We have been discussing sign-arguments in terms of formal rather than of deductive validity, but
Aristotle does not allow for arguments which are deductively valid but not formally valid, e.g.,
‘Socrates is married, therefore Socrates is not a bachelor.’ This is only to be expected given his thesis
that all deductively valid arguments can be shown to be syllogistically valid; syllogistic validity is
one type of formal validity. One of Aristotle’s tekmērion-arguments might be thought to come into
the missing category: ‘He is ill, for he has a fever’ (Rh. b). But Aristotle treats it on a par with
‘She has given birth because she has milk.’

Interpretation (b) in n.  above.

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 I Logic and Dialectic [199–200
fails the test of syllogistic validity, it fails as an inference tout court, i.e. it
has no probative force whatsoever. In that case all there is to be said about
arguments from signs other than tekmēria is that they are bad arguments.
The moral will be: so much the worse for the rhetorical contexts in which
such arguments abound. 
Notice first that if syllogistically invalid inference from signs is to be
condemned without reprieve, a good deal else goes with it. The chapter we
have been discussing is part of a project begun at An. pr. ii.:
We must now state that not only are dialectical and demonstrative deductions
[syllogismoi in the broad sense defined in An. pr. b–] effected by way of the
aforesaid figures [i.e. are reducible to syllogisms in the narrow sense defined by the
figures: a thesis already argued, esp. An. pr. i.], but so also are rhetorical ones and
in general any persuasive argument, whatever its procedure. For all conviction
comes about either by way of deduction or from induction (epagōgē). (b–)
The project is to show that syllogistic is a universal test of logical validity.
That is the meaning of ‘All these arguments are effected through the fig-
ures’; it is not the absurd claim that rhetorical deductions are already in
syllogistic form. Likewise, I suggest, it is by way of promoting syllogistic
as a universal test of logical validity that in ii. Aristotle goes on to a syl-
logistic reconstruction of induction (epagōgē), finding that the conclusion


The most determined advocate of this view is Pacius. He contrasts the third-figure example,
where something follows, viz. ‘Some of the wise are good,’ though not the universal conclusion
drawn ( , , ' , 4 '!, a), with the second-figure case, where two
affirmative premises yield neither the conclusion drawn nor any other (the argument is always and
in every way refutable, a–). On the basis of this exegesis, which so far as formal validity is
concerned is perfectly correct, he explains the remark at b–: ‘For this reason also this [the
second] is the only figure from which no sign can be obtained.’ He does not inquire why, if this
is the right interpretation, Aristotle does not exert himself to say, either in An. pr. ii. or in the
Rhetoric, that the truth of ‘Pittacus is good’ is unobjectionably a third-figure sign that some of the
wise are good. Conversely, once b– is recognised as a gloss (Susemihl () , followed by
Maier ()  n. , Ross, Mignucci), irrelevant to its context and derived from a Pacius-type
interpretation of a–, it should be a question why Aristotle speaks in ii. as if there were
signs in the second figure, only not syllogistically valid ones. To this question Philoponus, In An.
pr. .–, .–, returns the embarrassed answer that the invalid examples Aristotle uses
are merely illustrative ( '  *$), i.e. illustrative of what a second- or third-figure
sign-argument would be like if there were any. A more modern representative of this kind of view is
Grote () : ‘in the second figure, the conclusion . . . is altogether suspicious’. Contrast Waitz
() i,  ad a: ‘quod vero in reliquis [figuris cogitur], quum solvi possit et redargui, nihil
quidem habet necessarii, sed veri simile est’. Trendelenberg ()  and Maier () , also
incline my way. I cannot tell which side Ross or Mignucci are on: they seem not to confront the
central question at all.

   here is not ‘any attempt to produce conviction’ (Ross), ‘any form of persuasion’ (A. J.
Jenkinson in the Oxford Translation), but excludes arm-twisting, playing on the emotions, and
suchlike (cf. Rh. a–, a–); Aristotle’s thesis only makes sense as a thesis about reasoned,
argumentative inducements to believe something.

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200–202] The origins of non-deductive inference 
follows necessarily only if an extra condition is satisfied, over and above
what is given by the premises of the syllogism itself. The extra  condition
is that the enumeration of species falling under the genus which is subject
of the conclusion must be complete. Now, if Aristotle condemns syl-
logistically invalid sign-inferences, because they are syllogistically invalid,
he ought equally to condemn inductive argument, even in the favourable
circumstance of complete enumeration, and a fortiori in the more com-
mon case, which includes many of his own inductive arguments, where
this extra condition is not satisfied. No such condemnation is uttered in
ii. or elsewhere. On the contrary, Aristotle regularly treats induction
as a respectable, indeed essential, source not merely of conviction but of
knowledge.
Much the same story can be told of the analysis in ii. of argument
from example (paradeigma), i.e. extrapolation from one particular case to
another. Aristotle offers a two-stage syllogistic reconstruction, the first stage
of which is exactly parallel to the third-figure sign-argument in ii.. That
is, from a formal point of view it commits the fallacy of Illicit Minor. But
there is not a word to imply that rational persons will eschew example, and
it would be a foolish politician who did so: ‘Examples are the most suitable
for deliberative speaking, for it is by conjecturing from past events that we
judge the future’ (Rh. a–).
The truth of the matter, I believe, is that Aristotle does think that
syllogistic is a universal test of formal or deductive validity, but he does
not think that formal or deductive validity is the only test of whether an
argument is intellectually respectable or has a justifiable claim on rational
minds. Various forms of inference are in use and enjoy good standing
with those whose business it is to argue a case. Let them be classified,
reconstructed in syllogistic form, and tested for validity: then we shall see
how far their  strength is strictly logical (‘irrefutable if true’, An. pr. a–
, Rh. b), how far and where it leaves room for an opponent to
counter-attack by objection or refutation. That is the project, and Aristotle’s
Rhetoric shows how useful it is for the practice of propounding arguments

For details, see Ross’s commentary on the chapter. There is no need to be troubled by Ross’s
complaint () , that Aristotle here identifies induction with the one type of induction, perfect
induction, which alone can be cast in the form of a valid syllogism. It cannot and he does not.
Hintikka () is a more recent treatment of An. pr. ii. which also fails to confront squarely the
invalidity of " (5 ('%' 4 '! (b). Note the strain on syllogistic when Aristotle
has to assign a term-letter C to the sum of the species in order to represent the enumeration as a
premise in syllogistic form which is convertible if and only if the enumeration is complete. Any
substitution-instance of the converted premise would have a disjunctive predicate.

For discussion, see Burnyeat () –, ff. (= vol. ii, chapter ).

For details, see Ross’s commentary on the chapter.

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 I Logic and Dialectic [202–203
and replying to the arguments of one’s adversary in judicial and political
debate. Most of the argument-forms assembled in the Rhetoric are taken
to be open to objection or refutation (cf. esp. b–a). Debate
about human affairs is a trial of argumentative strength in which the
outcome is decided not on necessities alone but on likelihoods (b–;
cf. a–). If these forms were pruned to meet the requirements of
syllogistic validity, Aristotle’s attempt to build an intellectually respectable
rhetoric would crumble.
I conclude that the wider context of Prior Analytics ii. confirms the
interpretation given earlier. Not only is the very  notion of formal validity
Aristotle’s invention: he has further seen that there are respectable argu-
ments whose probative force does not derive from their formal validity,
because they are in fact invalid. I call this a pioneering advance because it
is the decisive insight prior to which no one will think to ask about when
an argument which is formally invalid is nonetheless a good argument and
when it is a poor one, or about how the good specimen can make a rightful
claim on rational minds. Aristotle does not address these questions. But


It is for this reason that ‘sēmeion’ can designate a topos for charging one’s opponent with ‘apparent
enthymeme’, reasoning that is not really probative (Rh. b–). See the sensible comments of
Raphael () . The same explanation applies when rhetorical sign-arguments appear under
the fallacy of affirming the consequent at Soph. el. b–, put parallel to examples like this: ‘Since
it happens that the earth becomes drenched when it has rained, if it is drenched, we suppose it has
rained, though this is not necessarily true.’ Note the ‘we’. The only mistake Aristotle aims to expose
here is that committed by people who think that something follows necessarily when it does not
(b–). A glance through Bonitz’ Index s.v. >  will show that Aristotle himself, when not
talking logic, frequently mentions signs and propounds sign-arguments which he is most unlikely
to consider logically conclusive.

There is a complication. Nearly all my references to the Rhetoric have been to the two sections
of that work which refer to and make use of Prior Analytics ii.. These are a–b, which
presents the same triple division of sign-arguments as An. pr. ii. but less formally, with the invalid
examples classified in terms of whether the argument moves from the more general term to the more
particular or in the reverse direction; and b–a, which discusses refutation in terms of
the same scheme. They are the only two sections which presuppose syllogistic and they contain all
but one (b) of the Rhetoric’s five references to the Analytics. I am persuaded by the thesis of
Solmsen (), now powerfully reargued by Barnes () (cf. esp. –, n. ), that they are in
fact later insertions into a work which otherwise knows the dialectic of the Topics and has some
conception of apodeictic but none of syllogistic. The critique of Solmsen by Raphael () is an
interesting discussion of difficulties in Aristotle’s attempt to analyse persuasive reasoning in terms of
deduction and induction, but it does not meet the central point, which is that only two detachable
sections of the Rhetoric are familiar with Aristotle’s attempt to analyse deductive reasoning in terms
of syllogistic. The same is true of the otherwise helpful defence of the unity of the Rhetoric by
Grimaldi (). My own view is that Aristotle would not have inserted the new material if he had
thought it destructive of his original project, and I have argued that the technical analyses of An.
pr. ii., ,  are not inimical to that project either.

Depending on how late we place the breakthrough to syllogistic (see Barnes ()), we must reckon
with the possibility that he simply did not have the time or the inclination to rework the Rhetoric.
Had he done so, it might have changed the course of history.

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203–204] The origins of non-deductive inference 
he left the subject poised for further development by any successor with
the logical acumen to discern the challenge that they pose.
He also left some indications as to what might be gained by taking up
the challenge. Prior Analytics ii. concludes with an appendix (bff.)
on the logical requirements for setting up a science of physiognomics, a
systematic method of inferring mental characteristics in human individuals
from bodily features taken as their ‘signs’. This may strike us today as
an unpromising field of application for a logic of evidence, but the idea
of an application is there nonetheless, and in fact the general form of the
problem is both interesting and complex. It is a problem about establishing
a one to one correlation between two items so as to infer a common cause
and then using the correlation to argue from one item to the other in a
significantly different case. The goal is to provide a theory which will yield
generalisations for the reconstruction of such inferences as ‘He is a coward
because his eyes are weak and blinking and his movements constrained’
(cf. [Arist.] Phgn. b–).
We shall return to physiognomics later. Meanwhile, a connection
between signs and our overall view of human rationality is made in the
first chapter of the Rhetoric, the treatise which aims to study the full range
of everyday reasoning, whether it be rigorous  or ‘relaxed’, and includ-
ing as one important division reasoning from signs. The introductory
apologia for that study contains the remark that reasoning in defence of
one’s case or point of view is more characteristic (mallon idion) of man
than physical self-defence (a–b). Again, ‘All men share in some
way in both [rhetoric and dialectic]; for all up to a certain point endeav-
our to criticise or uphold an argument, to defend themselves or accuse’
(a–). God did not wait in vain. Indeed, with so much spelled out
for the first time in the history of thought, and more projected, it is easy
to overlook some important omissions. Two matters in particular remain
untouched which will be at the centre of later philosophical discussion and
which would have been well within the compass of Aristotle’s pioneering
start.


For elucidation see Ross () ad loc. and Förster ().

Similar logic can be seen at work in Div. somn. b–. Aristotle considers some examples where
the common cause of a sign and the event it signifies is prevented from bringing about the event:
in such cases you have a sign of something which was imminent but which did not in fact happen.

