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In Aquinas's Summa Theologica I q. 76 a. 2, "Whether the intellectual principle is multiplied according to the number of bodies?," he begins his argument that there must many intellects by shortly stating that if man is intellect, then there is no difference between Socrates and Plato:

I answer that, It is absolutely impossible for one intellect to belong to all men. This is clear if, as Plato maintained, man is the intellect itself. For it would follow that Socrates and Plato are one man; and that they are not distinct from each other, except by something outside the essence of each. The distinction between Socrates and Plato would be no other than that of one man with a tunic and another with a cloak; which is quite absurd.

He then moves on to the other case (Intellect is different from man) which is the real substance of the argument. Is there a term for "removing doubt from a simple case just to get it out of the way"?

  • Structurally, I would call it "indirect proof of a dependent premise." Not sure yet if there's a term for that. – siski-misiski Oct 27 '16 at 10:22
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    "Due diligence"? – Mr. Kennedy Oct 27 '16 at 11:49
  • In maths I'd call this the "trivial case" and you always want to start with that. I don't think there is an explicit term for this approach. – don-joe Oct 27 '16 at 14:59
  • I don't know if there's a single term for this, but this method of St. Thomas and Scholastics in general—where doubts/objections are addressed first, followed by a sed contra, an answer, and replies to objections—is discussed in the short work De methodo S. Thomæ. – Geremia Oct 27 '16 at 16:53
  • Interesting insights. Trivial case sounds the most like the wording I had in mind, though due diligence is also a good way to put it. EDIT: @don-joe assuming a better answer doesn't come along, answer with Trivial Case and I will accept it. – popctrl Oct 27 '16 at 17:34
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if man is intellect, then there is no difference between Socrates and Plato.

This is simply a reductio ad impossibile argument, which is the weakest form of demonstration (cf. Aristotle's Posterior Analytics I.26).

  • This is not really what I'm asking. To clarify, I am wondering what the term is for presenting (To use @don-joe's comment) a trivial case. I'm not really interested in the kind of argument. – popctrl Oct 27 '16 at 20:12
  • @popctrl It's a standalone argument to prove that "the intellectual principle is multiplied according to the number of bodies." So, are you asking: "Is there a term for presenting a multiple arguments to prove the same conclusion?" or "Is there a term for presenting a weaker (in this case: reductio ad impossibile) argument first, before presenting stronger ones?"? – Geremia Oct 30 '16 at 1:48
  • "Is there a term for presenting a weaker (in this case: reductio ad impossibile) argument first, before presenting stronger ones?" Yes, I guess this is what I was looking for. Accepting your answer – popctrl Oct 31 '16 at 16:01

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