I want to know how to say, "Double negation affirms by accident" or "Double negation affirms accidentally." Would it be duplex negatio affirmat per accidens? This is in reference to the idea from logic and grammar that double negation affirms and from the idea in metaphysics that properties either are essential or accidental.

I'm coming to this in specific reference to the following excerpt from Arist. Int. 14.23b15-17: “Si ergo quod bonum et bonum et non malum est, et hoc quidem secundum se, illud vero secundum accidens (accidit enim ei malum non esse).” In the 'original' Classical Attic this was: "εἰ οὖν τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ ἀγαθὸν καὶ οὐ κακόν ἐστιν, καὶ τὸ μὲν καθ’ αὑτὸ τὸ δὲ κατὰ συμβεβηκός (συμβέβηκε γὰρ αὐτῷ οὐ κακῷ εἶναι)."

  • 1
    Do you mean it in a strictly logical context? FWIW, double negation does not mean affirmation in every language, despite logics. E.g. in French negation is sometimes compulsorily double, and in Spanish double negation just adds emphasis. Not sure how it works in Latin, though – Rafael Jun 1 '17 at 20:22
  • 1
    @Rafael: In Latin too, double negation sometimes adds emphasis (retaining the overall negation). A 'general negative' such as non, numquam, or nihil isn't 'destroyed' (Allen & Greenough's term) but is merely 'subdivided' (Gildersleeve & Lodge's term) by succeeding negatives such as neque, neque...neque, non solum/tantum...sed etiam, and ne...quidem. – cnread Jun 2 '17 at 2:56
  • Are you sure you want to say "by accident"? I have never heard the philosophical per accidens translated that way, because it's highly misleading to a modern English speaker. – brianpck Jun 2 '17 at 16:13
  • @brianpck I disagree. This is a part of the formal language of the discipline, which has some words that in common English are interpreted differently. A good example of this is Socrates’ Apology (Apología) by Plato; here ‘apology’ clearly has a different meaning than the common meaning of a begging of pardon, or German Bedauern (in this context, an apology is a defence). – Canned Man Nov 9 at 17:26
  • 1
    @CannedMan It is much more common to translate Latin per accidens or Greek κατὰ συμβεβηκός as "accidentally," not "by accident." I'm sure you could find scattered examples of the latter, but it seems needlessly misleading. – brianpck Nov 9 at 19:57

Your Answer


By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.