Cf. Rh. a–b: ($  =&   ($  G   4 ' E% . Aristotle’s
acknowledgement of a ‘relaxed’ 4 ' E fits neatly with the interpretation I have been
defending. I would connect it with his characterisation of that much misunderstood object,
the enthymeme, as 4 '! , which of course does not mean ‘a kind of syllogism’. But
enthymeme is too large a topic to embark on here.

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 I Logic and Dialectic [204–205
One thing that is missing is any discussion in this context of the covering
generalisation which makes a sign into a tekmērion, reconstructable in the
form of a first-figure syllogism. So long as it is a true universal propo-
sition (a), the conclusion follows necessarily, but we might want to
raise questions about the epistemic or the modal status of this universal.
Aristotle’s own example ‘All who have milk are pregnant’ shows one of the
problems that can arise. As stated, it is in fact (like so many philosophers’
examples) false, nor is it all that easy to say precisely what general truth it
is that one relies on in making the inference ‘She is pregnant because she
has milk.’ Would it matter if one was more certain of the inference than
of the exact specification of  the covering generalisation? There may be
a weak spot here for later sceptical probing – or alternatively, for fruitful
philosophical exploration.
The other noteworthy absence is compensated for by Ross when he
reports the connection between sign and what it signifies as ‘a connection
between a relatively easily perceived characteristic and a less easily perceived
one simultaneous, previous, or subsequent to it’, referring to a– (the
non-technical definition) – which, however, contains absolutely nothing
corresponding to the contrast I have italicised. It may be tempting to
suppose that Aristotle must have something of the sort in view (he is
presumably committed to it by ‘apodeiktikē’), but in fact the chapter makes
explicit comment on the epistemic status of a premise once only, and then
not on the sign premise itself but on a premise added in the reconstruction:
in the Pittacus example people omit to state ‘Pittacus is wise’ because it is
common knowledge (a–; cf. Rh. a–). As with the covering
generalisation, so also on this point, Aristotle’s account of signs makes no
use of epistemic notions. Has he made a decision of principle to keep the


Since the example (like so many philosophers’ examples) is repeated interminably in the subsequent
literature, it is worth a brief note. First, Aristotle uses '$ for colostrum as well as milk proper
(Gen. an. a–. Hist. an. a); let us do likewise. Second, concerning animals in general
Aristotle believes that it is only a for the most part truth that pregnancy is a necessary condition
for lactation; some animals have been known to produce milk without getting pregnant (Hist. an.
aff.). That means we must at least have ‘All humans who have milk are pregnant’ rather than
‘All who have milk are pregnant’ (cf. n.  above), and we had better waive modern reports that
in certain parts of the world human grandmothers are induced by suckling to give milk. Third,
Aristotle is quite capable, when it pleases, of giving us the different inference ‘She has given birth
because she has milk’ (Rh. b–). Accordingly, we should not cite nursing mothers, let alone
wetnurses, as counter-examples to the An. pr. inference: Aristotle is thinking of a context in which
the woman has not yet given birth to the infant she is carrying, and she or the doctor infers that
she is carrying one from the signs given by a milky secretion in the breasts. The problem (left as an
exercise for the knowledgeable reader) is to formulate conditions C such that ‘All human females
who have a milky secretion in the breasts and who meet conditions C are pregnant’ comes out true.

Ross () .

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205–206] The origins of non-deductive inference 
logic of evidence separate, or as separate as possible, from the epistemology
or use of evidence? The contrast with later developments (see below) is
so striking (and Ross’s misperception of the text so natural) that one could
easily think so.
At any rate, this looks to be the only substantial point on which Aristotle
has failed our initial expectations (p.  above). He has analysed, or at least
given an explication of, the ordinary man’s notion of sēmeion, and has done
pretty fairly by it. He has put no restriction on the range of things that can
serve as a sign or evidence. (For example, for all he says to the contrary,
pregnancy could be a sign of lactation.) But although he has distinguished
evidence which is sufficient for knowledge from evidence which is not, he
has not exactly matched our initial, rough characterisation of  ‘sign’. For
he has not required, nor even mentioned, that the sign proposition, stating
the evidence for something, must itself be evident or known. On the other
hand, insofar as the study of sign-arguments has brought him within reach
of the idea of a non-deductive logic, he has gone momentously beyond
those simple first expectations.
In section iv we shall compare and contrast the Stoic approach. But first,
because of the nature of our source material on Stoic signs, there is work to
do to gain the right to make the comparison and to set the terms in which
it should be made.

iii
To establish the reality of signs, the Stoics assert:
It is not uttered speech but internal speech by which man differs from irrational
animals; for crows and parrots and jays utter articulate sounds. Nor is it by the
mere fact of having impressions, as such; for they too receive impressions. The
difference is that man has impressions arising from inference and combination.
This amounts to his possessing the idea of consequence (akolouthia) and directly
thereby grasping the concept of sign. For sign is itself of the sort ‘If this, then
that’. Therefore, the existence (huparchein) of signs follows from the nature and
construction (kataskeuē) of man. (Sextus Empiricus, M viii.–)


And with his own account of argument from example, where the example has to be better known
than the case extrapolated from it: An. pr. b, Rh. b–.

My translation here owes much, and not just the stolen phrases, to the translation and elucidation
by Long (c) ff., who rightly says that crucial parts of the Loeb translation of R. G. Bury
are meaningless. Two points of difference deserving notice: () Long renders  T ! 
   in a manner (‘in virtue of simple presentations’) which suggests a species of    –
as it were, Lockean simple ideas. But it is surely the generic    as such,    simpliciter.
() Long’s translation commits him to two views he does not really hold: (a) that   4  is

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 I Logic and Dialectic [206–207
This is a remarkable passage. Just how remarkable emerges when we
supply, from the reprise later in Sextus’ discussion (M viii.–), the
extra premise without which the argument is no argument at all: man
is providentially constructed (pronoētikōs kataskeuasthai). We only have
one of the premises in the claim that ‘the ability to think (to discourse
with oneself ), to frame concepts and to draw inferences is part of man’s
nature’; or  better, that it is the distinctively human aspect of his nature,
constitutive of his rationality. And this claim itself is hardly news. It is the
Stoics’ inheritance from Plato (thinking as internal discourse – Tht. e–
a, Soph. e) and from Aristotle, whose position was already, as we
have seen, that the philosophical account of human nature must include
reasoning of every sort, including reasoning from signs. What is original
to the Stoics is the appeal to providence and the argument built upon it:
Man is providentially constructed. Man is a reasoning, inferring creature,
which means, first and foremost, that he draws inferences from signs.
Therefore, there must in reality be the connections that reason takes itself
to be discovering. If nothing is objectively evidence for anything else, man
is poorly equipped for the world he has to live in; which cannot be so if
his cognitive equipment (kataskeuē) is the endowment of providence.
It is a bold argument. Sextus is entirely justified when he points out
(M viii.–) that its conclusion, the existence or reality of signs, is a
good deal less controversial than the premise which invokes providence
to establish it. That’s just bullying, he says (sphodra biaion). But I hazard
the opinion that Aristotle could not afford to be so sceptical. His Physics
is founded on the no less bold contention that the fundamental concepts
needed for the understanding of nature are to be obtained by a probing

(exclusively) logical consequence, for he translates it so; (b) that signs are conditional propositions,
for he makes the penultimate sentence read ‘For signal itself is of the following form: “if this, then
that”’ (similarly Bury). Both points await discussion, so I have been as non-committal as the Greek
allows.

It is this extra premise which assures us that the argument is Stoic. The argument is destroyed by
the wilful emendation of Kayser (Rhein. Mus. n.f.  () ):   7 for    7.

Long (c) . But the only textual basis on which to extract a claim about framing concepts
as such, as opposed to the two concepts mentioned, is    4 . In which case it
will not be enough (Long (c) , n. , followed by Rist () ) to cite Diog. Laert.
vii.–, where   + is only one mode of concept formation among six, illustrated by the
unpromising example of centaur. Much as one feels that the more general claim would be in place
here, can 4  stand for it? Diog. Laert.’s six modes are pretty clearly of unequal importance
and are cut down to a list of four (including conjunctio = +) at Cic. Fin. iii.; and
cf. construit describing concept formation as such at Cic. Acad. ii.. But a simpler and more likely
interpretation, given one brief phrase, is that of Verbeke () : ‘L’homme . . . est capable . . . de
passer d’un élément à l’autre et d’associer différents éléments; il possède une imagination discursive
( = ) et synthétisante (4 ).’ In other words, it is distinctive of human thought to
be able to draw inferences and ‘put two and two together’. Cf. Epict. Diss. i.. and n.  below.

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207–209] The origins of non-deductive inference 
examination of the ideas of the ordinary man and a handful of previous
seekers after truth. The ideas have to be clarified, made consistent and 
generalised. But the large assumption (contrast Newton) is that this is the
place to start. What assurance do we have that man’s mind and nature are
so attuned to each other? Once the epistemological question becomes a
major issue – a typical Hellenistic development – Stoic providence (which
is not, of course, an agency outside nature) seems the answer closest to the
spirit of the Platonic–Aristotelian tradition.
Thus the concept of sign comes to take a central place in the Hellenistic
version of the established conception of men’s rationality. What has hap-
pened to the concept of sign (sēmeion) to enable it to bear this role? What
exactly has been proved to be real if it is established that signs are real?
The passage before us might suggest the following answer. Signs are
conditional propositions of the form ‘If this, then that’, so the argument
establishes the real existence of a class of propositions. This is quite certainly
wrong, doubly so, and it is worth seeing why.
First, a proposition in Stoic doctrine is an immaterial lekton, a mere
‘sayable’, and does not exist. Along with place, time and the void, the
lekton defies a celebrated Platonic axiom in that it is something but not
a thing that is (exists); it merely subsists with or underlies our thought.
Admittedly, various passages (ours among them and others more polemical)
have been thought to make it difficult to accept this official categorisation
as the whole story, but I can bypass the complexities of that issue if I can
show that it has no relevance to the passage we are examining. I offer two
reasons, each of which seems to me sufficient on its own.
(a) The conclusion of our passage is that signs huparchein, and this does
not contradict the conclusion of the sceptic’s argument  that signs mē
einai (, just before my quotation begins) unless huparchein = einai.
But it is quite clear what it means in the context of this debate to say
that signs einai or that they do not. The rival theses are that nothing
is a sign of anything (e.g., viii.) and that at least one thing is a


See esp. Book i and Owen (); also Owen, (). Key texts include b–a, aff.

By this I mean that it develops, however aggressively, the teleology of the faculties which Aristotle
could have used to justify basing science on  / 5: see Barnes (a) ff., for an argument
to this effect constructed from Aristotelian materials but not, Barnes admits, explicitly unrolled in
any Aristotelian text. On Stoic providence, the most illuminating work I know is Mansfeld ().

Plato: Resp. , Prm. , Tht. e–a, Soph. cd.  not 3: PH ii.–, M x., SVF ii,
– (the separation of  from 3 in the case of immaterial things encapsulates a neat escape from
numerous Platonic difficulties). The status of the lekton:  H & 4  & 4   M
viii, ,    '    .  $  M viii., Diog. Laert. vii..

For references and a very full discussion, see Long (c).

