The Classical Quarterly (New Series)

Research Article

Why the order of the figures of the hypothetical syllogisms was changed

Susanne Bobziena1

a1 The Queen's College, Oxford

In chapter 6 of Alcinous’ Handbook of Platonism we find a discussion of categorical, hypothetical, and mixed syllogisms. Alcinous distinguishes three figures of the hypothetical syllogism, and illustrates each figure with a syllogism based on an argument from Plato. Here he remarks in passing that most people called the second hypothetical figure the third and that some called the third figure the second. We may assume that those who called the third figure the second and those who called the second the third were the same. In a parallel passage, Alexander of Aphrodisias advocates the same ordering of figures of hypothetical syllogisms as Alcinous, and reports that Theophrastus, in the first book of his Analytics, had the second and third figure in reverse order. Combining these passages, we can infer that at the turn of the second century A.D. there existed two different views on the ordering of the figures of the hypothetical syllogisms, of which one goes back to Theophrastus, whereas the other presumably was the result of a later change.