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Friday, February 08, 2019


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>>To understand the operation of negation we have to understand that upon which negation operates, namely, propositions, and to understand propositions, we need to understand truth and falsity.<<

A brief résumé of the Aristotelian theory. A sentence (logos, oratio) is a meaningful set of meaningful signs. Not merely a string of letters or noises, but a set of things which possess meaning. Propositions (enuntiatio, propositio) are a subset of sentences which, unlike prayers, commands, questions wishes etc) are capable of truth and falsity.

But how do we ‘understand truth and falsity’? According to the Aristotelian schema:

TRUE: N says that p and p
FALSE: N says that p and not p

Do we define ‘not’ in terms of truth and falsity, or do we define truth and falsity in terms of negation? A difficult question, but start with truth. This does not require the negation operator. Imagine a language where there is no word ‘true’. Is Jake telling the truth when he says that grass is green? Answer, I say that Jake says that grass is green and I say that grass is green. I have said that Jake telling the truth without any need for the word ‘true’. This does not mean that truth is nothing, for the truth of Jake’s statement relies on two facts (1) that he said that grass is green and (2) that grass is green.

Truth is something, but we can do without the word 'true'.

As for falsity, if truth is definable, why not falsity? We just need to introduce the operator ‘not’, which we apply to sentences, by means of which the sentence has a different meaning, which (as you set out above) can be defined in terms of complementation.

You will no doubt object that the same proposition can be expressed in two different languages. The sentences are not the same, ergo the proposition, if the same, must be different from the sentence. I reply: the same argument must show that if two different flowers are yellow, hence have ‘the same’ colour, then the colour must be a single individual entity somehow existing in the two different flowers but duplicated but not existing in them because single and not duplicated. But here we approach a wider question, which you will no doubt recognise, as to whether meaning and yellow ‘subsist in the nature of things or in mere conceptions only, whether also if subsistent, they are bodies or incorporeal, and whether they are separate from, or in, sensibles, and subsist about these, for such a treatise is most profound, and requires another more extensive investigation’. Indeed.

I am afraid we don't share enough common ground to have a fruitful discussion. (But that's nothing new.) In any case, my time is consumed by other projects one of which is a book I want to complete by the end of the year. So I leave you the last word.

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