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 I Logic and Dialectic [209–210
sign of another (e.g., viii.). The ontological status of propositions
themselves is not the primary issue at all.
(b) The second reason why the ontological status of propositions them-
selves has no bearing on the present passage is that it would reflect
badly on providence. Merely to ensure the real existence of a whole
lot of propositions would leave open the possibility that they are, one
and all, false. What is needed for the human mind to be in tune with
the world is that something should actually be evidence for something,
not that there should be a ‘sayable’ to that effect.
Now for the second mistake in the wrong interpretation which the word-
ing of our passage might suggest. Signs are not conditional propositions.
The official Stoic account states, ‘A sign is a proposition which forms the
antecedent in a sound conditional, being revelatory of the consequent’ (M
viii.). Not the whole conditional but its antecedent is the sign. But
getting that right is only a prelude to the serious problems.
Granted that the passage should not be read as equating signs with
conditional propositions, does it say or imply that signs are expressed
only in conditional propositions, as antecedents thereof ?  If one means
to speak of a sign, does one have to start out with the word ‘If ’? That
cannot be right either, or else proof would not be a species of sign.
The standard explanation of the claim that proof is a species of sign
points to the fact that in a demonstrative proof the premises serve to reveal,
i.e. give knowledge of, the conclusion (PH ii., ; M viii., , ).
The conjunction of the premises is a sign of the conclusion (M viii.).
It is thus by a sort of metonymy that proof comes to be classified under
‘sign’. The official genus of proof is logos, i.e. argument, i.e. premises plus
conclusion (e.g., M viii., in such close proximity to the claim at 
that the genus of proof is sign that we must suppose the two classifications

Note that I do not say it is not an issue. Sextus brings it in, polemically, at M viii.ff. (cf. PH
ii.), with the argument that, sign being a species of lekton, the existence or reality of the first
presupposes that of the second, which may be disputed. This looks like a scandalous departure
from the question set for debate, but it is in fact an excellent example of the sceptic methodology.
Sextus operates on the basis that you are not entitled to any assertion which makes a truth claim,
no matter how mundane, unless you can justify it, where this will include giving a philosophical
elucidation and defence of the concepts involved in or presupposed by your claim, to the point
where no further questions remain. Empirical, scientific and philosophical justification are seen as
continuous with one another in a way that is foreign to modern philosophy. There are large and
important issues here, see chapter  below.

Contra, e.g., Brochard (/) ; Mignucci () ; Rist () .

Long (c) – with n. , misreports this text, writing ‘a true antecedent proposition . . . ’ As we
shall see, it is a nice problem just where in the proceedings the truth of the antecedent comes in.

Alternatively, if it is so read, it should be judged inaccurate on the point or misleadingly condensed.

Cf. Long (c) : “‘If smoke, . . . ”not smoke as such is the signal.’

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210–211] The origins of non-deductive inference 
are not thought to be at variance with each other and try to understand
them accordingly). Strictly, not the whole proof but its premises make the
sign. The metonymous classification is best explained at M viii.: it is
by participation in sign, i.e. it is because the premises are a sign of the
conclusion, that a proof serves to reveal its conclusion. Proof, it seems,
derives its revelatory character from that of sign.
But now, a proof does not begin with the word ‘If’ (save per accidens).
To every argument (hence to every proof ) there corresponds a condi-
tional proposition with the conjunction of the argument’s premises as its
antecedent and the conclusion of the argument as its consequent, and Stoic
logic declares that the argument is valid if and only if the associated condi-
tional is sound (PH ii.). But that famous contribution to logical theory
presupposes a clear distinction between an argument, which is a sequence
or ‘system’ of propositions (PH ii.–), and a conditional, which is a
single complex proposition (Diog Laert. vii.–). In a proof in which
the premises are a sign of the conclusion they are not enclosed within a
conditional. It follows that, even if every sign is a proposition which forms
the antecedent of a sound conditional, it should not be Stoic doctrine
that the proposition counts or serves as a sign only when it occurs as the
antecedent in a sound conditional. Rightly read, our passage ought to claim
an important association between signs and conditionals (an association
related to the association between proof and conditionals); it  should not
imprison signs within the conditional form of expression.
We must labour our way through one more thicket and then (I trust) a
light will dawn. It is generally assumed that two kinds of sign are recognised
by the Stoics, the commemorative (hupomnēstikon) sign and the indicative
(endeiktikon) sign. It is controversial whether both are meant, or only
the second, when it is said that a sign is a proposition which forms the
antecedent of a sound conditional, being revelatory of the consequent.
In due course I will argue that both are meant. The immediate problem
is that when the distinction between the two kinds of sign is explained, it
turns out that signs of both kinds are observable, which no lekton could
ever be.
There should really be no dispute about this. The commemorative sign
is (by definition) something observed in conjunction with what it signifies,

Both according to Brunschwig ()  with –, , n. . Indicative signs only according to
Barnes (b) – (they are disputing the extension of the concept of revelation, which is one
part of the official accounts of sign).

Pace Long as quoted n.  above, taking issue with Mates () , who had said, correctly, that
the discussion of commemorative and indicative signs, as Sextus presents it, is compatible with the
view that signs are physical objects.

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 I Logic and Dialectic [211–212
as smoke is observed in conjunction with fire (PH ii.; M viii.). The
indicative sign is not something observed in conjunction with what it
signifies, but the reason for this is that what it signifies is unobservable (M
viii.). The sign itself, by contrast, must be immediately evident, as when
blushing is a sign of shame (M viii.) or the movements of a person’s
body a sign of the soul within (M viii.–). The distinction is expressly
tailored (PH ii.; M viii., ) to an epistemological distinction between
two classes of non-evident object. The commemorative sign is for getting
knowledge of things which are temporarily (pros kairon) non-evident, as
e.g., the city of Athens happens not in present circumstances to be evident
to us now. The indicative sign is for getting knowledge of things which are
naturally (phusei) non-evident, one important category of which comprises
internal states of the human body, e.g., the presence of ‘intelligible pores’
in our flesh through which sweat  flows (cf. also M viii.–); but
remember that for Stoic materialism psychological states like shame are
bodily as well. Accordingly, just as the thing signified is a non-evident
object or condition, so in these examples and many others what is spoken
of as the sign (commemorative or indicative) is a thing (state of affairs,
event) observed, not a proposition which is an abstract object of thought.
At this point it may be suggested that the problem is unreal. There is no
hard evidence that the distinction between indicative and commemorative
signs goes back to Stoic sources, indeed no explicit formulation of the
distinction before the time of Sextus Empiricus. My reply is that the
distinction as Sextus discusses it, and the terminology in which it is cast,
may well be late and may owe as much to medical as to philosophical
circles, but that a corresponding distinction with the same or similar
function is firmly embedded in Stoicism at least as far back as Chrysippus.

Roughly contemporary with Sextus are Ps.-Galen, Def. med. xix.,  Kühn = Deichgräber ()
frag. , Ps.-Galen, Hist. phil. in Diels (), , –. There are of course numerous medical
passages which presuppose the ideas here formulated (see, e.g., Deichgräber () frags. ,  and
pp. ff.), and Sextus says (PH ii.) that controversy about the indicative sign had already started
before his time. For a challenging critique of the tradition of attributing the distinction to the
Stoics, see Glidden (); also Sedley (). It should be noted, however, that the most substantial
of the above references, Ps.-Galen, Hist, phil., starts with the dialecticians’ (i.e. Stoic logicians’)
definition of sign as the antecedent of a sound conditional, and then proceeds immediately to
distinguish indicative and commemorative signs, as if the distinction belonged quite comfortably
with the definition.

Sextus says that the indicative sign is a concoction of the dogmatists (PH ii.) or, more expansively,
of the dogmatic philosophers and Logical physicians (M viii.–). This meagre testimony hardly
suggests medical priority; nor, as just seen (n. ), does ps.-Galen Hist. phil., in Diels. () –,
judged to be using a Stoic source. The prominence of medical examples in Sextus’ discussion of
signs, which is sometimes thought to betray medical priority, seems to me neither here nor there:
medical examples are equally prominent in Aristotle’s discussions of signs, as is rightly emphasised
by Preti (). I am inclined to think that what Sextus is discussing is the philosophical version of

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212–214] The origins of non-deductive inference 
First, it is indisputably a Stoic thesis, presupposing their principle of
conditionalisation, that the premises of a proof are a sign which reveals the
conclusion; Sextus’ interweaving of the topics of sign and proof, with the
same examples recurring (see below), must reflect Stoic sources. And we
know that, for the proof to be  a valid proof, the conditional in which
the conjunction of premises stands as antecedent to the conclusion as con-
sequent has to be a necessary truth; it must satisfy the strong criterion of
soundness called sunartēsis (‘connection’ or ‘cohesion’), which the general
consensus of modern scholarship associates with Chrysippus. But sec-
ondly, no one who reads through the first book of Cicero’s De divinatione
will doubt that the Stoics have a mass of theory concerning a type of sign
whose conditional expression could not possibly meet this strong criterion.
In divination, as in medicine, our knowledge of what is a sign or evidence
of what grows out of a long record of observed and remembered conjunc-
tions, gradually corrected for error (Div. i., –, , ). That there
are such divinatory signs for us to learn and use the Stoics establish by an
argument from divine providence which is simply a more elaborate and
specialised version of the argument we have been discussing (Div. i.–,
ii.–; cf. Diog. Laert. vii.); and this argument is expressly attributed
to Chrysippus, Diogenes of Babylon and Antipater (Div. i., ii.).
Now, given that there is in any case independent evidence that Chrysip-
pus was keen to distinguish between a strong (sunartēsis) conditional, which
states a necessary connection, and a weaker (Philonian or material) condi-
tional to be employed when the former is inappropriate, and given that
the De divinatione’s signs (observed items like entrails and cocks crow-
ing) obviously go with the weaker conditional, all we need to complete
the four-part jigsaw puzzle is to find that other observed items, such as
blushing (an example used by Cleanthes: SVF i, , n.  below), are
supposed to stand in a necessary connection with that which they are a
sign of. This we shall find shortly. Thus the distinction between two types
of conditional leads naturally to a corresponding distinction between two
types of observed sign. We shall need some terminology to mark the latter
distinction. Since we know  of none that Chrysippus used, we might as
well call it the distinction between ‘indicative’ and ‘commemorative’ signs,
a distinction which in the medical literature leads an independent and quite complicated life of its
own.

References and discussion in Frede (a) –, –; Barnes (b) –.

The main evidence is Cic. Fat. –, where the discussion is firmly based in divination. For other
references and discussion of complications, see Frede (a) –; Sorabji () –; Sedley
(); for another context where Chrysippus made important use of the distinction, see Barnes
(b) and chapter  above.

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 I Logic and Dialectic [214–215
adding scare-quotes when we mean to speak of the Stoic original of the
distinction which was later so called.
So the problem remains of squaring the account in terms of propositions
with the definitions of the two kinds of sign, reflecting as they do everyday
talk about the condition of the entrails being a sign of an abundant hay
crop (an example from Cic. Div. ii.) or blushing a sign of shame. But I
submit that we have now assembled enough material to see that both this
problem and our earlier difficulties dissolve as soon as we recognise that
there are two levels in the Stoic account of signs, as there were in Aristotle’s.
The distinction between ‘commemorative’ and ‘indicative’ signs, and the
explanation of each of them, corresponds to the non-technical definition
of An. pr. a–. The statement that a sign is a proposition which forms
the antecedent in a sound conditional, being revelatory of the consequent,
corresponds to the logician’s technical explication at An. pr. a–. That
is our first gain from setting the Stoic account of signs side by side with
Aristotle’s: in order to be rid of an issue which has caused much perplexity
in the scholarly literature, all we need to see is that in the move from
the non-technical level to the technical the ordinary man’s idiom ‘X is a
sign of Y ’ is replaced by the logician’s talk of propositions – Aristotle’s
recommendation is accepted by the Stoics because it is a prerequisite for
analysing the inferences in which signs essentially belong. But of course
the Stoic analysis will use propositional logic rather than syllogistic. 
Thus the milk example returns, but Aristotle’s universal generalisation
‘All who have milk are pregnant’ gives way to the conditional ‘If she has
milk in her breasts, she has conceived’ (PH ii.; M viii.). We surmise

A distinction between inference to the unobserved and inference to the unobservable is important
for the Epicureans also: Philodemus, De signis .–.

As textual signs of a two-level approach I would cite: (a) the harsh abruptness of the transition
(  ) from non-technical to technical and back again at PH ii.– (but see further n. 
below). (b) M viii.ff. finds it possible to discourse at length against the theory of indicative
signs without bringing in materials from the technical explication, the critique of which is delayed
until , one hundred sections later. (c) When the explication is finally brought in, it is actually
described by Sextus as a piece of their technologia (viii.; cf. , ). (d) M viii.– appends to
the technical explication a lucid warning against the confusion involved in thinking that one can
carry over to the technical level the temporal categories appropriate at the non-technical level (cf.
n.  below). I should make it clear, however, that by talking of two levels I mean nothing more
elaborate or sophisticated than we have already found in Aristotle.

