A formula for presenting an argument logically. The syllogism affords a method of demonstrating logic through analysis. In its simplest form, it consists of three divisions:

  • Major premise: All public libraries should serve the people.
  • Minor premise: This is a public library.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, this library should serve the people.

There are, it is to be noticed, three terms as well as three divisions to the syllogism. In the major premise “should serve the people” is the “major term”; in the minor premise “this (library)” is the “minor term”; and the term appearing gin boy the major and the minor premise, “public library,” is called the “middle term.” This kind of deductive or categorical syllogism always takes the form of three statements: A certain class has a certain quality; a given entity belongs to that class; that entity has that quality. Accordingly, the minor premise and the confusion share a subject, and the major premise and the conclusion share a dedicate.

Note, as well, that the reductio ad absurdum (A “reducing to absurdity” to show the falsity of an argument or position. One might say, for instance that the more sleep one gets the healthier one  is, and then, by the logical reductio ad absurdum process, someone would be sure to point out that, on such a premise, one who has a sleeping sickness and sleeps for months on end is really in the best of health. is another kind of syllogism. The term also refers to a type of reductive-deductive syllogism:

  • Major premise: Either A or B is true.
  • Minor premise: A is not true.
  • Conclusion: B is true.

The particular reductio here comes in the minor premise, where one alternative is reduced to falseness or “absurdity.” (Handbook to Literature)



A Handbook to LiteratureWilliam Harmon.

Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. Peter Barry.

Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Stephen Eric Bronner.

Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. Lois Tyson

The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. David H. Richter

Literary Theories and Schools of Criticism. Purdue Online Writing Lab. 

The Norton Anthology of World Literature: Literary TermsMartin Puchner, et al.

Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French & Ned Stuckey-French.

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