22 December 2005

Degrees of Dubiety

Received today in my mailbox:

Based on your present knowledge and past life experiences our University administration
office has been trying to contact you. We feel you may qualify for one of our Univsersity
degrees in your area of expertise.

We have been qualifying people based on thier experiences in past and present jobs and
are offering qualified degrees with transcripts for those that qualify.

If you call our offices now we can confirm our information and send you either a Bachelors',
Masters', or Doctorate within 2 weeks.

I'm following this up and will let you know how it turns out. I'm looking for a degree in spelling or typing.

21 December 2005

Divers Reviewers Wanted

A request from that admirable journal, BMCR, which dovetails nicely with my post on open sourcing:

BMCR is passing its fifteenth birthday in these weeks and is settled in
its ways of doing business. It remains a mild irony that this, the
second-oldest electronic journal in the humanities, is devoted to
disseminating information about the print medium. More than an irony,
it is a puzzle to us that various efforts to bring digital resources
within the purview of reviewership have fallen flat. Occasionally we
succeed in placing a physical manifestation of a digital artifact with
a reviewer (usually a CD publication), but despite having gone so far
as to promote the establishment of BMERR (Bryn Mawr Electronic
Resources Review), we have not sustained a community of practice around
serious reviews of web-based publications.

This is a concern for the scholarly world as a whole in two regards.
First, there are more and more very high quality and quite serious
scholarly works that appear in digital form; second, many observers and
participants in the scholarly communication world argue strongly for
Open Access publication -- that is to say, publication whose costs are
defrayed in some way *other* than by user charges. A freely accessible
web publication done to appropriate technical standards is the ideal in
that regard, and we are pleased that BMCR has indeed followed that
model for the electronic version (some of you remember that there was
once also a print version) for all its history.

But if it is true that reviewers are so strongly enticed by the
prospect of a free book or a free CD that absent such an enticement
they are unwilling to come forward, then we will soon be at an impasse,
as more and more important material becomes available in a form
unsusceptible to the enticement of reviewers. Now the future of
reviewing itself is a subject of interest to us, not least because one
of us will be participating in a panel on that subject at the APA
meetings in Montreal, but we are for now convinced that the first and
most obvious way forward is to insure that serious scholarly work,
however published, gets serious scholarly reviews.

To that end, this message is designed to elicit our traditional BMCR
volunteers on the usual terms. Indicate to us your qualifications and
interest, and if we approve your request, we will assign you the review
-- this time, without a free book to take away at the end. The
following resources have been commended to us in recent weeks (and we
pass them along on the same terms with which we report Books Received,
not as special selection or commendation, but simply as report of
notice received by us). Given the scope of these particular works, we
would welcome proposals for collaborative reviews.

*Aphrodisias in Late Antiquity (http://www.insaph.kcl.ac.uk/ala2004/) ,
second edition, by Charlotte Roueche/.

*Vindolanda Tablets Online (http://vindolanda.csad.ox.ac.uk/) , ed.
Alan Bowman et al.

*The editions of the D-Scholia and the Lexeis Homerikai
by H. Van Thiel, of Cyril's Glossary (one ms. version only) by U.

*J. Lundon's Scholia Minora in Homerum
(http://www.gltc.leidenuniv.nl/index.php3?m=52;c=238) .

This note is also notice that we welcome encouragement from authors,
publishers, or readers to pay attention to other good new work as well.
We also welcome suggestions for other ways to improve attention to
important work.

20 December 2005

Shackleton Bailey, R.I.P.

December 19, 2005


Gloria Negri, Globe Staff

Professor David Roy Shackleton Bailey, whose name in scholarly circles is closely associated with that of the Roman philosopher and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, died Nov. 28 of Alzheimer's disease at Heartland Health Care Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was 87. He had lived in Ann Arbor since retiring from Harvard in 1988.

"Shakleton Bailey was a prodigious scholar, a towering figure in textual criticism and the editing of Latin literature, and a brilliant student of Roman Republican history, prosopography and society," Richard F. Thomas, chairman of the Department of Classics at Harvard, said in a statement.

Prosopography is a study that identifies and draws relationships between characters or people within a specific historical, social, or literary context.

Dr. Shackleton Bailey, who did not hyphenate his surnames and was often called, "Shack," was also a well-known cat lover. In 1965, he dedicated Volume 1 of his edited "Cicero's Letters to Atticus" to his cat, Donum, which is Latin for gift. The dedication read, "Donum Donorum," or gift of gifts.

Sometimes, friends said, Dr. Shackleton Bailey got along better with cats than with people. But he was discriminating.

"As everywhere," Thomas said, "he applied judgment as he believed did the cats who particularly took to him."

Kristine Zvirbulis, Dr. Shackleton Bailey's wife, said Donum was among three of his favorite felines. After Donum came a cat named Max, his "evening cat," who sat on his lap and knew when to jump down at the professor's bedtime. His "day cat," who spent the time in his study with him, was Poppaea, named for Nero's wife.

"Shack was a kind of gentle curmudgeon with a wicked sense of humor," his wife said.

Thomas described him as, "quirky, difficult, cultured in profound and complex ways, endowed with a rare and keen sense of humor, now cutting, now playful, a critic of human foibles and a man whose dedication to logic, reason, judgment, and the primacy of intelligence made those in his presence careful of their thoughts and words."

However, social events were generally not Dr. Shackleton Bailey's forte. "He did love manhattans and martinis until the very end," his wife said. But he was adverse to small talk. "He once told me he went to a dinner party that was so boring he spent the time removing cat hairs from his suit."

Zeph Stewart, a retired Harvard classics professor, recalled a party that he and his wife hosted, partly for Dr. Shackleton Bailey when he arrived at Harvard. He "stared at his shoes" the whole evening and on the way out thanked a woman who was not the hostess. "My wife thought the party a disaster," Stewart said. "But the next day, a woman who had attended phoned and told her she had "never seen Shackleton so animated."

While Dr. Shackleton Bailey might have seemed the absent-minded professor on social occasions, he was far from that in his field. "Scholars, students, and the general educated reader will continue to be indebted to Shackleton Bailey, particularly for his work on Cicero's letters, our best evidence for the twilight years of the Roman Republic," Thomas said. He was "brilliant at representing the idiom" of Cicero. He edited or critiqued more than 50 volumes and wrote more than 200 articles and reviews.

Dr. Shackleton Bailey, who never used his first or middle names, was born in England. He attended Lancaster Royal Grammar School, where his father, a mathematician, was headmaster. He read classics at Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge, where he earned his bachelor's degree.

He lived through the Blitz in London during World War ll while working with military intelligence, either decoding or developing codes, according to Raymond Detter of Ann Arbor, a longtime friend. Once, when Detter asked Dr. Shackleton Bailey what it was like to live through the Blitz, he replied, "It was easier to get into the restaurants."

After the war, Dr. Shackleton Bailey was for 20 years Cambridge University Reader in Ancient Tibetan. Then, he returned to the classics as a fellow of Jesus College in Cambridge and later of Gonville and Caius College, where he was also bursar. In 1967, he married Hilary Amis, the former wife of author Kingsley Amis, and moved to Ann Arbor where he taught at the University of Michigan.