In their case (cf. n.  above) it is not out of the question that they have additionally in view a
thesis about the underlying logical form of ‘X is a sign of Y ’. For they do have things to say about
the logical form of ‘X is the cause of Y ’: see Frede () esp. –, Barnes ().

The reader may imagine extra-logical reasons for changing the conclusion from ‘She is pregnant
(+)’ to ‘She has conceived (+).’ Cf. n.  above. The conclusion in Ps.-Galen Hist. phil.,
loc. cit., is ‘She has given birth (  4>$ ( )’, as at Arist. Rh. b–, which confirms Diels’s
view (n.  above) that ps.-Galen is not simply copying Sextus.

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215–216] The origins of non-deductive inference 
that, as the Aristotelian reconstruction of this example took the form of
a first-figure syllogism (Barbara), so the Stoic reconstruction is a proof in
the form of their first indemonstrable (modus ponens): ‘If she has milk in
her breasts, she has conceived; she has milk in her breasts; therefore, she
has conceived.’ And this very argument duly turns up in the discussion
of proof (M viii.). Similarly, the ‘intelligible pores’, which are a stock
illustration of the sort of thing we need the indicative sign for (PH ii.;
M viii.), recur in the frequently cited proof ‘If sweat flows through
the skin, there are intelligible pores in the flesh; but the first; therefore
the second’ (PH ii.–; M viii., ). These pores, moreover, are
clearly stated to be a necessary consequence of their sign, on broadly con-
ceptual grounds (PH ii.; M viii.). That is one earlier desideratum
secured (p.  above). Notice also that reconstruction in modus ponens
allows, indeed it requires, the sign proposition ‘She has milk’ to be able to
appear as an independent assertion, outside the conditional of which it is
the antecedent. Thereby a second desideratum is secured and confirmed
(pp. – above). Can we go further and suggest that the Stoics agree
with Aristotle that this is the mode in which sign propositions ordinarily
appear?
It seems from Sextus’ exposition that we can. Not one of the concrete
examples in Sextus (either commemorative or indicative) has the ordinary
man asserting or thinking a conditional. On seeing a scar, one says, ‘There
was a wound there before’ (PH ii.; M viii.), not: ‘If this man has a
scar, he has had a wound.’ The proposition which forms the consequent of
the conditional appears as an independent assertion, presupposing the same
status  for the proposition forming the antecedent. Again, on observing a
man wounded in the heart we foretell that death will come (M viii.), not:
‘If this man is wounded in the heart, he will die.’ Thus far the examples are
of ‘commemorative’ signs, so perhaps the conditionals are missing because
the technical explication and modus ponens reconstruction are not meant
for them, only for the ‘indicative’ sign (cf. p.  above)? But no, these very
conditionals turn up among the examples used in a separate context later –
when the discussion has turned to the technical Stoic explication


See further Brunschwig, () –, ; his emphasis on ‘preconception’ (!1) as the
backing for the conditional here can be further supported by the polemical context PH ii.–,
even though the consequent there is not non-evident.

The same holds of both indicative and commemorative examples in ps.-Galen, Hist. phil., loc. cit.
In more polemical vein M viii.– aligns illiterate farmers and navigators with irrational animals
in order to make it plausible that one can make use of weather signs and the like without indulging
in conditional judgements.

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 I Logic and Dialectic [216–217
(M viii.–; cf. PH ii.). It is the same with ordinary life exam-
ples of the indicative sign. We reason, ‘What produces such movements as
these is a power within the person’s body’ (M viii.), not: ‘If a body moves
thus and so, it has a soul.’ The consequent of the conditional is asserted as
the conclusion of an inference. And, of course, as our example of a proof in
which the conjunction of the premises is a sign of the conclusion we have
‘If motion exists, void exists; motion exists; therefore, void exists,’  not
the associated conditional ‘If, if motion exists, void exists, and also motion
exists, then void exists’ (M viii.). Only after the official explication of
sign has been introduced do we meet ‘If she has milk in her breasts, she
has conceived’, and the like (M viii. with ; PH ii. with ).
The contexts where sign (‘commemorative’ or ‘indicative’) and significate
appear unasserted inside a conditional are just those contexts where the
discussion is at the technical level.
Thus from the organisation of Sextus’ discussion, from the manner in
which he presents his examples, and above all from the requirements of
modus ponens reconstruction, it would seem to be the logician who brings
out that the ordinary man’s sign-inference relies essentially on the sound-
ness of the associated conditional. The conditional ‘If this, then that’ gives
explicit expression to the connection of consequence (akolouthia) which the
inference uses. Like Aristotle’s universal generalisation, it belongs more to


Unless Sextus is irresponsible in his choice of examples, this should settle the dispute between
Barnes and Brunschwig (n.  above) in favour of the latter. When Sextus says that he will confine
his discussion to the indicative sign (PH ii., M viii.), it is not necessary (pace Barnes (b)
 n. ) that all Stoic material in what follows should pertain exclusively to that; the general
technical theory of signs is naturally summoned in defence of the sign which is under attack (cf.
n.  above). Brunschwig () , is right to emphasise that the definition which speaks of the
antecedent revealing the consequent is presented as the definition of sign in general at M viii.,
PH ii.; and he too readily concedes that PH ii., exceptionally, makes it the definition of
indicative sign. For here, I think, he should have recognised the hand of our mutual acquaintance
‘Lector Sublogicus’ (cf. Brunschwig () – n. ), or at any rate a textual puzzle. The wording
of the definition is identical at PH ii., ; M viii., , ; ps.-Galen, Hist. phil. . –
Diels; but for one variation to be discussed later (pp. – below) and but for the addition at
PH ii. of ( !, oddly separated from the noun > . At the very least ( !
is an intrusive gloss, explaining (correctly) 2 , > . But " E   2 , > 
is just as troublesome, implying as it does that the Stoics are identical with the people who wield
the terminology of indicative and commemorative signs ( 2, ; cf. pp. – above). The
whole sentence  6 " E   2 . . . '   is at best parenthetical to its context, a
premature intrusion of a technicality which is shortly going to be reintroduced, as if for the first
time, at . I believe that we have no choice but to excise the whole sentence, following Natorp
() –; Heintz () –; J. Mau in the revised Teubner edition of . But others have
tried to defend the text (e.g., Rieth () –; Glidden ()), and it will be sufficient for my
argument to insist that the sentence be set aside as too problematic to be used in evidence.

Akolouthia can be used for the relation of antecedent and consequent in any sound conditional,
not just those that are logically true: M viii.ff., Frede (a) – (cf. n.  above).

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217–218] The origins of non-deductive inference 
the technical reconstruction of the inference than to the everyday language
of the doctor’s consulting room.
This brings us back to our passage. It is the voice of a logician turned
metaphysician (very Stoic, and a bit of a bully) which argues that, since
man is prone to make inferences, providence would have equipped him
badly for the world he has to live in unless the associated conditionals were
really and truly reliable. For that is what he is saying when he concludes
‘Hence, signs exist’, changing not the subject but the level of his discourse.
His meaning is not: there are antecedents in the aforesaid conditionals (=
‘sign’ as explicated). But rather: certain empirically observable items (viz.
those whose existence or occurrence is asserted when a sign-proposition is
taken out of its conditional and used to show something) really are evidence
for what is inferred from them (= ‘sign’ as non-technically defined).

iv
It was once said, ‘La théorie des signes n’a pas d’analogue chez Aristote.’ I
hope that by now the analogy between Aristotle and  the Stoa is looking
sufficiently close to suggest that a comparative assessment would be both
meaningful and rewarding. We shall find that the assessment leads to
qualifications and a change of emphasis in the analogy, as so far drawn,
which makes comparison possible.
One important matter which Aristotle is clear about is that the sign-
inference is an argument (enthymeme, An. pr. a, i.e. a rhetorical
apodeixis, Rh. a) in which an inferential particle joins two indepen-
dently asserted propositions. This is especially evident in the example
‘Wise men are good, for Pittacus is good,’ where surface grammar presents
premise and conclusion as distinct statements. Aristotle’s other examples
use locutions of the form ‘q because p’, which have the surface grammar of
a single complete statement, but his whole approach determines that these
shall be construed, like the Pittacus example, as expressing an inference of
the form ‘p, so q’. Both the sign-proposition and what is inferred from it are
asserted as true. Did the Stoics appreciate the point as clearly as Aristotle?
We have so far given them the benefit of the doubt, but it took a bit of
work (pp. – above). Was our effort a mistake?
We may approach this question by way of another. The disadvantage
of illustrating ordinary language sign-inferences by locutions of the form
‘q because p’ is that ‘because’ can introduce considerations (of causality,

Brochard (/) .

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 I Logic and Dialectic [218–219
explanation, etc.) other than the purely inferential. Aristotle is not misled,
but for clarity we might prefer a locution such as ‘Since p, q’ which presents
q as inferred from p with nothing further either stated or implied. And
it so happens that the Stoics also take the trouble to distinguish between
‘Since p, q’ and ‘q because p’. The following is reported from the Art of
Dialectic of one Crinis (Diog. Laert. vii.–): ‘Since p, q’ is true if and
only if () ‘If p then q’ is true, () ‘p’ is true; ‘q because p’ is true if and
only if conditions () and () hold and also () ‘If q then p’ is false (the
idea, presumably, is that ‘because’ implies an  explanatory dependence of
q on p, a relation which ought to be asymmetrical – cf. Arist. An. pr. ii.).
Now, has this contrast anything to do with the study of signs? Would a
Stoic be willing to accept ‘Since p, q’ as the canonical representation of a
sign-inference?
Some Stoics clearly would, at least for purposes of discussion, if it is
Stoics with whom Philodemus is debating in De signis, for ‘Since p, q’ is
the most common form of sign-inference illustrated there. Sextus is no
help on the point, since in fact he never spells out an example fully enough
to need either ‘because’ or ‘since’ or any other inferential particle (cf.
pp. – above). Let us be cautious, therefore. For the moment let
it be a mere hypothesis of our imagination that a Stoic would want to
accept ‘Since p, q’ as the canonical representation of a sign-inference.


Possibly a pupil of Archedemus of Tarsus, hence second half of the second century bc. So von
Arnim, RE s.v. ‘Krinis’, on the strength of Epict. Diss. iii.., which in fact only says that he read
Archedemus, not that he was his pupil. But the passage does indicate that it was easier to remember
the story that Crinis died of fright at the noise made by a falling mouse than to remember the
name of the man about whom the story was told. I.e. he is the very type of undistinguished Stoic,
whose book would be a school handbook rather than an original contribution to logical theory:
that would be why his definitions are picked for citation (cf. Diog. Laert. vii., ,  as well as
–). We can presume that his material is reasonably orthodox.

See Sedley () for the identification of Philodemus’ opponents as Stoics and its connection with
the form ‘Since p, q’.

I do not think this is accidental. Sextus intends to emerge from the discussion with nothing left for
the sceptic but the commemorative sign, and that only after it has been shorn of the idea that it
provides a reason for something. If he avoids writing, e.g., ‘This man has had a wound because/since
he has a scar’, he can leave the example intact and represent the ordinary life use of commemorative
signs as mere associative habit such as may be found in irrational animals (M viii.–). This
matter is well discussed by Glidden (), although I am not convinced by his using it to argue that
the indicative and the commemorative sign are not the complementary pair they seem to be. True,
habit does not pair with indicative sign-inference, but Glidden agrees that Empirical medicine
accepts the inferential status of the commemorative sign. If Sextus does not, he diverges from the
usual understanding of commemorative sign, preferring the Methodic approach as he describes it
at PH i.– (on which see Frede ()). This explains how Sextus can countenance including in
his polemic against the indicative sign a number of arguments which appear to some commentators
(whether rightly or wrongly we need not decide) to undermine reasoning from signs as such: Sextus
seeks to undermine all reasoning as such.

