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Headword: *to/pos
Adler number: tau,783
Translated headword: place, commonplace
Vetting Status: high
It is one of the terms used in various ways.[1] A topos is a term for what is natural and for the [sc. female genital] member[2] and for the theme of each discourse.[3] The commonplaces in Aristotle are so called because of their similarity to a natural place.[4] Commonplaces are the beginning and starting point of various attacks.[5] The Topica of Aristotle[6] are so entitled because he gives some topoi in them, starting from which we will be able argue deductively about any proposed subject through generally agreed-on understandings. For a topos is a sort of starting-point or element from which we take our beginning on each subject, understanding the intention, by circumscribing it determinately (or because it encompasses the general and the universal, which are the principal components of deductive arguments, or they are able by themselves to show and include such matters), indeterminately in the individual matters. For it is possible for someone starting out from these to have easy recourse to a widely-acceptable premise for the question at hand. This you see is the beginning. Now some think that the first book should be entitled not one of the Topica but rather a Preface to the Topica. Sometimes the argument from widely-received opinions is like inescapable proof, for it is not possible to argue deductively about every problem on the basis of the truth.
And in the Epigrams: "but on the earth there is a place for pity; for when they saw me at the tombs they piously garlanded me. But now the sea that brought me forth has destroyed me. What trustworthiness is there in the sea?"[7]
Greek Original:
*to/pos: tw=n pollaxw=s legome/nwn e)sti/: le/getai ga\r to/pos o( fusiko\s kai\ to\ mo/rion kai\ h( e(ka/stou lo/gou peri/odos: oi( de\ para\ *)aristote/lei to/poi dia\ to\ e)/xein tina\ o(moio/thta tw=| fusikw=| to/pw| le/gontai to/poi. to/poi de/ ei)sin a)rxh\ kai\ a)formh\ diafo/rwn e)pixeirhma/twn. *topika\ de\ e)pigra/fetai ta\ tou= *)aristote/lous, a)po\ tou= to/pous tina\s e)n au)toi=s paradi/dosqai, a)f' w(=n o(rmw/menoi dunhso/meqa peri\ panto\s tou= proteqe/ntos di' e)ndo/cwn sullogi/zesqai. e)/sti ga\r o( to/pos a)rxh/ tis h)\ stoixei=on, a)f' ou(= lamba/nomen ta\s peri\ e(/kaston a)rxa/s, e)pisth/santes th\n dia/noian, th=| perigrafh=| me\n w(risme/nws [h)\ ga\r perilamba/nei ta\ koina\ kai\ kaqo/lou, a(/ e)sti ta\ ku/ria tw=n sullogismw=n: h)\ du/natai/ ge e)c au)tw=n ta\ toiau=ta dei/knusqai/ te kai\ lamba/nesqai], toi=s de\ kaq' e(/kasta a)ori/stws: a)po\ tou/twn ga/r e)stin o(rmw/menon eu)porei=n prota/sews e)ndo/cou pro\s to\ prokei/menon: tou=to ga\r h( a)rxh/. a)ciou=si de/ tines to\ prw=ton bibli/on mh\ *topiko/n, a)lla\ *pro\ tw=n *to/pwn e)pigra/fesqai. e)ni/ote de\ o(/sa a)nagkai=a to\ e)c e)ndo/cwn: ou) ga\r oi(=o/n te peri\ panto\s tou= proteqe/ntos e)c a)lhqw=n sullogi/zesqai. kai\ e)n *)epigra/mmasi. a)ll' e)pi\ me\n gai/hs e)le/w| to/pos: oi( ga\r i)do/ntes eu)qu/ me pro\s tu/mbous e)/stefon eu)sebe/es. nu=n de\ tekou=sa qa/lassa diw/lese. ti/s para\ po/ntw| pi/stis;
[Dr. Marcelo D. Boeri of the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Tecnicas, Buenos Aires, provided indispensible help in the preparation of this entry.]
[1] See generally LSJ s.v. topos. This noun essentially means place or position, as (albeit metaphorically) in the epigram quoted at the end of the entry, but before then the lexicographer is dealing with topos as 'commonplace', in the sense registered in LSJ II.2 and found also in the OED A, I: 'a passage of general application such as may serve as the basis of argument' -- this citing and depending on Cicero's definition of the Latin calque for to/pos koino/s, locus communis (De inventione 2.14.47), 'a general theme or argument applicable to many particular cases'. See also tau 784.
[2] See LSJ I.3.
[3] Marcelo Boeri calls attention to Xenophon, Symposium 4.64, where a similar term occurs (translated by H.G. Dakyns as 'the theme of their discourse').
[4] Aristotle himself, in the Topica, never defines the term topos.
[5] cf. Alexander of Aphrodisias, Commentary on Aristotle's Topica 126.11. Aristotle himself defines the term e)pixei/rhma (in Topica 110a11, 111b12, 111b33-38, 112b5) as an attack on or objection to an opponent's argument in a dialectical debate.
[6] Here begins a longer section from Alexander: 5.18-6.1.
[7] A dolphin, thrown on dry land by an inhospitable sea, tells of his burial rites conducted by sympathetic humans: Greek Anthology 7.216.3-6, attributed to Antipater the Thessalonian. The figurative use of 'place' here is of course alien to the previous part of the the entry.
Alexander of Aphrodisias, On Aristotle’s Topics I, tr. Johannes M. Van Ophuijsen, Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell U. Press, 2002
H.G. Dakyns, The Works of Xenophon, London and New York: Macmillan and co., 4 vols 1890-97
Paul Slomkowski, Aristotle's Topics, Philosophia Antiqua 74, Leiden-New York-Cologne: Brill, 1997
Keywords: definition; ethics; geography; imagery; medicine; philosophy; poetry; rhetoric; zoology
Translated by: Oliver Phillips ✝ on 17 July 2002@16:47:09.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (cosmetics) on 3 February 2003@09:05:43.
Marcelo Boeri (Corrected the Greek in note 5.) on 27 December 2003@09:09:05.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 27 December 2003@15:31:55.
David Whitehead (rearranged and augmented notes; more keywords; tweaks and cosmetics; raised status) on 14 January 2014@08:26:04.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 1 January 2015@23:15:23.
David Whitehead (coding) on 29 May 2016@04:31:33.


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