There, Dr. Shackleton Bailey was known not only for his scholarship but for his eccentricities, Detter said.

"He would stand on his head in the corner and sing the German song, `Horst Wessel.' "

He became professor of Latin at Harvard in 1975. He was a doctor of literature of Cambridge University and the recipient of an honorary doctorate from the University of Dublin.

When Dr. Shackleton Bailey retired and returned to Ann Arbor in 1988, he became an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan. In 1994, after his first marriage ended in divorce, he married Kristine Zvirbulis, who shared his love for cats.

Dr. Shackleton Bailey remained a legend even after retiring, Thomas said. After his illness was diagnosed, he continued to work on his editing through last summer, he said.

He never lost his distinguished English accent, nor his quirky habits, said Detter, who often dined with Dr. Shackleton Bailey.

"Shack was not the most gregarious person in the world," he said. "He was a bit of a miser, and when he was out walking, his head was always down looking for money. He would put what he found in jars at home. He would also steam off stamps that hadn't been postmarked and use them again."

He was an avid poker player, but never minded losing at the game.

Dr. Shackleton Bailey was a fellow of the British Academy, a member of the American Philosophical Society, an honorary member of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, and a recipient of the British Academy's Kenyon Medal for Classical Studies.

In spite of all the honors bestowed for his scholarship, Detter said, Dr. Shackleton Bailey was "never pretentious."

A memorial service will be held in late February at his Ann Arbor home.

19 December 2005

Aristotelian Flatworlders

I've been consoled that, with grading and extra advising responsilities at the end of the semester, I've not had the time to post on this blog. Doesn't that mean that I blog only when I genuinely have spare time for doing it? That a blogger blogs usually, but not always, shows that blogging has the appropriate degree of importance for him.

Admittedly, these extra responsibilities haven't kept me from doing some reading on the side. Well, there is reading, and then there is reading. Looking at Thomas L. Friedman's bestseller, The World is Flat, hardly counts as reading in the sense of looking at, say, Crivelli on truth.

If you haven't read it: Friedman's book is about recent trends in globalization, which have the effect of removing inefficiencies and barriers to business, especially for India and China; hence the playing field of the world is increasingly becoming level and therefore, in Friedman's term, 'flat.'

My interest in the book is from the point of view of academia. How will universities change, how should they change, if at all, given trends in globalization? What new form might scholarship take? What will count as 'publication'? What role will major academic presses play in the future? Will their importance inevitably diminish? And also that of libraries? Etc.

I've been thinking of to what extend these new trends in globalization have analogous applications in scholarship. For instance, in software development, there is something called 'open sourcing'. This happens when some geek figures he can write a program that works better than an expensive version offered by Microsoft or Adobe; he makes a rough attempt and puts the program and its source code on a server for everyone to see; and various programmers around the world then work on parts of the program, as they wish, and improve them--until the program, the result of the combined efforts of this informal community, ends up being as good as the industry standard or better. For instance, Linux was developed in this way, as a free alternative to Microsoft operating systems.

What are possible analogues in scholarship? It seems to me that translations might be done in a similar way, through a kind of 'open sourcing'. Someone posts a rough translation of a commonly studied text, or the starting point is an outdated translation in the public domain (Jowett's Plato, Ross' Aristotle, etc.). Call this the 'Working Translation.' Then, when a scholar writes a translation of part of this text for a reading group, say, or because he is studying some passage, he is free to edit and improve the corresponding part of the Working Translation accordingly. Naturally, some working equivalents would have to be decided upon and followed, to insure consistency. And someone would need to check, to be sure that changes are truly improvements, or at least arguably so. So the project would need a General Editor. Yet conceivably in a year or so the latest version of the Working Translation, which would be free and freely available on the internet, would be superior to any translation available in print.

Suppose the corpora of Plato (Jowett) and Aristotle (old Oxford) were dealt with in this way. Could an excellent, free translation be arrived at for these works in the collaborative manner described above, and how long would this take?

07 December 2005

Guest Bloggers: My Students

While grading mountains of papers these last few days, I amused myself by seeing whether I might find within them thoughts or insights that might serve as interesting posts on a blog such as this (that is, on this blog, which is the only blog such as this--or, maybe not: J.L. Austin once insisted that one shouldn't say that "A duck is like a duck", and along the same lines perhaps it is misguided to say that This blog is the same sort of thing as this blog).

I culled out 8 such ideas, which I shall present as a series of posts. I attribute these to the students--de facto 'guest bloggers'--with their permission. (Yes, in some cases I clarify or sharpen the student's idea slightly; but the basic insight remains the student's.)

Half of the ideas are of students in a course I am presently teaching at Brown University, and half are from my students at Clark University.

03 December 2005

'being in the strictest sense true'

I've hesitated to continue on to the second text in the Metaphysics which, according to Crivelli, recognizes 'states of affairs', because the issues are much more complex than with the first. (And, besides, who is not busy this time of year?)

And if Δ 29 has been dealt with, couldn't we simply cite the philologist's law, "twice is always; once is never", and dismiss Θ 10 accordingly? (We might call that 'Hume's law' as well--uh, Hume's 'custom'.)

But perhaps all will work out if things are set out in order and without haste. As a start, then, here is Crivelli's translation of the most important Θ 10 text. Tomorrow I'll give his discussion of it.

T 2 Given that what 'is' and what 'is not' are spoken of, in some cases with reference to the figures of predication, in others with reference to the potentiality or the actuality of these or to their opposites, and in others by being in the strictest sense true or false, and this [sc. to be in the strictest sense true or false], in the case of objects, is to be combined and to be divided, so that he who thinks of what is divided that it is divided, and of what is combined that it is combined is right, while he who is in a state contrary to that of the objects is wrong, when is it that what is called true or false 'is' or 'is not'? For it must be investigated what it is that we call this. For it is not because we truly think that you are white that you are white, but it is because of your being white that we who say this are right. (1051a34-1051b9)
Note that 'objects' is pragmata, and 'is right' is aletheuei. Of the three uses of 'is' distinguished here, the first two are introduced in the same way ('with reference to', kata), and the crucial third use is introduced in a different way. There is a dispute as to whether 'in the strictest sense' (kuriotata) separately qualifies 'being' (on), in which case the phrase seems out of place, or both terms together qualify 'true or false' (as Crivelli construes it).

T 2 is the text as regards which, as I mentioned earlier, Crivelli says: "But the items with regard to which Aristotle in T 1 uses 'object' are probably states of affairs. It can then be plausibly inferred that the items with regard to which Aristotle in T 2 uses 'object' are also states of affairs."--so that his interpretation of this text depends, it seems, on his interpretation of Δ 29, which we have contested.