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219–220] The origins of non-deductive inference 
Then, I think, we are bound to observe that the Crinis analysis treats
‘Since p, q’ as a single complex proposition, called ‘subconditional’ (para-
sunēmmenon). To assert a subconditional is equivalent to asserting a con-
junction of the form ‘p and if p then q’; and a man who does that has not
yet carried out an inference. No inference takes place unless he proceeds to
assert q.
So much the worse, you may say, for the suggestion that the subcon-
ditional has anything to do with sign-inferences. But let  imagination
persevere a while longer. One solution which twentieth-century experience
might offer our imaginary Stoic, could he have foreseen it, is a distinction
between the content of an assertion stricto sensu and what it presupposes.
Instead of holding, with Crinis, that ‘Since p, q’ asserts the conjoint truth
of ‘p’ and ‘If p then q’, the right answer, it might be suggested, is that ‘Since
p, q’ asserts the truth of ‘If p then q’ on the presupposition that the truth
of ‘p’ is already given. The speaker who uses the word ‘since’ rather than
‘if’ is (understood to be) presupposing – so that he does not now need
to assert – that the case where ‘p’ is false is ruled out. Would some such
account as this fit ‘Since p, q’ to be the canonical representation of a
sign-inference?
If the question seems anachronistic, demanding more pronoia than even
Stoic wisdom can aspire to, it may nonetheless open our eyes to one of
those divergencies in terminology and formulation which Jacques Brun-
schwig has taught us to see as a sign that the birth of important logical
notions is a slow process of refinement, not a sudden emergence of fully
armed wisdom. Brunschwig discerned in Sextus three distinct, progres-
sively refined accounts of proof. I can now reveal that they are preceded
by three distinct, progressively refined attempts to formulate a definition
of sign to match. To see this, we must attend carefully (following Brun-
schwig’s example) to differences between the PH and the M versions of the
Stoic theory.
‘A sign is a proposition forming the antecedent (kathēgoumenon) in
a sound conditional, being revelatory of the consequent.’ So begins the


Presumably the prefix - is added to suggest it is a derived or secondary type of conditional;
cf. G4 .

Frede (a) , remarks that the 4&  seems not to have any importance in Stoic
logic; but a reader who looks up his useful references to what later grammarians have to say about
the conjunction ‘since’ finds them all, to a greater or lesser extent, influenced by the Crinis style of
analysis.

See Van Dijk () ff., ff.; Pizzi () –.

The next five paragraphs are offered as an appendix to Brunschwig () drawing persuasive effect
from it and contributing in return some support to its main contentions.

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 I Logic and Dialectic [220–221
technical section at M viii.. The next matter is to select one of the
competing sets of truth-conditions for the conditional; the Philonian con-
ditions (material implication) are selected, without argument. These being
set out, they yield three cases in which the conditional is sound (T ⊃ T, F ⊃
F, F ⊃ T). But reference back to the initial definition tells us that a sign
ought to be a truth which establishes, i.e. reveals, another truth ().
 So when it is said that a sign is a proposition forming the antecedent
(kathēgoumenon) in a sound conditional, we shall have to understand (deēsei
akouein) this in the narrower meaning ‘the antecedent (kathēgoumenon)
proposition in a conditional which both begins with a truth and ends
with a truth’ () The full definition is finally reached by dividing the
conditional so specified into the case where the antecedent (hēgoumenon)
is revelatory of the consequent and the case where it is not (–) – the
technical Stoic definition of sign, unlike the Aristotelian, has an epistemic
component. The antecedent must be evident and must give us knowl-
edge of a non-evident consequent, whether this be the non-evidence of
things that are by nature unobservable (‘indicative’ sign) or that of things
that are temporarily beyond the reach of observation (‘commemorative’
sign).
We are now ready to draw the conclusion: ‘A sign, therefore, must
not only be the antecedent (hēgoumenon) in a sound conditional, that
is [sic], one which both begins with a truth and ends with a truth, but
must also possess a nature such as to reveal the consequent’ (). The
comments ‘we shall have to understand’ and ‘that is’, together with the
back-references at , , , give the game away. This is a defi-
nition by division designed to elucidate and make more precise a pre-
existing definition, in very much the style that Brunschwig revealed in the
M viii discussion of proof. The terminology confirms it: the original
definition uses ‘kathēgoumenon’ for ‘antecedent’, while the commentary

) , >   - > 6  2   !. The point is brought in as something
already determined by the definition, and in fact   ! is a synonym for (4 !:
M viii. with PH ii.; M viii., vii.–; Brunschwig () –; Barnes (b) , n. .

Where precision is concerned the main improvement is signalled by ‘we shall have to understand’,
viz. that a sign is a true antecedent (cf. n.  above). Additionally, however, an appendix (–) to
the division proper berates ‘some people’ for not appreciating that in the scar–wound example, for
instance, while the wound itself is past and gone, the man’s having had it is present, not past (cf.
(d) in n.  above). The proposition ‘He has had a wound’ is just as much a present truth as the
sign for it, ‘He has a scar.’ The definition of sign is then expanded to include the point that a sign
is always a present sign of a present thing, where ‘present’ (said of a proposition) presumably means
‘true in the present’. This extra refinement, which Sextus exploits at , does not really belong in
the definition of sign. Its importance lies in another direction: in the denial that a present thing is
ever the sign of something in the past (), we see one Stoic at least claiming that the underlying
logical form of ‘X is a sign of Y’ is given by ‘That p is a sign that q’ (cf. n. , n. ).

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221–223] The origins of non-deductive inference 
on it uses the standard term ‘hēgoumenon’. Janáček’s index shows that
‘kathēgoumenon’ occurs in Sextus only when he is reporting or referring
directly to this very definition (M viii., , , , , , , ,
). 
It remains to comment on the choice of the Philonian conditions for the
soundness of the sign-conditional. The choice is presented as a deliberate
choice from the many available (; cf. M viii. and the list of four
sets of soundness conditions at PH ii.–). The intention must surely
be to fix the minimal, most general conditions for signhood, so as to
cover ‘commemorative’ as well as ‘indicative’ signs (cf. pp. – above).
For the examples in this indubitably Stoic discussion include two (scar–
wound, heart puncturing–death, –) which are paradigmatic for the
commemorative sign (PH ii.; M viii.), as well as the indicative milk
example ().
When we turn to the definition of sign at PH ii. and  we sight a
bird of greater rarity still: a sign is a proposition which is prokathēgoumenon
in a sound conditional, being revelatory of the consequent. The term
‘prokathēgoumenon’ evidently presupposes ‘kathēgoumenon’, so that the PH
definition, like the M definition by division, is posterior to the original
definition. ‘Prokathēgoumenon’ means, we are told (PH ii., ), ‘The
antecedent (hēgoumenon) in a conditional which both begins with a truth
and ends with a truth.’ In other words, the PH definition encapsulates
the results of M viii’s clarifying work: the truth of the antecedent is built
into the definition of sign from the outset. Where the M viii division
laboured to embed the sign-proposition in a conditional satisfying just
those conditions that Crinis associates with ‘Since p, q’, the PH ii account
handles the same material with noticeably greater assurance and ties it all
up in a newly appropriated term of art.
But why choose the prefix ‘pro-’ for this terminological innovation?
‘Kathēgoumenon’ (lit. ‘leading clause’) already indicates the proposition
which comes first in the conditional and ‘guides’ you  to the proposition

That the milk example ranks as indicative, pace Rieth () , Sedley () n. , is established
by ps.-Galen, Hist. phil. .– Diels. This must reflect the traditional classification because
the writer or his source seemingly fails to notice that changing the conclusion to ‘She has given
birth’ (n.  above) makes it express an observable event. Having conceived is a state internal to the
human body and so counts as naturally non-evident, requiring an indicative sign (p.  above).

The occurrence of ‘prokathēgoumenon’ at ps.-Galen, Hist. phil ., is due to a correction by Diels
(misleadingly attributed in his apparatus criticus to Prantl) to bring a corrupt text into line with
PH ii.. The MSS read ( .'> 4&  6 H' + . Prantl (–) i,  corrected
4&  to 4&, but left 6 H' + , for which ' +  seems a more likely
correction than Diels’s  ' + . If so, the Hist. phil. passage aligns itself with M viii
rather than with PH ii.

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 I Logic and Dialectic [223–224
which follows. The only thing for ‘pro-’ to add is that the truth of the
antecedent precedes the conditional – just as knowledge of the truth of
the antecedent is supposed to precede any use of the conditional to gain
knowledge of the consequent (PH ii.–). This suggestion is speculative.
‘Prokathēgoumenon’ may be no more than a term borrowed from a verb
of ordinary language for a technical purpose. But if the borrowing does
bring something of its ordinary language meaning with it, the addition
of ‘pro-’ can only serve to emphasise that the antecedent is like a guide
leading from ahead. We are, it seems to me, close to the thought that a
sign-conditional pre-supposes the truth of its antecedent. And this would
be an additional motive for turning to ‘Since p, q’ as an economical and
appropriate expression for the sign-inferences on which so much analytical
effort has been spent. We may add that the difference between ‘if’ and
‘since’ had been under discussion since Theophrastus, whose explanation
was that people use ‘since’ when the antecedent is not only true but also evi-
dent and undisputed. In modern terms, we might say that Theophrastus
has ‘since’ contributing to speaker’s meaning, Crinis to sentence meaning
(truth-conditions), while extending the PH presuppositional analysis to
‘Since p, q’ would connect it with pragmatics. It seems clear that ‘since’ is
the focus of a problem. We see what the problem is when we see where all
three of these analyses go wrong.
Quite simply, none of them catches the argumentative force which makes
‘Since p, q’ the expression of an inference. All three analyses leave q so far
unasserted. They locate the difference  between ‘Since p, q’ and ‘If p, q’
in the fact that the antecedent of the former is somehow asserted as true,
and they fuss about to find a way (speaker’s implication, conjunction, pre-
supposition) in which the antecedent of a conditional can acquire assertoric
force. But this is both insufficient, as leaving q unasserted, and doomed to
failure, because there is no way in which the antecedent of a conditional

As signs are guides to what is not immediately evident, so the wise man can guide (kathēgeisthai)
the unwise in the art of life (M xi.); the Stoic logician would not be unaware of these wider
resonances when choosing his technical terminology. Cf. kathēgeisthai in M viii., .

Cf. previous note. PH ii. fin. employs the verb prokathēgeitai in a manner consistent with this
line of interpretation.

This conclusion chimes perfectly with Sedley’s suggestion () that the subconditional ‘Since
p, q’ came into prominence in connection with signs during the period between Chrysippus and
the Stoics attacked in Philodemus’ De signis, with Antipater, whose contribution to an obscure
chapter in Stoic logic we are about to discuss, possibly (but here I hesitate) playing some role in its
promotion.

Simplicius, In Arist de Cael. .–., assuming that the substance of the explanation derives
from the first book of Theophrastus’ Prior Analytics, to which Simplicius refers at the end as
having given ‘the explanation of this usage’. If so, it looks as though in the ancient world Gricean
conversational implicatures preceded Strawsonian presuppositions.

