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Fallacy Of Accent – Expanded

April 6th, 2010 No comments

Aristotle maintained that an argument depending upon accent it is not easy to construct in unwritten discussion; in written discussions and in poetry it is easier. ((Aristotle. On Sophistical Refutations trans. W. A. Pickard-Cambridge (eBooks@Adelaide) (The University of Adelaide Library, University of Adelaide South Australia), Part 4.))Thus (e.g.) some people emend Homer against those who criticize as unnatural his expression to men ou kataputhetai ombro. For they solve the difficulty by a change of accent, pronouncing the ou with an acuter accent. Also, in the passage about Agamemnon’s dream, they say that Zeus did not himself say ‘We grant him the fulfillment of his prayer’, but that he bade the dream grant it. Instances such as these, then, turn upon the accentuation.

Others come about owing to the form of expression used, when what is really different is expressed in the same form, e.g. a masculine thing by a feminine termination, or a feminine thing by a masculine, or a neuter by either a masculine or a feminine; or, again, when a quality is expressed by a termination proper to quantity or vice versa, or what is active by a passive word, or a state by an active word, and so forth with the other divisions previously’ laid down. For it is possible to use an expression to denote what does not belong to the class of actions at all as though it did so belong. Thus (e.g.) ‘flourishing’ is a word which in the form of its expression is like ‘cutting’ or ‘building’: yet the one denotes a certain quality-i.e. a certain condition-while the other denotes a certain action. In the same manner also in the other instances.

According to Copi and Cohen ((Irving M. Copi & Carl Cohen, Introduction to Logic (Twelfth Edition) (Prentice Hall, 2005), pp. 156-158.))An argument may prove deceptive, and invalid, when the shift of meaning within it arises from changes in the emphasis given to its words or parts. When a premise relies for its apparent meaning on the one possible emphasis, but a conclusion is drawn from it that relies on the meaning of the same words accented differently, the fallacy of accent is committed.
Consider, as illustration, the different meanings that can be given to the statement:
We should not speak ill of our friends.
At least five distinct meanings-or more?-can be given to those eight words, depending on which one of them is emphasized.

Categories: Logic