Here is the Greek from Perseus:

e)pei\ de\ to\ o)\n le/getai kai\ to\ mh\ o)\n to\ me\n kata\ ta\ sxh/mata tw=n kathgoriw=n, to\ de\ kata\ du/namin h)\ e)ne/rgeian tou/twn h)\ ta)nanti/a, to\ de\ kuriw/tata o)\n a)lhqe\j h)\ yeu=doj, tou=to d' e)pi\ tw=n pragma/twn e)sti\ tw=| sugkei=sqai h)\ dih|rh=sqai, w(/ste a)lhqeu/ei me\n o( to\ dih|rhme/non oi)o/menoj dih|rh=sqai kai\ to\ sugkei/menon sugkei=sqai, e)/yeustai de\ o( e)nanti/wj e)/xwn h)\ ta\ pra/gmata, po/t' e)/stin h)\ ou)k e)/sti to\ a)lhqe\j lego/menon h)\ yeu=doj; tou=to ga\r skepte/on ti/ le/gomen. ou) ga\r dia\ to\ h(ma=j oi)/esqai a)lhqw=j se leuko\n ei)=nai ei)= su\ leuko/j, a)lla\ dia\ to\ se\ ei)=nai leuko\n h(mei=j oi( fa/ntej tou=to a)lhqeu/omen.


Why did I start Dissoi Blogoi, and why do I keep with it, despite the occasional false turn along the way? I don't do this to procrastinate, or even to help others make good use of procrastination. Rather, I do this to declare, to criticize, to provoke, to prove.

1. To declare. The blog makes things better known, in a chance way, of course, and relative to me. ( This is not a notice board nor quite a 'publication'.) Things such as: what people are working on or maintaining; noteworthy remarks of others; common mistakes or misunderstandings (as I think); connections between ancient philosophy and other areas.

2. To criticize--and thereby, it is hoped, to raise common standards. To uncover shortcomings, deficiences, and flaws. Especially: to do so when the usual, standard, or conventional means have apparently failed. Good muckraking is good blogging.

3. To provoke. A blog conforms to an important genre of philosophizing: the recording, and expression, of cotidian thoughts. Why? To stir, to incite to thought.

4. To prove. Out of jealousy for my field. I want this blog in ancient philosophy to show, eventually, in the long run, the vitality and appeal of the philosophy of the ancients. The blog stakes out a place in the blogosphere for a certain group of interests and questions. And as it, or something like it, there flourishes--as I believe will happen--then something gets proved about the discipline.

And all this is to say nothing of the learning, culture, thoughtfulness and astuteness of the blog's commentators. These marks, I am sure, impress others as much as they impress me.

01 December 2005

Sophrosune from Top to Bottom

I find this a particularly interesting paper, since the problem it begins with is something that I've wondered about many times myself:

Sophrosune from Top to Bottom
Roslyn Weiss

In Book 4 of Plato's Republic, Socrates locates sophrosune not in the producer class of the polis and the appetitive part of the soul, but disperses it throughout the polis and soul. In light of the fact that this odd and unexpected move threatens the uniqueness of justice and, moreover, virtually assimilates justice to moderation, the question arises why Socrates defines sophrosune in this way. I suggest that Socrates wishes to make clear that not only do the lower parts of the city and soul dislike being ruled, but philosophers and reason dislike ruling. Since all parts of the city and soul are asked to do what they don't want to do, all must restrain themselves, curbing their desire to do what they would prefer to do. In other words, what they all must exhibit is sophrosune.
Fortunately I have been asked to comment on this paper, when Roslyn Weiss reads it at the upcoming Eastern APA. I can't of course post on it now but plan to do so after the event.

There are some curiosities on the program. For instance, I had never regarded Ayn Rand as a serious philosopher, and yet on Dec. 29:

GIX-2. Ayn Rand Society
1:30-4:30 p.m.

Topic: Ayn Rand as Aristotelian

Chair: John Cooper (Princeton University)

Speakers: James Lennox (University of Pittsburgh)
"Axioms and Their Validation"

Allan Gotthelf (University of Pittsburgh)
"Concepts and Essences"

Fred Miller, Jr. (Bowling Green State University)
"Values and Happiness"

Robert Mayhew (Seton Hall University)
"Literary Esthetics"

One could hardly find a more distinguished and competent panel.

The OC

Is it the case that a commitment to study philosophy implies a commitment to live in a certain way, or to pursue, or to reject the pursuit of, certain goals? It seems to me that there is a conception of philosophy according to which it does. I'll call this the Old Conception (or 'OC', which is very distant from Orange County!).

I have in mind the approach to philosophy through a protreptic. Here is how such a protreptic works. First, some short list of goals in life is presented: wealth, fame, power, honor, comfort (including 'physical pleasures'). It is claimed that just about everyone pursues one of these, or some combination of them, whatever he might take himself to be doing with his life. Second, it is pointed out that none of these goals stands up to rational scrutiny; none really makes sense as the goal of a human life. Third, it is pointed out that this reflection and self-knowledge, perhaps attained for the first time--that none of these goals makes sense as the goal of a human life--itself is an instance of a new goal that now shows itself, namely, understanding and knowledge. And this does seem to be the sort of thing that a human life might reasonably be directed toward. Finally, a 'life devoted to philosophy', then, is put forward simply as a life devoted to achieving understanding, beginning with and including this initial self-understanding.

This I call the OC.

Now this initial self-understanding includes, therefore, some sort of rejection of certain goals as ultimate goals; and the continued seeking of understanding implies some permanent setting aside of these goals. One can imagine different ways of setting these goals aside. One way would be to dismiss them with contempt--"It is beneath the dignity of a philosopher to care about such things as fame and power". Another way: to cultivate an indifference toward such things. Yet another: to take them as they come, but to seek them only in some obviously secondary way.

Now here are some further questions:

1. Is the life to which someone is committed, in committing himself to philosophy, according to the OC, different from the life to which any academic researcher or scientist should, in principle, be committed (again, according to the OC)? Is there something that is in this way distinctive or special about the pursuit of philosophical understanding?

2. According to the OC, can philosophy be a profession? Can it be something that one 'goes into', like law or business?

3. (A more particular question, but interesting, I think.) Is there some special incongruity, between being dedicated to philosophy according to the OC, and the development of ratings and rankings of philosophers or philosophy departments--and, if so, would this incongruity help to explain some of the discomfort some people feel about such rankings? The argument would be: such rankings can only be of influence (i.e. power), fame, or honor; yet even if the rankings were roughly correct in these terms, and such things did loosely, at least, accompany some kinds of achievement in philosophy, still, the rankings either turn, or threaten to turn, some implicitly rejected goals into goals once more.

4. Would it be the case, then, that the OC would effectively be excluded in academic philosophy, to the extent that the study of philosophy were guided by the outlook presupposed in rankings? That is, there would be a selection from the start, and students who might formerly have studied philosophy because they had been persuaded in the manner of an old protreptic, will not think of studying, as a consequence, professional philosophy, any more than they would think of law school or business school as, in the first instance, an appropriate path for a life well lived. (They might indeed opt eventually for law school or business school, but only on the grounds that if there is no way to pursue philosophy, then they might as well pursue wealth or power effectively.)

I don't know--perhaps this is a 'cranky' speculation. But how could someone read Plato for long without at least considering it?