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224–225] The origins of non-deductive inference 
can acquire assertoric force. The mistake, however, lies not in thinking that
‘p’ in ‘Since p, q’ is asserted, which is correct. The mistake is to think that
‘Since p, q’ is a conditional of any shape or form, when it is in fact an
expression of the inference ‘p, so q’.
This mistake, if the Stoics made it, is of far-reaching significance. It
may seem outrageous to suggest such an error, given that the distinction
between argument and conditional lies at the very core of Stoic logic
(p.  above). But a distinction which is quite clear in one type of context
may get lost in another, and unfortunately, the hypothesis that the Stoics
saw a sign-inference as somehow more like a conditional proposition than
an argument would explain quite a lot more than the uneasy dealings we
have just surveyed.

v
(1) The point about ‘Since p, q’ and ‘q because p’ (for which Crinis proposes
the same style of analysis) was that they have the surface  grammar of a
single complete statement. Hence the temptation to construe them as a
special sort of conditional. But the other side of that coin is that, if you
yield to the temptation, you then face the problem of what to say about
Aristotle’s locution ‘q, for p’, or the equivalent ‘p, so q’, or any other where
surface grammar suggests we have two distinct statements joined by an
inferential particle. If these do the same job as ‘Since p, q’, and the latter
is not an argument, will you say that ‘p, so q’ is not an argument either?
Stoic orthodoxy was that indeed it is not. One premise does not make an


I regret having to take a stand here on a debatable and complicated issue. For a contrary view,
see Van Dijk (), and, on ‘because’, Frege (/) –); Ryle (a/) (but ‘because’
has extra complications of its own). The question is whether ‘since’ marks the occurrence of an
inference or functions as a two-place sentential connective. Consider any sentence of the form ‘If
p, then since r, q’: it seems clear that r is asserted and that its truth is a necessary condition for
the truth of the whole (if the whole is to be assigned a truth-value). This would be inexplicable if
Crinis was right about ‘since’, or even if (as has been suggested to me) he was partially right in that
he fixed the truth conditions but left out the force or function of ‘since’; for inside a conditional
the latter should be suspended (whereas r is asserted) and Crinis’ truth conditions do not yield the
result that the truth of r is necessary for the truth of the whole. The moral is that ‘Since r, q’ is
not a unit for assertion, as comes out also in the fact that ‘If p, then since r, q’ is equivalently and
indeed more perspicuously rendered ‘Since r, then if also p, q’ (a form frequent in Philodemus, De
signis). But I am aware that more needs to be said, e.g., about ‘since’ in oratio obliqua, and that
comparisons should be made with ‘for’, ‘so’, ‘and so’, ‘and consequently’, etc. (See the material
collected in Van Dijk.) It must suffice for this occasion to indicate what difficulties a full defence
of Crinis would have to overcome. The only certainty is that no historical Stoic had the resources
to overcome them. (I am much indebted to Jonathan Barnes and Mark Sainsbury for discussion of
this issue.)

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 I Logic and Dialectic [225–226
argument (M viii.; PH ii.; Alex. In Top. .ff.; In An. pr. .ff.;
Apuleius, De int. .–). Why not?
It follows immediately from the Stoic definition of argument (logos) as
what is constructed from premises (plural) and conclusion (to sunestēkos
ek lēmmatōn kai epiphoras, M viii.; cf. PH ii., Crinis apud Diog
Laert. vii.) that someone who says ‘p, so q’ has not yet constructed an
argument. Accordingly, the orthodox view, as Sextus expresses it, is that
there are no one-premise arguments, while a heretical view championed
by Antipater maintains that one-premise arguments can be constructed
(dunasthai sunistasthai, M viii.). Examples to illustrate Antipater’s posi-
tion include ‘You see, so you are alive’ (Apuleius), ‘You are breathing, so you
are alive,’ ‘It is day, so it is light’ (Alexander). These are distinguished,
both by the definition of argument and by Alexander (In An. pr. .–),
from the category of ‘unmethodically conclusive’ arguments like ‘a is equal
to b; b is equal to c; therefore, a is equal to c’, that is, valid arguments
with plural premises but requiring supplementation to get them into the
canonical form of a Stoic syllogism; here the addition of the conditional
premise ‘If a is equal to b and b is equal to c, then a is equal to c’ is needed,
not to make the argument valid, still less to make it an argument, but,
as the terminology shows, to make it ‘methodical’, i.e. formally as well as
deductively valid. 
Nor are Antipater’s examples like the Aristotelian enthymeme, argu-
ments which are invalid without supplementation (Alexander, In Top.
.ff., does bring in the enthymeme, but as a distinct item for compari-
son), for it is common ground to both parties in the dispute that they are
examples where q follows of necessity from p (Alex. In An. pr. .–.;
In Top. .–). Just this, indeed, sets the problem. Alexander argues against
Antipater that even though ‘It is light’ follows of necessity from ‘It is day,’
it is not redundant to add ‘If it is day, it is light,’ and one must add it to
make an argument which is not deficient but complete (In Top. .–. ;
cf. plena conclusio in Apuleius). But if the extra premise is not needed to

It may be significant that Quint. Inst. V.. cites this example to illustrate tekmērion, i.e. Antipater’s
concerns may well have included the place of sign-inferences in the theory of argument (we know
that he wrote about signs: p.  above, Cic. Div. i.). After all, why should he choose this type
of example (there is no good reason to doubt the reports that he did) rather than, say, examples of
contraposition ‘If p then q, so if not-q then not-p’ (cf. Frede (a) –)? On the other hand,
the next example on the list does not have the non-evident conclusion required of a sign-inference
(M viii.–), so sign-inference cannot have been his sole concern.

Pace Mates ()  with n. ; Mueller () .

On !'  T!%    , see Frede (a) –.

When Alexander says that in the example    N ( " "'  6 " 4 '! (notice
the coupling of Stoic and Peripatetic terminology), I do not think he is putting the example into

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226–227] The origins of non-deductive inference 
ensure that the conclusion holds of necessity, the only further thing it can
be needed for is to ensure that the conclusion holds of necessity because
the premises hold: a complete argument requires not only premises such
that the conclusion holds of necessity but, in addition, premises such that
the conclusion holds of necessity because the premises hold, where the
‘because’ explains not why the fact is so but why one must accept that
the fact is so (Alex. In An. pr. .–; Philop. In An. pr. .ff.). Thus
what the Stoic orthodoxy denies is that, given a man who is breathing,
he is thereby shown to be alive, i.e. just in virtue of the brute fact that
he is breathing. Rather, he is shown to be alive by his breathing taken in
conjunction with the fact that if he is breathing, he is alive, i.e. with the fact
that there is a connection between his breathing and his being alive. What
the conditional adds is an explicit mention of the connection; ‘connection’,
 indeed, is the literal meaning of the standard Stoic term for ‘conditional’,
sunēmmenon (Latin conexum).
We have seen that the claim that ‘It is day, so it is light’ is not a complete
argument and the claim that ‘If it is day, it is light; it is day; therefore, it is
light’ suffers from redundancy are the two opposite sides of a single dispute;
which explains why, when Sextus mentions the dispute, it is to dragoon
Antipater into bearing witness to the sceptic accusation that even the first
indemonstrable, that leading light of Stoic logic, is guilty of redundancy.
But if we want to know what Antipater’s examples are, on the orthodox
view that they are deficient as arguments, the only assistance we get is
Alexander’s statement (In An. pr. .–) that the concept of following
necessarily from is wider than the concept of following syllogistically from.

the Stoic category of arguments that are unsound by reason of deficiency (PH ii.; M viii.),
for this fallacy is defined as a lack in one of the premises (e.g., ‘Wealth is either good or bad’ appears
instead of ‘Wealth is either good or bad or indifferent’), not as a lack of one of the premises; as
Jonathan Barnes remarks (b), the fallacy of deficiency is a species of falsity in the premises.

For this as a Stoic thesis, together with its Aristotelian precedent and its modern revival in the ‘logic
of relevance’, see the illuminating discussion in Barnes (b).

Alexander at this point shifts into Peripatetic gear and supplies ‘Everyone who breathes is alive,’
explaining that it is only because this further fact is known and taken for granted by us all that
‘You are breathing, so you are alive’ ever seems to be an argument (In. An. pr. .–: In Top.
.–). But throughout his discussion he runs Stoic and Peripatetic logic in harness (we remarked
one effect of this in n.  above), and we shall find reason to suppose that a Stoic would supply,
in the first instance, a singular conditional (p.  below) and that he would not think of it as a
further fact (p.  below).

Specifically, Antipater is made to rebut Chrysippus’ defence that without its conditional premise,
alleged to be redundant, the first indemonstrable is no argument at all (for a reconstruction
and assessment of the sceptic accusation, see Barnes (b). No doubt that was not his real
intention. Frede (a) –, suggests, plausibly, that he may have meant to point a parallel with
‘unmethodically conclusive’ arguments: if these do not need supplementation to be valid arguments
(p.  above), the same should apply where a conclusion follows from a single premise.

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 I Logic and Dialectic [227–228
That much he finds in the Aristotelian work he is commenting upon (An.
pr. i.). Not so the illustration he gives of the point, namely, that in a sound
conditional such as ‘If it is day, it is light’ the consequent follows necessarily
but not syllogistically from the antecedent. This surely is to fuse argument
and conditional statement in the most disastrous manner. One could find
no better illustration of the dangers of the pervasive Stoic habit of using the
notion of following or consequence (akolouthein, hepesthai) to cover both
the relation of the consequent of a conditional to its antecedent and the
relation of the conclusion of an argument to its premises. It is indeed hard
to see, given this fusion of ‘p, so q’ with ‘If p, then q’, what ‘If it is day, it is
light’ can add to ‘It is day, so it is light.’ If the addition is not redundant, as
orthodoxy insists, it can only be because, as just now suggested, it helps to
exhibit in perspicuous form the connection between the materials already
given.
This brings us back to signs. It has emerged that the Stoic  logician
will think of the technical reconstruction of a sign-inference, not in the
Aristotelian way as filling out an enthymematic argument, but as making an
argument where strictly speaking there was none before, only the materials
for one. Regardless of the locution he starts from, be it of the form ‘If p,
then q’ or ‘Since p, q’ or ‘p, so q’, the materials he has to work with are
invariably a conditional and its antecedent, the latter having been asserted
in conjunction with the conditional or somehow presupposed as true. So
invariably the argument comes out as an argument in modus ponens. Modus
ponens requires, as we said earlier (p.  above), that the sign proposition
be able to be unconditionally asserted, but perhaps we can understand
now why it was hard work in section iii to extricate Stoic signs from
the conditional form of expression. Where Aristotle supplies a universal
generalisation ab extra, the Stoic logician finds his conditional already
present in the ordinary language locution from which he starts. In this
sense, the gap between the technical and the non-technical levels is less,
hence less evident, than it was with Aristotle. In another sense, however,
the gap is greater, for it is the gap between assertion and argument.

() A curious confirmation of this diagnosis may be found in the Stoic


approach to physiognomics. Aristotle, as we saw, took physiognomics to


Alex. In An. pr. .–, actually asserts that ‘If p, then q’ means the same as ‘q follows from p’.
Compare the move from inferential consequence to conditional in the argument from providence
discussed in section iii. And while looking back at that argument, notice that 4 , which
troubled us in n. , is not preceded by the definite article and therefore describes the same   
as  = : consequence and connection are two sides of the same coin.

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228–229] The origins of non-deductive inference 
be a matter of empirical investigation and inference. Cleanthes discerned
instantly, from the manner of his sneeze, that a rough-looking fellow was in
fact a homosexual effeminate, thereby vindicating Zeno’s claim that a man’s
character can be grasped (katalēpton) from his appearance (Diog. Laert.
vii.). Let us agree that the story, whether fact or fiction, is eminently
plausible. People often can tell just by looking. The question is, does this
‘telling’ have an inferential basis, even if it is not one that the person could
formulate?
I want to suggest that the Stoic answer to this question is ‘Yes and
no’. Recall that one of the functions of the ‘indicative’ sign is to give
us information about other people’s mental states (blushing is a sign of
shame and in general bodily movements of the soul within). We reason
(logizometha), writes Sextus (M viii.), ‘What produces such movements
as these is a power within the person’s body.’ Yet perhaps in a way this is
hardly reasoning at all, for Sextus also writes that the indicative sign has a
peculiar  nature such that it practically speaks right out loud to signify the
presence of soul (ibid. ; cf. PH ii.). (Chaplin’s silent movies would
be an excellent illustration.) The logical content of this characterisation will
concern us later. In the present context the story about Cleanthes suggests
that we might connect it with a surprising doctrine of Chrysippus that both
feelings like pain or fear and virtues or vices of character can be perceived
along with people’s appearance (Plut. Stoic. rep. ef; cf. Comm. not.
c). It is not supposed that everyone is equally good at this kind of
seeing – Cleanthes nearly failed the challenge, while there is independent
evidence that with practice and familiarity the Sage can tell differences,
between two eggs for example, that the untutored eye cannot see (Cic.

