IX. - Augustine - De Dialectica - Сочинения и рассказы - Философия на vuzlib.su
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IX.

Thus, it is most correctly said by the dialecticians that any word is ambiguous. Do not let it dissuade that Hortensius sneers at them in Cicero: "They say that they dare explain the ambiguous clearly. They also say that any word is ambiguous. Then how were ambiguous things explained by ambiguous things? That is like bringing an unlit torch into the darkness." Elegantly and cleverly said, but in that same Cicero we read that Scaevola said to Antonius (De Orat. I, 10, 44): "So that you may seem to speak well to the wise and truly to the stupid." What indeed did Hortensius do in that place but gloss over the darkness of the ignorant with sharpness of wit and pleasantness of speech as if with a pure and sweet drink? For when it is said that any word is ambiguous, this is said of single words. Ambiguous things are explained to the disputant, and no one disputes by using single words. So no one explains ambiguous things by ambiguous words, and, though any word is ambiguous, no one explains the ambiguity of words except by words which are joined and (are then) not ambiguous. E.g. if I were to say that every soldier was two-footed, it would not follow from that the whole company of soldiers was two-footed. Just as, when I say that any word is ambiguous, I do not say sentence or disputation, though these are made up of words. Thus any ambiguous word my be explained by non-ambiguous disputation.

Let us now look at the types of ambiguity: There are firstly two of them, one of which causes doubt concerning that which is spoken, the other in that which is written. For if anyone hears «acies» (point, dot), and if anyone reads it, he may be uncertain, unless it is cleared up by a sentence, as to whether it is the point of the army, or of iron, or the pupil of the eye which is written or spoken of. If someone finds the writing of just the word «leporem», and there is no sentence in which it is placed, he is immediately cast into doubt as to whether the penultimate syllable of this word is pronounced long because it comes from «lepos» (charm) or short because it is from «lepus» (hare), an ambiguity which certainly is not felt when the accusative case of this noun is perceived from the spoken voice. But if someone speaks poorly, it is not by ambiguity but by obscurity that the listener is hindered, obscurity of the type which is similar to ambiguity because words pronounced badly in Latin do not lead the mind into diverse notions, but impel it toward whatever it seems to be. Therefore, there are many distinctions between these two types. The first of these is again divided into two. If something is said and several things can be understood, these several things must be comprised not only in one word but one and the same definition, or they will have the same vocable in common, but be explained in various definitions. Those which one definition can contain are called univocal (= polylexic, Tr.). Those which, though under one designation, must have different definitions are called equivocal (polysemic, Tr.). Let us first consider the univocal, and, since they are clear from the definition, let them be illustrated by examples. When we say «man», we say boy as well as youth, as well as old man, stupid or wise, big or little, citizen or pilgrim, city-dweller or farmer, he was as well as he who is, sitting as well as standing, rich as well as poor, beginning something or ending it, being happy as well as mourning, or neither. But in all these «dictiones» there is nothing which receives the name of man which is not included in the definition of man. The definition of «man» is rational mortal animal. Now who can say that a youth, not at the same time a boy and an old man, not both wise and stupid, is not a rational mortal animal? These and all the others which were set down above are contained in the name «man» and the same definition. If there is anything which is a boy or stupid or poor or even sleeping, if it is not a rational mortal animal, it is not a man, for that is what a man is. They must be contained in the same definition, and there is nothing ambiguous about the rest of them. One may be in doubt concerning a little boy, or a stupid or fatuous person, or a sleeping person or a drunk or a madman as to whether they are rational animals. This can be defended, but it takes a long time for anybody who is in a hurry. As far as that is concerned, this definition of man is thought by some to be incorrect and ill thought out, unless all men are contained in it and nothing except man. Well, these are the «univoca» which are included both in one designation and one definition, although among them they _can_ be distinguished by proper names and definitions. For the names of boy and adolescent, rich and poor, free and slave, are diverse, as are other kinds of distinctions. So diverse things have proper definitions, but their one common name is «man», just as the definition «rational mortal animal» is common to all.





 
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