30 November 2005

Preliminary Remarks on Θ 10

Metaphysics Θ 10 is the second passage which, according to Crivelli, indicates that Aristotle is committed to states of affairs. I turn then to a consideration of this. I shall quote the relevant passage from Aristotle on Truth in a subsequent post. But as a preliminary I wish to draw attention to the following two points.

1. Crivelli's interpretation of Θ 10 apparently depends upon his interpretation of Met. Δ 29, so that, if we conclude (as I have argued) that the latter provides little evidence for imputing the doctrine of 'states of affairs' to Aristotle, then it is unclear whether Θ 10, on its own, provides any evidence at all. This is the crucial paragraph, from Aristotle on Truth p. 52:
The beginning of Θ is about states of affairs. Both in T 1 [the passage from Δ 29] and in T 2 [the passage from the beginning Θ 10] Aristotle speaks of certain items with regard to which he uses the expression 'object' [pragma]. About each of the items with regard to which in T 1 he uses 'object', Aristotle there says that it is false just in case 'it is not combined or it is impossible for it to be composed' (1024b18-19). About each of the items with regard to which in T 2 he uses 'object', Aristotle there says that for it 'not to be' in the sense of being false is to be divided (see 1051a34-1051b3). But the items with regard to which Aristotle in T 1 uses 'object' are probably states of affairs. It can then be plausibly inferred that the items with regard to which Aristotle in T 2 uses 'object' are also states of affairs. (Highlighting mine.)
2. Yet although Crivelli does make his interpretation of Θ 10 depend on that of Δ 29, he does not advance his interpretation of Θ 10 with a view to what Aristotle says in Δ 7. This is surprising. In Δ 7 Aristotle distinguishes four senses of 'is', including 'is' in the sense of 'true', and explains this last sense. In Θ 10 Aristotle distinguishes three senses of 'is', including 'is' in the sense of 'true', and these appear to correspond to three of the four senses of Δ 7. It seems antecedently likely, then, that what Aristotle has in mind by 'is' in the sense of 'true' in Δ 7 (also E.2) is the same thing that he has in mind in Θ 10. Thus, if Δ 7 is rightly interpreted in such a way that it does not affirm a doctrine of 'states of affairs', then presumably Θ 10 should be interpreted in the same way--even if the latter contains words or phrases which, taken on their own, might at first suggest something else.

28 November 2005

"I Didn't Mean to Do It." So what?

For my money, Gorgias 500b-523a, where Socrates looks back on his refutation of Polus and reveals his mind about its significance, is one of the more interesting passages in the Platonic corpus. It's rich in suggestive and fruitful ideas. In this passage, I think, perhaps more than any other, one seems to hear Plato speaking freely.

Here's something I found there yesterday.

I have usually interpreted the strange Socratic maxim, "No one willingly does wrong" as, if anything, tending to excuse conduct which might seem bad. Doesn't the maxim effectively make everyone basically good? And it attributes our badness to ignorance, which we naturally take, at first, to be something that is not up to us. (Socrates even uses it in that way in the Apology).

Consider what Paul Woodruff says about it in his entry in SEP ("Plato's Shorter Ethical Works"). After mentioning the Socratic denial of akrasia, Woodruff remarks:

A related doctrine is that no one errs voluntarily. If acrasia is impossible, then every moral error involves a cognitive failure about the action or the principle that it violates, and cognitive errors negative [[sic] sic] (or at least weaken) responsibility for actions caused by those errors. Socrates generally assumes that actions taken in ignorance are involuntary, and that therefore the proper response to wrongdoing is not retribution, but education, as he says in the Apology (25e-26a).
So "No one willingly does wrong" suggests "Excuse and educate; don't punish".

And yet in the Gorgias passage one finds the maxim being used to an almost opposite effect. There the doctrine strengthens blame: you cannot claim (Socrates argues) as an excuse for wrongdoing, that you never wanted (intended, wished) to do wrong, because that's true of everyone, both good and bad! After all, no one willingly does what is wrong. Thus, to show that your action is blameless, you have to say something beyond that:
Then of these two, doing and suffering wrong, we declare doing wrong to be the greater evil, and suffering it the less. Now with what should a man provide himself in order to come to his own rescue, and so have both of the benefits that arise from doing no wrong on the one hand, [509d] and suffering none on the other? Is it power or will? What I mean is, will a man avoid being wronged by merely wishing not to be wronged, or will he avoid it by providing himself with power to avert it?

The answer to that is obvious: by means of power.

But what about doing wrong? Will the mere not wishing to do it suffice--since, in that case, he will not do it--or does it require that he also provide himself with some power or art, [509e] since unless he has got such learning or training he will do wrong? I really must have your answer on this particular point, Callicles--whether you think that Polus and I were correct or not in finding ourselves forced to admit, as we did in the preceding argument, that no one does wrong of his own wish, but that all who do wrong do it against their will.

[510a] Callicles
Let it be as you would have it, Socrates, in order that you may come to a conclusion of your argument.

Then for this purpose also, of not doing wrong, it seems we must provide ourselves with a certain power or art.
(Greek through Perseus here.)

Socrates is urging, to Callicles, that if we don't take all available means to seek out and acquire whatever "power or art" (dunamis kai techne) might keep us from doing wrong, then we are at fault--because our simply not wishing to do wrong is clearly insufficient to avoid wrongdoing.

Paradigmatic Response

Ed Halper writes the following in reply to my post, quoted with his permission:

As I understood your question at the lecture, the problem is how to reconcile paradigmatism with the Categories' claim that substances do not admit of more and less. Man should indeed be more of an animal than other species if it is the primary species. What I suggested at the talk is that the Categories is the beginning of the Organon and, therefore, interested in setting the conditions for scientific knowledge. The latter consists of grasping that attributes belong to all instances of the genus in respect of its essential character. Since the attributes must belong to all instances as essential attributes, it is important that no instance be more or less.

Let me say, first of all that if paradigmatism turns out to be incompatible with the Categories, as I think your web post suggests, it will hardly be the first such incompatibility between the Categories and the Metaphysics! Indeed, you can chalk up my paper as still another reason to endorse some version of developmentalism or as expounding still another challenge to unitarians. My main concern was to show that the Metaphysics expounds a key doctrine that is important as an organizing principle in his other works. You do not undermine my point by showing that principle to conflict with the Categories (if it does).

The other "problems" that you mention do not seem to be real objections either. Aristotle regards human beings as paradigms for animals. It is not surprising that we, the best instance of the genus, would find dissimilarities between ourselves and other instances of the genus, nor that we would ascribe the generic character to people as a kind of insult. I think we do appeal to humans when we make claims about animals. Just listen to people talk about how intelligent or sensitive their pets are. I heard someone give a paper in which he claimed that his dog felt empathy for the suffering of other animals. I could not see how he could know this or why it would be an advantage for dogs--who, in my experience, are happy to hunt and eat other animals. There are more legitimate appeals to humans as standards for animals, and we find some in Aristotle's biological works, I argued.