!  * : the hectoring note is typically Stoic – compare M vii..

Cf. Cic. De or. iii.: ‘Action is as it were the body’s speech’ – from a passage which would repay
detailed study, as would the further material collected as ‘Prolegomena’ in Förster ().

I am grateful to Paul Sanford for calling my attention to this reference and the Cleanthes story. I
fear that Cherniss in the Loeb edition mistranslates  $ ( 6 )  9 >  P 
+  . when he makes Chrysippus hold that mental affections are perceivable ‘along with their
species’ (viz. pain, fear, etc.). Compare H  *  2 U 4   , -  at Plut.
Comm. not. b, (5  4 at Diog. Laert. vii., and , 2  4 in SVF i,  (quoted
below n. ). It should be clear in any case that Chrysippus is advancing a claim about other minds
(he is not addressing the problem of self-knowledge which Plutarch develops as an objection),
and since the passage is direct quotation from Chrysippus, ) $ followed by /  
shows that he really does mean ‘perceive’: i.e. this is not simply Stoic materialism claiming that the
items in question are bodily. Indeed, Cleanthes (SVF i, ) used the fact that blushing is a sign of
shame and pallor of fear (rubore atque pallore testetur) as a premise from which to argue for that
materialistic thesis.

I take it that ‘x perceives y’ in the enriched sense Chrysippus introduces here entails (i) ‘x observes
something which is a sign of y’, (ii) ‘y itself is unobservable’ in the sense of ‘observing’ used in the
definition of indicative sign (pp. – above). The idea is that x perceives y through its sign.

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 I Logic and Dialectic [229–230
Acad ii.–). But the very concept of a knowledgeable seeing seems to
override the distinction between direct observation and inference which
for many philosophers is the epistemological analogue to the distinction
between assertion and argument.
It is true, and important for the overall assessment of Stoicism, that
various modern philosophers have made a strong case for recommending
that we should be sceptical about the epistemological distinction between
direct observation and inference, where other minds are concerned if not
as a short-cut pregnancy test. But the recommendation does not carry
over into logic: the distinction between assertion and argument is fun-
damental and unassailable.  Unfortunately, it is all too characteristic of
the Stoic cast of mind to treat the two cases as parallel, or even (so deep
and ineradicable is the tendency to fuse epistemology and logic) as two
aspects of a single issue. Going further, it is perhaps not too bold to sug-
gest that both the Epicurean and the Stoic epistemologies are a perfect
match or model for their respective universes. Epicurean epistemology is
inferential through and through, starting with inferential and combinato-
rial operations on mental images – the ‘atoms’ of the mind. It is worlds
away from the Stoic emphasis on seeing and grasping connected wholes.
For the Stoic, the visible and the invisible are connected in a thorough-
going, organic unity governed by the cosmic reason. Man is part of the
system, hence providentially endowed with reason. We come into harmony
with nature when reason fuses with sense-perception to grasp the connec-
tion (sunēmmenon) of the visible with the invisible as a unitary whole.
To begin with, the connections may be a matter of inferential reasoning,
but we can learn to see them as naturally as we see fear in a man’s face.
‘God has brought man into the world to be a spectator of himself and
of his works, and not merely a spectator, but also an interpreter’ (Epict.
Diss. i..).

() The issues explored under () and () pertain almost exclusively to
the ‘indicative’ sign, whose conditional expression states a necessary truth.


The inspiration for these wider vistas is once again Jacques Brunschwig: see his (b). Cf. also
Verbeke (), in the same volume, who rightly emphasises (esp. n. ) that the main thrust of
Sextus’ arguments against signs is to force the Stoics into a dilemma the very posing of which
destroys their conception of an organic unity: either sign and significate are apprehended together,
in which case there is no revelation of the second by the first, or they are not, in which case
apprehension gets no further than the sign and again there is no revelation of the other. There
are further connections, I believe, with the matters discussed by Imbert (); cf., in particular,
her reference ( n. ) to the arts and sciences as new forms of perception (Cic. Acad. ii.; Plut.
Demetr. ) and her discussion () of my Epictetan peroration.

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230–231] The origins of non-deductive inference 
We must now broaden the inquiry to take in the ‘commemorative’ sign,
picking up from the diagnosis reached at the end of the discussion under ()
(p.  above). For we have still to mention the most important consequence
of all.
Modus ponens arguments are always formally valid. So if, for the reasons
given, in the Stoic reconstruction sign-inferences invariably come out as
arguments in modus ponens, there will be no room for invalid forms in
their logic of evidence. Try Aristotle’s  inference from sallowness to preg-
nancy. ‘Since she is sallow, she is pregnant,’ Stoically construed, invokes the
wrong conditional. ‘Since she is pregnant, she is sallow’ gets the inference
the wrong way round. The conditional which would apply the empirical
content of Aristotle’s ‘All who are pregnant are sallow,’ to the Stoic recon-
struction is ‘If she is pregnant, she is sallow,’ but if one relies on this as
the basis for inferring her inner condition from the colour of her face, one
must be prepared to tolerate an argument which cannot be made formally
valid. To people who think in the manner I have been trying to describe,
the idea of a non-deductive logic is bound to seem absurd. On their analy-
sis, signs are conclusive (the reconstruction is a formally valid argument in
modus ponens), i.e. tekmēria, sufficient for knowledge, or they are not signs
at all.
The Stoics are of course aware that in ordinary life we are prepared
to call something a sign which is not in this way conclusive. But they
remain unimpressed: ‘What can be more absurd than to say, “This is a sign
(signum) or proof (argumentum) of that, and I therefore follow it, but it
could be that what it signifies is either false or nothing at all?” ’ (Cic. Acad.
ii.). A rationale for this radical sounding claim can be constructed by
putting together a passage from Sextus (M viii.–) with a passage from
Philodemus (De signis i.–), as follows:
(i) Take any sign S which is ‘common’ (koinon) to two things X and Y –
for example, a man’s fall from wealth to poverty might be evidence of his
having lived a life of dissipation, but it might equally be evidence of his
having met with disaster at sea (S, X, Y are repeatable event-types, not
tokens). Considered in abstraction from the circumstances of a particular
case, S is no more evidential of X than it is of Y. That much should be
uncontroversial. But (ii) suppose that Y is or involves the absence of X.
Then S is no more evidential of X than it is of not-X, in which case it is not
really a sign (of X) at all. We only treat it as one because we are implicitly
relying on further information about the particular circumstances which

Cf. Aristotle’s rain inference, n.  above.

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 I Logic and Dialectic [231–233
we do not (perhaps could not) formulate. Taking this line  of thought
further, one could restore some respectability to the unrigorous everyday
use of ‘sign’ by construing it as a three-term instead of a two-term relation:
S can be a sign of X for a person A and a sign of Y for person B if A and B
have learned to respond to different features of the circumstances in which
S occurs – only there must in principle be an explanation for their ability
to infer, correctly we are to understand, different things from the same
‘sign’ (just as there is an explanation for the different effects that fire has
on different materials), and the ground of the explanation will lead us to
the sign strictly and properly so called.
Be that as it may, so far as (i) and (ii) are concerned it is vital to appreciate
that, while the argument requires that any genuine sign-relation instan-
tiate an exceptionless, circumstance-independent generalisation, it does
not require that the generalisation be itself a necessary truth. Philodemus
reports his opponents as thinking that the inference ‘This man is good
because he is rich’ is unsound because the generalisation ‘All rich men are
good’ is false. He does not have them say, in the passage under consid-
eration, that it is unsound because the generalisation is contingent. 
Thus the rejection of ‘common’ signs, the insistence that genuine signs

The last sentence is my own gloss. (i) is from Sextus, (ii) from Philodemus, but (ii) is already
implicit in Sextus’ remark (M viii.) that X and Y cannot coexist. On the Stoic use of ‘common’
here, see Sedley (). It has nothing to do either with the distinction Sextus makes at M viii.
between two senses in which the term ‘sign’ is used, generally (koinōs) to cover commemorative as
well as indicative sign, and particularly (idiōs) of the indicative alone, or with the physiognomic
contrast between common and peculiar sign: in physiognomics common signs are perfectly good
signs but only of common qualities, which is not what physiognomics is interested in (ps.-Arist.
Phgn. b, b).

I offer this as a reconstruction of the otherwise inexplicable concession made by the people with
whom Sextus is debating in M viii.– (the context from which (i) is taken), the concession,
namely, that an indicative sign may signify (sc. correctly) different things to different people. This is
of course flatly incompatible with the usual understanding of the indicative sign, as Sextus gleefully
demonstrates at  = (i). So either Sextus is playing distinct theories against each other or the
sense of ‘sign’ has changed. It is obvious that the sense of ‘sign’ (and of ‘commemorative’) has
changed when the people concerned go on to say that commemorative signs – here exemplified,
uniquely, by conventional signals – may mean different things in different communities, it being a
matter for legislation and custom to decide what they shall mean (; cf. , ). My suggestion
gives point both to the comparison with the effects of fire (cf. also the emphasis on learning at
–, ) and to the analogy with conventional signals, which clearly do call for a three-term
analysis; for it is as an analogy that the latter is introduced at , not as the plain truth about
commemorative signs which Sextus purports to be left with at the end of the debate ().

Here I must register a disagreement with a main thesis of the fine interpretation of De signis
advanced by Sedley (). Modal terms occur in i., , , but they can quite well be taken to
refer to necessitas consequentiae (likewise fieri potest at Cic. Acad. ii.), as they must be so taken
in ia.. and often. It is important that the example here, ‘This man is good because he is rich,’
is the sole example in the De signis which has the typical look of a Stoic sign-inference. The only
other examples involving singular propositions are Epicurean examples of the type ‘If Plato is a
man, Socrates also is a man’ (., .–). The bulk of the discussion concerns the Epicurean

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233–234] The origins of non-deductive inference 
are ‘peculiar’ (idion) to just one significate, is quite compatible with the
Stoics having maintained a version of the distinction between indicative
and commemorative signs. That distinction will show up as a difference
in the modal status of the generalisations instantiated by ‘indicative’ and
‘commemorative’ sign-conditionals respectively.
Let us start from a typical pair of examples, (a) ‘He is blushing, so
he is ashamed’; (b) ‘He has a scar, so he has had a wound.’ The Stoic
reconstruction formulates each of these as a modus ponens argument from
a singular conditional: (a) ‘If he is blushing, he is ashamed; but the first;
therefore the second’; (b) ‘If he has a scar,  he has had a wound; but
the first; therefore the second.’ The logic of the two examples is the same.
Epistemologically, moreover, each has one categorical premise which is
taken to be established by observation. It is the conditional premises which

move from a local generalisation like ‘All men in our experience are mortal’ to an unrestricted
generalisation such as ‘All men are mortal.’ Both for this move and for the move between singular
propositions the Epicureans claim necessitas consequentiae (e.g., ., .–., .–, .–.),
meaning by this that it is inconceivable that the premise be true and the conclusion false (.–,
.–). Both sides agree, though not necessarily for the same reason, to use the form ‘Since p,
q’. Consequently, for the Stoic the question whether the Epicurean inference is cogent either is
(regarding ‘Since p, q’ as a type of conditional – so perhaps .–, , .ff.) or depends upon
(regarding ‘Since p, q’ in more typically Epicurean style as an inference – so perhaps .) the
question whether by Stoic standards the conditional ‘If p, then q’ is a necessary truth – for him,
the test of any argument claiming necessitas consequentiae is whether the associated conditional is
necessarily true. The conditional in question has a form which it will be convenient to write, ‘[(x)h
Fx → Gx] → [(x) Fx → Gx]’, where ‘(x)h . . . ’ may be read ‘for any object x in our experience
here . . . ’ (’ H>). The Stoic first offers his opponent a conditional which is necessary but only
because its consequent is tautologous: ‘[(x)h Fx → Gx] → [(x) (Fx & Gx] → Gx]’ (.–).
Then he offers ‘[ (x)h Fx → Gx] → [(x) Fx → Gx]’ (.–, following Sedley’s interpretation),
which in effect reduces to ‘ p → p’; for if ‘(x)h Fx → Gx’ is itself necessary, our subscript ‘h’
is redundant – local conditions are irrelevant if it is qua men that men are mortal. In this way,
for the Stoic the question in dispute reduces to the question whether ‘If something is a man, he
is mortal’ is a necessary truth, while for the Epicurean it looks as though the only sign-inferences
his opponent will allow are inferences from, via and to a necessary connection established by the
‘elimination’ method which Sedley shows to be a test for sunartēsis. This is true of the Stoic’s view of
the inferences the Epicurean is interested in, but it does not follow that it is true of the Stoic’s view
of his own sign-inferences. Thus at .ff. (cf. .–., .–) the Epicurean takes the Stoic to
be maintaining both (a) that the only genuine signs are ‘peculiar’ signs, and (b) that the only way
these are established is by the elimination method, i.e. sunartēsis. But when we check back to .–
(to which .ff. is explicitly replying), we find (a), but no unambiguous evidence of (b). If it fits
better with Sextus’ evidence to read the modal terms in .– as referring to necessitas consequentiae,
as above, and if, as I have been arguing, we can explain the Epicurean’s supposing them to require
that every sign-conditional be necessary as due to the fact that the Stoic does demand a necessary
connection for every Epicurean sign-inference, then (ii) can stand as in the text above – provided, of
course, it can be integrated into a plausible overall interpretation which gives the Stoic a coherent
theory.

