Hence, despite its original popularity, eristical sophistry could not hold its ground.
But he cannot allow either that the Megarians and the Cynics were the only eristics, or that eristical sophistry began with Socrates.
He got so far as gradually to write short discourses and long treatises, which we, not he, now arrange in the order of the Categories or names; the De Interpretatione on propositions; the Analytics, Prior on syllogism, Posterior on scientific syllogism; the Topics on dialectical syllogism; the Sophistici Elenchi on eristical or sophistical syllogism; and, except that he had hardly a logic of induction, he covered the ground.
Now this view is inconsistent with the evidence of Plato, who, in the Sophist, in his final and operative definition, gives prominence to the eristical element, and plainly accounts it the main characteristic not indeed of the sophistry of the 5th century, but of the sophistry of the 4th.
Thus the Protagoras brings the educational theory of Protagoras and the sophists of culture face to face with the educational theory of Socrates, so as to expose the limitations of both; the Gorgias deals with the moral aspect of the teachings of the forensic rhetorician Gorgias and the political rhetorician Isocrates, and the intellectual aspect of their respective theories of education is handled in the Phaedrus; the Meno on the one hand exhibits the strength and the weakness of the teaching of Socrates, and on the other brings into view the makeshift method of those who, despising systematic teaching, regarded the practical politician as the true educator; the Euthydemus has for its subject the eristical method; finally, having in these dialogues characterized the current theories of education, Plato proceeds in the Republic to develop an original scheme.
At the same time, there are three species of syllogism, scientific, dialectical and eristical or sophistical; and in consequence there are different ways of acquiring premisses.
Then Aristotle himself regarded rhetoric as partly science and partly dialectic, perhaps he would have said that his works on reasoning are some science and others not, and that, while the investigation of syllogism with a view to scientific syllogism in the Analytics is analytic science, the investigation of dialectical syllogism, in the Topics, with its abuse, eristical syllogism, in the Sophistici Elenchi, is dialectic. At any rate, these miscellaneous works on reasoning have no right to stand first in Aristotle's writings under any one name, logic or Organon.
That Plato was not careful to distinguish the Megarians and the Cynics from the eristical sophists, and that the disputants of the 4th century affected some of the mannerisms of the greatest disputant of the 5th century, he willingly concedes.
Grote's note about the eristical sophists is perhaps the least satisfactory part of his exposition.
Nor does the process of acquiring the premisses of eristical syllogism, which is fallacious either in its premisses or in its process, differ, except that, when the premisses are fallacious, the dialectical interrogations must be such as to cause this fallacy.