So I don't think you have really given any reasons to reject the thesis of the paper, but I do appreciate your questions, particularly the one about the Categories. What I'm hesitating about is that I explained the Categories as a tool for science, but I also explained paradigmatism as such a tool. The challenge is whether the two can work together. In fact, what we see most often in the special sciences is paradigmatism. Besides what I cite in the paper, look at De Anima II.3 or at the way that local motion and ultimately the circular motions of the spheres become the paradigm for Physics. On the other hand, Aristotle does seek to make claims about the whole of a genus that require ignoring paradigm species. More needs to be said about how these two modes of inquiry work together. But, again, I'm not seeing the basis of conflict here: on the contrary, the exposition of paradigmatism opens a rich vein for reflection. I'm grateful for your drawing this to my attention.

One detail about the Categories. I take it you have in mind 3b33 ff. But there he explains that whereas one white is more white than another, one substance is not more of a substance than another. He seems to be comparing individual substances and perhaps issuing a prescient warning that responding to those pervasive internet ads will not make you more of a man. A better passage is 2b22 ff. But that is also a bit ambiguous since his point seems to be that one species applies to an individual instance no more than another species of the same genus applies to its instance. All this is peculiar to substance, in contrast with other categories where it apparently need not hold. So thinking about I.8, we could say a contrariety in a genus is always necessary to divide it into species. Sometimes those species are themselves contraries and admit of more and less, as in species of quality, but sometimes, as in species of substance, they do not. That the Categories emphasizes differences in genera is all the more appropriate against the background of Met. I where all seem to be analogous.
As regards the Categories, I did have in mind 3b33ff. ("It appears that substance does not admit of more or less....One man is not more a man than another"), although I interpret that passage as including in its scope 'secondary substances' as well as primary, and thus as holding that one could not, for instance, point to an individual man and to an individual horse and be correct in saying, 'This animal is more of an animal than that animal'. I also had in the back of my mind the opening of the Categories, where 'animal' said of an ox and of a man is given as the paradigm of synonomy: "the definition of what they are is the same".

24 November 2005

In Kindness and in Truth

Paolo Crivelli has kindly sent remarks in response to the doubt that Ursula Coope had raised in her review, and which I had seconded in a post. The remarks also contain a reply to another concern raised in the review. With his permission, I am posting those remarks along with my initial response. Here are Crivelli's remarks:

I do think that according to Aristotle, if something (in particular, an object) is true (or false) in the strictest sense (kuriōtata), then it is true (or false). The picture of the relationship between the uses of ‘true’ and ‘false’ in Metaph. Ε 4 and Θ 10 can be drawn more precisely as follows:

In Ε 4 Aristotle is focusing on a use of ‘true’ and ‘false’ that is close to that of ordinary language. According to this ordinary use, ‘true’ and ‘false’ apply to thoughts and sentences, but not to objects: ordinary people do not contemplate the application of ‘true’ and ‘false’ to objects (states of affairs, simple items, or even concrete substances). In connection with this ordinary use of ‘true’ and ‘false’, Ε 4’s remark ‘Falsehood and truth are not in objects […] but in thought’ (1027b25–7) is correct: truth and falsehood here are the properties signified by ‘true’ and ‘false’ in their ordinary use.

In Θ 10 Aristotle is operating with a new, expanded use of ‘true’ and ‘false’, which is more comprehensive than the ordinary use: according to this expanded use, ‘true’ and ‘false’ apply not only to thoughts and sentences, but also to objects. What is true or false in the strictest sense (or way), with respect to the expanded use of ‘true’ and ‘false’, are only objects. Objects are true or false in the strictest sense because their truth and falsehood are mentioned in explaining on what grounds ‘true’ and ‘false’ apply (both in their expanded use and in their ordinary use) to thoughts and sentences (note that if the extension of ‘true’ and ‘false’ on their expanded use is restricted to thoughts and sentences, the result coincides with their extension on their ordinary use). So, objects are true or false in the strictest sense and are also true or false on the expanded use of ‘true’ and ‘false’. What is not the case is that objects are true or false on the ordinary use of ‘true’ and ‘false’. Note that in Metaph. Δ 29 objects are simply called ‘false’: this is the expanded use of ‘false’, not the ordinary one. Similarly, at some points in Θ 10 (1051b18, b21, and b34–5) Aristotle commits himself to applying ‘true’ and ‘false’ to objects: again, this is the expanded use of ‘true’ and ‘false’.

The reviewer favours an alternative hypothesis: that Aristotle did contradict himself in Ε 4 and Θ 10. This hypothesis is perfectly plausible, but I still have a slight resistance to it because of the cross-reference at Ε 4, 1027b29.

I would like to say something about another critical point made by the reviewer: the possibility of a state of affairs remaining unchanged when the world changes. The critical point made by the reviewer is that given that Socrates is a component of the state of affairs that Socrates is seated, one might expect that when Socrates gets up the state of affairs undergoes some change (after all, a component of it changes). This is supposed to create some difficulty for my view that ‘a state of affairs can “be” in the sense of being true at one time and “not be” in the sense of being false at another without changing’ (p. 197). What I meant, however, is that a state of affairs can ‘be’ in the sense of being true at one time and ‘not be’ in the sense of being false at another without this swap of properties itself amounting to a change. I agree that in other respects the state of affairs perhaps changes (I am unsure about this).

In reply, I first said something about the book, Aristotle on Truth, in general, which I wish to include here, so that any criticisms I may raise--perhaps based on misunderstandings--may be placed in the correct context, at least as far as I am concerned:

Your book is extremely impressive-... I particularly like the clarity with which you describe Aristotle's view, as you construe it, and your explicitness in distinguishing what your conclusions are, from the evidence for those conclusions. Your quasi-scholastic method of stating objections and giving replies is, frankly, refreshing. The only point about it that puzzles me is this notion of 'states of affairs', which is why I decided to post on that.
I then wrote the following:

You take 'in the strictest sense' (*kuriwtata*) to mark a restriction on a correct, 'expanded' sense of 'true', not a restriction of a loose, ordinary sense. That is interesting and would take care of the objections. (What is true in the strictest sense is also true, simply, in the expanded sense, but not in the ordinary sense.)

Here is an initial response. It seems to me that a question remains and another one arises. The question that remains is whether there is some analogue of this elsewhere in the corpus. Of course you wouldn't need to provide such a thing, but it would be helpful.

The other question which arises involves the relationship between the loose and the expanded senses. I take it that you believe that the former is derived somehow from the latter. Then the latter is primary with regard to the latter. But elsewhere, when Aristotle admits that the same term can be applied to things related as primary and secondary, he isn't disposed to deny that that the term should in any way be withheld from the primary case. A comparison: Aristotle thinks that 'complete friendship' is friendship in the strict sense; also, that what people ordinarily and in a loose sense call 'friendship' is some distinct sort of relationship; nonetheless, he does not deny, even with respect to loose ways of thinking and speaking, that one should say that friendship in the strict sense is friendship. (The reason is that the central case somehow captures and accounts for what people are looking to even in the loose senses.) Rather, all his doubts are in the other direction--he wonders whether perhaps the term should be withheld from the secondary cases.

