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Aristotle’s Topics is a work that teaches us how to argue. It is divided into eight books. These books teach you what argument is, strategies of argument, rules of argument and what argument is good for. This is also an excellent place to start in Aristotles philosophy. He does require a basic knowledge of the four causes and his substance theory, but he requires that in all of his books. When reading his work it is acceptable (and often a very good idea) not to read all of his books in order. Rather, read his books in one place to find out what he is saying, then move back in order to continue reading. The current best translation of the Topics is found in the Complete Works of Aristotle, Vol 1.

Since Aristotle wrote the Topics, there have not been a whole lot of explanations or commentaries on them. The earliest commentators were the Greeks. Alexander of Aphrodisias (~300sAD) wrote a commentary. Boethius (480-525AD) produced two commentaries on the Topics: In Ciceronis Topica and De topicis differentiis. The Byzantine commentators appeared afterwards. These are either untranslated or lost. After the Byzantines came the Islamic commentators. Averroes (1126-1198AD) wrote commentaries today, but they have not been translated into English. Along with the Islamic commentators came the Latin commentators. Albert the Great (1200-1280) wrote a commentary which is still in Latin. Commentary did not resume until the modern period. In 1968, G.E.L. Owen recorded the results of a symposium on Aristotle’s Topics. In 1997, Paul Slomkowski wrote a critical commentary on the Topics. Also in 1997, Robin Smith published a critical edition of the first and last book of the Topics.

The Topics

  • Book I
  • Book II
  • Book III
  • Book IV
  • Book V
  • Book VI
  • Book VII
  • Book VIII

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