Singular conditionals are standard in the reconstructions given by Sextus (PH ii.; M viii, –.
, ) and are obligatory if the argument is to have the form of the first indemonstrable. To
formalise the instantiation step would require predicate logic; it is not surprising that we hear little
about it (the clearest example is the instantiation of an astrological generalisation at Cic. Fat. ).

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 I Logic and Dialectic [234–235
differ: in (a) a strong (sunartēsis) conditional which states a necessary truth,
in (b) only the weak Philonian conditional. Hence the conditional in
(a), while of course it entails the corresponding Philonian conditional,
instantiates a generalisation ‘If someone blushes, he is ashamed’ which
can be known to be true a priori, on broadly conceptual grounds. The
conditional in (b), on the other hand, can only be known to hold on the
strength of a contingent generalisation linking scars to wounds which we
have antecedently established by observation and memory.
This, indeed, is an outcome we could have foreseen long ago, when the
Philonian truth conditions for sign-conditionals were combined with the
epistemic requirement that the antecedent be revelatory of the consequent.
If knowing the truth of the antecedent is to lead us to know the truth of
the consequent, then we must already know that the conditional is sound,
independently of knowing the truth-values of its constituents. The Stoics
expressly stipulate that ‘If p, then q’ is not a sign-conditional if it can
be known to be sound by the Philonian criterion simply from its being
evident that p and evident that q (M viii.–). This raises no problem
with the conditional in (a), which is itself necessary, so that the truth of
the antecedent can of itself (‘by its own nature’) tell us that the consequent
also is true (cf. PH ii.; M viii.). But with (b) there is no option but
to say that it is on the strength of an antecedently known generalisation
that the singular conditional is known to be true.
Nevertheless, so long as the generalisation is indeed a true, exceptionless
generalisation, the proposition ‘He has had a wound’ will be established
conclusively and of necessity – the necessitas consequentiae of the Aristotelian
tekmērion. In effect, the  Stoic thesis is that the only legitimate sēmeion
is a tekmērion – that is the burden of the argument about ‘common’
and ‘peculiar’ signs. The upshot is that Stoic logic guarantees to Stoic
epistemology that the only warrant which one proposition can confer on
another is the warrant of conclusive proof. Aristotle’s idea that there are
different grades of evidential support is rejected. If one does not have

Cf. n.  above and Sedley (). For the purposes of our discussion we need not worry about
whether the alleged necessary truth is one.

The scar–wound connection is so regarded at Cic. Inv. , Quint. Inst. v.., likewise the heart
puncturing–death connection: Phld. Sign. .–., Quint. Inst. v... Galen, Subfig. emp. ch. ,
in Deichgräber () , –; and the smoke–fire connection: Phld. Sign. .–, Cic. Part. or.
, Philop. In Arist. De an. .–.

Hence the unAristotelian coupling ‘signum [= > ] aut argumentum [=  ]’ as
alternative expressions for one thing in the passage quoted from Cic. Acad. ii.. Similarly, ‘signa
et notas’, Cic. Div. i.. And to revert once more to physiognomics, consider SVF i, : ‘The
Stoics hold that the wise man is graspable by perception from his appearance in the manner of a
tekmērion ( ,  , )   , , 2  4 %7).’

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235–236] The origins of non-deductive inference 
grounds which make it absolutely necessary that q, one has no grounds
at all, and had better keep quiet with judgement suspended. And this, as
everybody knows, is exactly what the Stoic Sage is meant to do.
No doubt true exceptionless contingent generalisations are hard to come
by, and harder in divination than in medicine, which is one reason for the
prominence in these discussions of medical and semi-medical examples.
But the providential ordering of the world, in which everything is con-
nected with everything, guarantees that they are there to be found and
that man has the cognitive capacities to find them. The knowledge which
can diagnose these signs (the medical metaphor is revealing) belongs to the
Stoic Sage; he is the one true diviner (SVF iii, ). The rest of us, who
are not Sages, are prone to error: we take something to be an exceptionless
contingent generalisation when it is not, or we miss a relevant difference
between two circumstances of its application (Cic. Div. i., ). But
in principle it is possible for a divinatory generalisation to stand as cer-
tain, and it is enough to prove the existence of divination if it happens
just once that we are in a position to say, ‘Chance cannot have played
even the slightest part in this prediction’s coming true’ (Div. i.–). One
sound principle is sufficient to prove the existence of the art. Mistakes and
quacks, however numerous, no more prove the contrary than they do in
the field of medicine or navigation (Div. i.). After all, what we take to be
a necessarily true generalisation may be wrong also. The textbook example
illustrating the Stoic definition of the persuasive (pithanon), ‘If something
gave birth to something, she is its  mother’ (Diog. Laert. vii.), is a uni-
versally quantified conditional precisely designed to bring home to people
the fallibility of their conceptual intuitions (they have to be reminded that
a bird is not the mother of its egg).
If this is correct, the difference in modal status between strong and weak
conditionals does not automatically bring with it a difference in epistemic
status. Philonian conditionals may be no less certain than sunartēsis con-
ditionals. This is obvious where the Philonian conditional is entailed by a
sunartēsis conditional, or where antecedent and consequent are both evi-
dent in their own right (M viii.). But we have just confirmed that it
holds equally of Philonian generalisations (universally quantified material
conditionals). What the modal difference does mean is that the certainty


Cf. n.  above.

For a context in which this point about our fallibility in making conceptual claims is crucial, see
chapter  above.

To the references already given, add Cic. Div. i.. I thus side with Barnes (b) against Sedley
() in refusing to align the Philonian conditional with the epistemological category of the

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 I Logic and Dialectic [236–237
in the two cases has different grounds: in the one case we consult our
‘preconceptions’, in the other observation and memory. We need the
second because we are human: only God can see things whole and grasp
the entire interconnected sequence of past, present and future (Cic. Div.
i.). It is only when the second method too has failed us that we must
resort to generalisations that are only ‘for the most part’ true (Div. i.).
This third type of generalisation brings us finally back to Aristotle.
The picture thus far has been that the logic of our reasoning is always
deductive. What varies is the source of the materials from which our
arguments are constructed. Accordingly, the thesis to be defended has been
that for the most part a good diviner is right about what he takes to be a
true exceptionless generalisation (Cic. Div. i.,, –). That is quite
different from the more Aristotelian topic – drawn, it should be noticed,
from Posidonius () – of generalisations which themselves hold only for
the most part or about which one can be certain of no more than that
 they hold for the most part. Given a generalisation of this third type
(imagine that ‘Sallow women are pregnant’ is an example), what is the
status of the singular conditional which instantiates it in a particular case?
Does it presuppose that we can formulate, and have eliminated, the kinds
of exception to which it is liable (cf. p.  above)? With what assurance
or probability can we draw the conclusion that she is pregnant from her
sallow features? What role is played in such inferences by background
knowledge of the circumstances in which the generalisation is applied? Such
questions as these could have led a Stoic-trained logician to develop a non-
deductive logic with a different, and perhaps more promising, structure
than Aristotelian logic could provide (cf. p.  above). But it is quite clear,
I think, that all inquiry in this direction was spurned by the establishment
figures of Stoic philosophy.
The Stoics recognise that we voyage through life following, for much of
the time and even in the matters most vital to our welfare, nothing better
than the pithanon: that which we happen to find convincing or persuasive.
We owe it to providence that, for the most part, we get away with it.
pithanon. Nonetheless. I believe that what Sedley calls ‘a mode of thought not strictly governed by
logic’ is recognised – and deplored – in Stoicism, but as a third category, to be introduced shortly.
Replacing Sedley’s two categories by three and shifting the material he collects on the pithanon
into the third is an essential part of my strategy for vindicating for the Stoics a distinction between
‘indicative’ and ‘commemorative’ sign.

Cf. n. , n.  above. This is not to say, as Sedley appears to say, that a necessary conditional is
analytic in the modern sense. Stoic necessities are as substantive as Aristotle’s.

The difference is obscured by Sedley’s talk (, n. ) of astrological rules as ‘fallible’.

Even signs sufficient for knowledge can be explicated in terms of ‘for the most part’ connections
according to the Rhetorica ad Alexandrum, bff.

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237–238] The origins of non-deductive inference 
But to the extent that we rely on the pithanon, we are fools, creatures
of unreason, failing abysmally to use correctly the rational faculties with
which providence has endowed us. There is no logic to be discerned here,
only persuasion. And indeed, it is to the art of persuasion, as represented by
the rhetorical treatises of a Cicero or a Quintilian, that we must look if we
want to study the later history of Aristotle’s distinction between conclusive
and non-conclusive signs.
But when we compare these works (the most sophisticated discussion is
in Quint. Inst. v.) with Aristotle’s Rhetoric, it is all  too obvious that their
authors are not logicians. Nor are the Epicureans much interested in logic
(in the proper sense of formal logic), although they have some good things
to say about what it takes to establish a generalisation on inductive grounds,
and they quite rightly charge the Stoics with paying insufficient attention
to confirmation theory. All through the Hellenistic period serious logic
is the preserve of the Stoic establishment (the political image is perhaps
not inappropriate), which meant, as I have tried to explain, that the whole
massive weight of the Stoic system stood against any further development
of Aristotle’s pioneering start.
With this last result we have come full circle. If one believes that an
adequate philosophy of science must find a place for non-deductive as well
as for deductive logic, one will conclude that, as logicians, Aristotle was
a better friend to the sciences than Zeno and Chrysippus. If Aristotle’s
wisdom in these matters disappeared into the rhetorical tradition, rather
than being taken up and developed by philosophers or scientists, a large
share of the blame must rest with the authority of Zeno’s work On Signs
(Diog Laert. vii.) and the Stoic tradition generally.

It is here that I would bring in Sedley’s brilliant exposition of Philodemus, De signis .–.
That the concept of the pithanon is not a concept of evidence or reasonable grounds for belief,
hence not a concept of probability in the modern sense, is a thesis for which I argue at length in
‘Carneades was no probabilist’ (unpublished), while accepting that a more hospitable attitude to
the pithanon becomes widespread in the first century bc; the general shift at that time towards
‘soft’ philosophy may also be the context in which to view Posidonius’ concession to ‘for the most
part’ connections in divination.

See Sedley’s account ().

The length of this paper is a response, I hope a productive response, to the difficulty of some of
the issues raised at the conference discussion and to an extremely penetrating set of criticisms from
Jonathan Barnes. I am grateful also for comments on the first draft from Theodor Ebert, David
Glidden, Jonathan Lear and an audience at Stanford University. In preparing the final version I
had the advantage of being able to consult Sedley (), to which I am enormously indebted even
where I have favoured a different view.

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