In Memoriam Joseph Owens, 1908-2005

Ed Halper prefaced his lecture with an acknowledgment of a debt to his teacher, Joseph Owens, author of The Doctrine of Being in the Aristotelian Metaphysics, who died this last October 30 in his 98th year.

An obituary and reflection may be found at the PIMS website, here.

Joseph Owens, CSsR (1908–2005)

"Among the memories of graduate students from my time at the Pontifical institute of Mediaeval Studies and the University of Toronto, none is more vivid than is that of the defense made by Joseph Owens, CSsR, of his dissertation for the Institute doctorate. His erudition had long been the object of awe-struck rumor on the campus; with that ceremony it ceased to be rumor and became attested fact. Owens faced a board of examiners calculated to strike awe in any student. To name only those who spoke that day for philosophy, Etienne Gilson and Anton C. Pegis were members of his jury. Awe, however, ran in the opposite direction. This formidable board voted Owens his doctorate summa cum laude and the world of learning has been confirming that judgement ever since. The dissertation Owens defended has merited publication in three revisions and [many] printings."

23 November 2005

Aristotle's Paradigmatism

I had almost neglected to post on Ed Halper's interesting paper in BACAP last Thursday at Holy Cross.

Halper argued that it is possible to give a coherent interpretation of Metaphysics Iota, if that book is understood to be expressing a general affirmation of 'paradigmatism'. Paradigmatism is the view that (i) the genus, not the species, is the primary unit of knowledge, but that (ii) typically a genus contains a species which serves as the 'one' and 'measure' of that genus, and (iii) the other species of the genus may be construed as in some way derived from this species, by some combination of contraries. Hence, (iv) this species serves as the paradigm of the genus. According to Halper, this 'paradigmatism', for Aristotle, is what remains true about Plato's theory of Forms, even if Forms themselves are rejected.

Halper said that paradigmatism explains Aristotle's anthropocentism. The anthropocentrism is, as it were, metaphysically underwritten:

Many scholars have decried Aristotle’s anthropocentrism. My claim here is that Aristotle’s emphasis on man reflects something deeper and more far reaching: that there is a unity within each genus reflects its constitution as a genus and is intrinsic to the possibility of having knowledge (science) of it. ... [I]n Metaphysics Iota Aristotle provides essential orienting principles for interpreting his biology. Since he takes the species of human being as the “one” of the genus of living things, he sees all other species as having differentiae composed, somehow, of the differentia of man; and to the extent that particular organs have their own differentiae, the differentiae of the organs of other animals are composed of the differentiae of human organs. If this is right, there is no reason to regard the biology as aiming at a taxonomic scheme: rather, its aim is knowledge of particular animal species, and this depends on leading other species back to the primary species. ... Moreover, the existence of anomalous species is not necessarily a problem. Indeed, it might be expected if each other species owes its character to a falling off from that of man..
Someone raised an objection: If this account of the genus, 'animal', were correct, and 'human being' is the paradigmatic species, then one would expect that Aristotle would hold that statements of the form "A human being is more of an animal than a horse" are true (where any non-human species of animal is substituted for 'horse'). And yet in the Categories he denies that 'animal' 'admits of more or less'. (One might also have urged that De Anima gives 'animal' as an example of a genus which is a true universal--it is precisely not a genus that is imputed as a consequence of some ordering.)

Halper's reply (he conceded that this was not entirely satisfying) was that the Categories view was presumably put forward in a different context and for different purposes. Halper did not appeal to developmentalism and seemed to think that Aristotle might consistently have held both views at once.

But are these views consistent? And would someone who had formulated the Met. Iota view, as Halper understands it, have rested satisfied with the unqualified claim that we find in the Categories?

There are some other problems, too, in Halper's example. If human beings were paradigmatic animals, then wouldn't we naturally appeal to human beings when making claims about animals? And yet we don't do this. (Just the reverse, it seems: e.g. young children find it almost incredible that human beings are animals). Also, wouldn't we often simply refer to one another as 'animal' instead of 'human'?--this wouldn't be vague or indirect, because we after all are the paradigmatic animals. And yet 'You animal!' is a metaphor.

More on Delta 29

I find the chapter curious and am not confident in proposing an interpretation. But here roughly is how I think the chapter should be understood. The first two paragraphs, on falsehood in pragmata and in logoi, are discussing falsehood in what we say (or in what we think or believe, as expressed in what we would say), whereas the last paragraph discusses 'false' as applied to a person.

The first two paragraphs discuss first pragmata and then logoi, because Aristotle is presuming, in the manner of the Categories, that to say or believe something is to apply a predicate (and a corresponding concept) to a thing. Assertion and believing is not the application of a grammatical predicate to a grammatical subject; or a thing (a universal) to a thing (a substance); or a concept to a concept. Rather, assertion and thinking is, as it were, a hybrid act that bridges thought to things.

On this presumption, it is an interesting consequence that there are two distinct ways in which falsehood may enter into an assertion or thought--the distinctness of these being flagged in the distinction of senses of 'false'. Either the thing we are talking or thinking about does not exist, or we say the wrong thing about it. In English we call the first sort of error a 'false presupposition' or 'false subject'. Aristotle calls it a false pragma.

I take it that it would follow that Aristotle implicitly has a position on whether "The present king of France is bald" is false. It would follow, I think, from Met. V.29 that one needs to distinguish between falsehood in the subject and falsehood in the predication. "The present king of France is bald" fails because of a false presupposition, and this is distinct from falsehood in the statement (which we typically take to be falsehood in the predication). In such a statement, the logos is not false; rather, the pragma is false.

I don't see, however, that Aristotle in V.29 is concerned with how we manage to say or think something about things that, after all, do not exist; and, similarly, I don't think he proposes a doctrine of 'states of affairs' or takes any position on this implicitly.

22 November 2005

Met. 1024b17-21 in Context

I have a view about how Met. V.29 should be interpreted, but I'll save that for a later post. For now, I'll simply make some observations about the text. I paste below the full text (from Perseus) of the chapter, and I highlight that fragment of it which Crivelli relies upon and translates. Then, following that, I make some observations.

