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Monday, February 16, 2009

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"But then how respond to someone like Heraclitus who sincerely maintains that it is not self-evident?"

Myself, I would say, "But you are being intellectually dishonest in your 'sincere' assertion that the LNC is not self-evident." And when Heraclitus objects to being called a liar, I would ask "On what *grounds* are you objecting to being called a liar? Does your objection have anything more than emotive content to it?"

Just to point out again that Aristotle has a slightly different concern in this chapter. Mostly he is not asking whether 'p and not-p' is false, but whether being-an-A and not-being-an-A mean the same or not. Most of his proofs are that they do not mean the same, and thus that they represent different judgments.

Thus he argues that we cannot have the concept of being-a-man, as differentiated from being anything else i.e. not-being-man, unless we could differentiate between being something and not being something.

Turning to the the argument you are referring to.

"For why does a man walk to Megara and not stay at home, when he thinks he ought to be walking there? Why does he not walk early some morning into a well or over a precipice, if one happens to be in his way? Why do we observe him guarding against this, evidently because he does not think that falling in is alike good and not good? Evidently, then, he judges one thing to be better and another worse. And if this is so, he must also judge one thing to be a man and another to be not-a-man, one thing to be sweet and another to be not-sweet. For he does not aim at and judge all things alike, when, thinking it desirable to drink water or to see a man, he proceeds to aim at these things; yet he ought, if the same thing were alike a man and not-a-man. "

LNC is a principle we must have in order to judge anything at all. You ask

"Is it an ontological principle or is it merely a law of *thought*, a principle that governs how we must think if we are to make sense to ourselves and others? "

Aristotle seems to be arguing that it is a law of *judgment*. I am conscious this does not address your main difficulty with the argument. (Indeed I am sure it was I who originally raised this objection).


On a tangential note. As you probably know I am learning Japanese, which is fascinating language, in that it overturns some philosophical preconceptions derived from language.

(1) There is a tradition in Latin logic of an 'order of signification': written sign signifies spoken sign, spoken sign signifies concept, concept signifies thing. The order of the first two is reversed for Japanese Kanji - these are picture symbols which represent concepts directly, to which spoken symbols correspond, but secondarily so.

(2) Japanese verbs have only past and present tense. Future is indicated by indicating a time. Thus 'I go tomorrow to work'. I have already used this idea to challenge Alan Rhoda's view that a future tense proposition must be in some sense true now.

(3) Relating to the present post, there are three verbs for 'being' in Japanese. There is one for non-moving objects which covers rocks and plants. There is another for living moving objects (animals and persons). There is a third which is used for essential predication only, i.e. only to say what kind of thing something is. The last one corresponds to our use of the copula, except it is not used for non-essential predication. For example, if you want to say the plant is standing on the table, you use the verb type (1). If you say the dog is in the kennel, verb type (2). But if you say this is a plant, or this is a dog, verb type (3).

I mention this because Aristotle's concern (I believe) is with essential predication, and explains his argument that without LNC we could not grasp what kind of thing anything was, for being-that-thing and not-being-that-thing would be the same.

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