to\ yeu=doj le/getai a)/llon me\n tro/pon w(j pra=gma yeu=doj, kai\ tou/tou to\ me\n tw=| mh\ sugkei=sqai h)\ a)du/naton ei)=nai sunteqh=nai (w(/sper le/getai to\ th\n dia/metron ei)=nai [20] su/mmetron h)\ to\ se\ kaqh=sqai: tou/twn ga\r yeu=doj to\ me\n a)ei\ to\ de\ pote/: ou(/tw ga\r ou)k o)/nta tau=ta), ta\ de\ o(/sa e)/sti me\n o)/nta, pe/fuke me/ntoi fai/nesqai h)\ mh\ oi(=a/ e)stin h)\ a(\ mh\ e)/stin (oi(=on h( skiagrafi/a kai\ ta\ e)nu/pnia: tau=ta ga\r e)/sti me/n ti, a)ll' ou)x w(=n e)mpoiei= th\n fantasi/an):

pra/gmata [25] me\n ou)=n yeudh= ou(/tw le/getai, h)\ tw=| mh\ ei)=nai au)ta\ h)\ tw=| th\n a)p' au)tw=n fantasi/an mh\ o)/ntoj ei)=nai: lo/goj de\ yeudh\j o( tw=n mh\ o)/ntwn, h(=| yeudh/j, dio\ pa=j lo/goj yeudh\j e(te/rou h)\ ou(= e)sti\n a)lhqh/j, oi(=on o( tou= ku/klou yeudh\j trigw/nou. e(ka/stou de\ lo/goj e)/sti me\n w(j ei(=j, o( tou= ti/ h)=n ei)=nai, e)/sti d' w(j [30] polloi/, e)pei\ tau)to/ pwj au)to\ kai\ au)to\ peponqo/j, oi(=on Swkra/thj kai\ Swkra/thj mousiko/j (o( de\ yeudh\j lo/goj ou)qeno/j e)stin a(plw=j lo/goj): dio\ )Antisqe/nhj w)/|eto eu)h/qwj mhqe\n a)ciw=n le/gesqai plh\n tw=| oi)kei/w| lo/gw|, e(\n e)f' e(no/j: e)c w(=n sune/baine mh\ ei)=nai a)ntile/gein, sxedo\n de\ mhde\ yeu/desqai. e)/sti [35] d' e(/kaston le/gein ou) mo/non tw=| au)tou= lo/gw| a)lla\ kai\ tw=| e(te/rou, yeudw=j me\n kai\ pantelw=j, e)/sti d' w(j kai\ a)lhqw=j, w(/sper ta\ o)ktw\ dipla/sia tw=| th=j dua/doj lo/gw|.

[1025a][1] ta\ me\n ou)=n ou(/tw le/getai yeudh=, a)/nqrwpoj de\ yeudh\j o( eu)xerh\j kai\ proairetiko\j tw=n toiou/twn lo/gwn, mh\ di' e(/tero/n ti a)lla\ di' au)to/, kai\ o( a)/lloij e)mpoihtiko\j tw=n toiou/twn lo/gwn, [5] w(/sper kai\ ta\ pra/gmata/ famen yeudh= ei)=nai o(/sa e)mpoiei= fantasi/an yeudh=. dio\ o( e)n tw=| (Ippi/a| lo/goj parakrou/etai w(j o( au)to\j yeudh\j kai\ a)lhqh/j. to\n duna/menon ga\r yeu/sasqai lamba/nei yeudh= (ou(=toj d' o( ei)dw\j kai\ o( fro/nimoj): e)/ti to\n e(ko/nta fau=lon belti/w. tou=to de\ yeu=doj [10] lamba/nei dia\ th=j e)pagwgh=so( ga\r e(kw\n xwlai/nwn tou= a)/kontoj krei/ttwnto\ xwlai/nein to\ mimei=sqai le/gwn, e)pei\ ei)/ ge xwlo\j e(kw/n, xei/rwn i)/swj, w(/sper e)pi\ tou= h)/qouj, kai\ ou(=toj.

Observation 1: The way in which Aristotle here introduces the first usage of 'false', to\ yeu=doj le/getai a)/llon me\n tro/pon w(j pra=gma yeu=doj, is non-standard. The usual way he does so in Met. V is (with slight variations) ____ le/getai _____, where the word to be defined goes in the first blank, and the thing to which it is applied goes in the second. Here, however, we have a repetition of the word to be defined (yeu=doj occurring both before and after le/getai), and the qualification of the given usage with w(j. The reason for this is (I take it) in one sense clear. If he had written simply, yeu=doj le/getai pra=gma, then he would not have succeeded in identifying any particular use of the word (he wouldn't want to say that everything is false). So he has to get at the intended usage indirectly, that is (presumably) from our being wont to say that certain things are false. --But then this makes it doubtful whether we can straightforwardly conclude, from what he says here, that Aristotle thinks that 'false' qualifies certain things ('states of affairs').

Observation 2: One might wonder whether tw=n toiou/twn lo/gwn at 1025a2 is meant to refer back to everything in the previous two paragraphs (ta\ me\n ou)=n ou(/tw le/getai yeudh= at the beginning of the line suggests that it is), so that the general contrast in the chapter is that between (A) falsehood in things we might say or think, and (B) falsehood in persons (that is, their misleading us into saying or thinking something false). --But if so, then, again, one wouldn't want to understand the first usage defined (the way in which a pra=gma is false) as indicating a way in which a thing (a 'state of affairs') may be false entirely apart from our thinking about it or saying something about it.

Observation 3: Presumably what Aristotle means by a pra=gma in 1024b17-25 should not be determined by a consideration of what pra=gma, just taken alone, might mean, but rather by a consideration of the contrast drawn here between pra=gma and lo/goj (b26-35). It is clear that this is not a contrast between 'deed' and 'word', or 'thing' and 'mere word'. (Why? Because these pra/gmata are not substantial and real, but just the contrary.) Also, it seems that here lo/goj means not a definition or word but rather 'something said' (of a subject)--that is, a predicate. Thus, it would be reasonable to presume that pra=gma, in contrast, means something like: that of which we say something; what we are talking about; the subject of discussion.

Observation 4: (This has already been anticipated by an anonymous commentator on this blog.) It seems that Aristotle at b25 is drawing a distinction, among false pra/gmata, between those that exist and those that do not. The ones that exist are those that characteristically seem to be other than they are (faux marble). But the pra/gmata which are putative 'states of affairs' are those, it seems, which do not exist. --But, if so, then since 'states of affairs' are supposed to be existing things, these pra/gmata cannot be 'states of affairs'.

And here's the English translation from Perseus, fyi.

"False" means: (i) false as a thing ; (a) because it is not or cannot be substantiated; such are the statements that the diagonal of a square is commensurable, [20] or that you are sitting. Of these one is false always, and the other sometimes; it is in these senses that these things are not facts.(b) Such things as really exist, but whose nature it is to seem either such as they are not, or like things which are unreal; e.g. chiaroscuro and dreams. For these are really something, but not that of which they create the impression. Things, then, are called false in these senses: either because they themselves are unreal, or because the impression derived from them is that of something unreal.

(2.) A false statement is the statement of what is not, in so far as the statement is false. Hence every definition is untrue of anything other than that of which it is true; e.g., the definition of a circle is untrue of a triangle. Now in one sense there is only one definition of each thing, namely that of its essence; but in another sense there are many definitions, since the thing itself, and the thing itself qualified (e.g. "Socrates" and "cultured Socrates") are in a sense the same. But the false definition is not strictly a definition of anything. Hence it was foolish of Antisthenes to insist that nothing can be described except by its proper definition: one predicate for one subject; from which it followed that contradiction is impossible, and falsehood nearly so. But it is possible to describe everything not only by its own definition but by that of something else; quite falsely, and yet also in a sense truly--e.g., 8 may be described as "double" by the definition of 2.

[1025a][1] Such are the meanings of "false" in these cases. (3.) A false man is one who readily and deliberately makes such statements, for the sake of doing so and for no other reason; and one who induces such statements in others--just as we call things false which induce a false impression. Hence the proof in the Hippias that the same man is false and true is misleading; for it assumes (a) that the false man is he who is able to deceive, i.e. the man who knows and is intelligent; (b) that the man who is willingly bad is better. This false assumption is due to the induction; for when he says that the man who limps willingly is better than he who does so unwillingly, he means by limping pretending to limp. For if he is willingly lame, he is presumably worse in this case just as he is in the case of moral character.

21 November 2005


As I have emphasized many times in this blog, the sound interpretation of a philosophical text requires both that we consider accurately the relevant 'antecedent probabilities' (Jos. Butler and J.H. Newman) that bear upon that text, and also that the text be interpreted in its proper context. When Metaphysics V 29 is approached in this way, then, I believe, Crivelli's interpretation cannot be sustained.

What are the relevant antecedent probabilities? Would we expect Aristotle's putting forward a doctrine of 'states of affairs' in Met. V to be antecedently likely or unlikely? Antecedently unlikely, I should think, and here's why.

The doctrine of 'states of affairs' is: not found elsewhere in the Aristotelian corpus (except perhaps Met. IX.10); not a doctrine that could be considered part of a sophisticated philosophical outlook generally (Crivelli holds that it is a peculiar view of Aristotle); and not a doctrine that is naturally indicated by some Greek word or phrase.

But it is antecedently unlikely that Aristotle would be putting forward that sort of doctrine in Met. V. Met. V. is a philosophical lexicon which catalogues and attempts to put into order uses of terms which have common uses elsewhere in the Aristotelian corpus, and which anyone with a sophisticated philosophical outlook would already be disposed to accept. (Thus its definitions are not stipulative. Its canonical phrase for introducing a term is "X legetai", that is, "The word 'X' is applied..." or "We apply the word 'X' to ...".) These uses also, in general, match up well with natural uses of Greek words in ordinary language.

Note furthermore that, on Crivelli's interpretation, Aristotle introduces a peculiar notion, 'states of affairs', in a section of Met. V in which, ostensibly, Aristotle is discussing, rather, the use of the term 'false'. So he would be using a passage meant to clarify one term, by introducing a new doctrine. Also, he would be doing so without flagging this, or without introducing also any technical term or phrase for this new notion ('states of affairs'), whereas a technical term is definitely needed in English.

So Crivelli's interpretation is, antecedently, highly unlikely. Does this mean that the interpretation is impossible? No. But it does mean that, if a more likely interpretation were possible, then that should be preferred--even if that other interpretation is, at first, not as straightforwardly suggested by the text taken just on its own.

20 November 2005

States of Affairs in Aristotle

I wish to consider Crivelli's arguments in Aristotle on Truth that Aristotle believes in the existence of 'states of affairs'. According to Crivelli, these are non-mental, non-linguistic objects of a propositional nature which explain the truth and falsehood of beliefs and sentences (4, 46). The evidence for Aristotle's accepting 'states of affairs' is found, Crivelli holds, in Metaphysics Delta 29 and Theta 10.

Here is Crivelli's argument as based on Delta 29:

Metaphysics Delta 29 discusses the uses of 'false'. The following excerpt from this chapter is the most unequivocal testimony of Aristotle's commitment to states of affairs as bearers of truth or falsehood:

T 1 One way in which what is false is spoken of is by being a false object. This can happen, on the one hand, because it is not combined or it is impossible for it to be composed (the diagonal's being commensurable and your being seated are spoken of in this way, for one of these is false always and the other sometimes, for it is in this sense [sc. in the sense of being false] that these are non-beings), and, on the other hand, in the case of such items that [...] (1024b17-21)

Objects are then called 'false' in this way, either because they themselves are not or [...] (1024b24-5)

In T 1 Aristotle offers two, and only two, examples to clarify what kind the items are which he there describes by using 'object' and 'false'. He names the items which he introduces in these examples by means of the phrases 'the diagonal's being commensurable' (1024b19-20) and 'your being seated' (1024b20). What could the items be which Aristotle in T 1 describes by using 'object' and 'false', and names by using 'the diagonal's being commensurable' and 'your being seated', if not the state of affairs of the diagonal's being commensurable, and the state of affairs of your being seated? Therefore, the items which Aristotle in T 1 describes by using 'object' and 'false' are probably states of affairs. Accordingly, T 1's main point is probably to explain what it is for a state of affairs to be false (46-7)
By the way, the term rendered 'object' is pragma.

It's a curious passage, and Crivelli's argument is curious. From the discussion that follows (47-9), it is clear that Crivelli is giving an argument from cases, which I'll summarize as follows:
1. Aristotle refers here to things that are both existents (pragmata) and false.
2. There seem to be only three possibilities: these things are (i) Russellian facts; (ii) composite objects; or (iii) states of affairs.
3. But Russellian facts are always true, yet what Aristotle is referring to can be false.
4. And if something like 'the diagonal's being commensurable' were meant to be a composite object, it would be a non-existent object (because the diagonal is not commensurable), and yet what Aristotle is referring to exists (they are pragmata).
5. Thus, what Aristotle is referring to are states of affairs.
Presumably, to reply to Crivelli, one would need to find some other kind of thing that Aristotle could be talking about (i.e. challenge premise 2), or dispute the claim that these pragmata are existing things (challenge premise 1).

19 November 2005

What is Truth?

I plan to begin a series of posts examing arguments from Paolo Crivelli's Aristotle on Truth.

One initial concern I have, is that Crivelli presumes from the start that truth in Aristotle is solely a logical notion. He does not consider, even to set aside, whether truth, for Aristotle, has some sort of purpose--that is, whether it has a role in a teleological view of human nature and nature generally--and whether, for Aristotle, truth is also, and perhaps primarily, an ethical notion. Thus, for instance, Crivelli cites the frequent mentions of truth in Nic. Eth. 6 simply as further evidence of cases where Aristotle takes 'true' and 'false' as qualifying beliefs or thoughts. And yet it is plausible to hold that, in the Ethics, truth is a good or goal of the intellect, and that an intellect's getting it right (aletheuein) is the primary notion, whereas what it is to get it right (to alethes) is secondary.

What is the relevance of this? Couldn't Crivelli reply that he restricts his field in advance to truth in Aristotle insofar as it is a logical notion? The difficulty is that, in developing his theory, Crivelli draws crucially on parts of the Aristotelian corpus that are not in the first instance logical, such as Metaphysics V.29 and IX.10. It is from these passages that Crivelli argues that Aristotle thinks that objects--"states of affairs"--and not simply thoughts or statements, are true and false. Yet presumably the sound interpretation of these passages requires that they be set in context appropriately and assessed with respect to Aristotle's broader philosophical purposes. Moreover, in developing a correspondence theory of truth, Crivelli is proposing a theory of truth as having an 'ontological' or 'metaphysical' basis, and thus on his own terms his theory is not restricted to merely logical considerations.

The post earlier, citing a passage from Aquinas, shows how broader considerations might be relevant, and therefore at least have to be considered. If, as Aquinas holds, we use the notion of 'truth' at all (besides 'existing' or 'one') only because we want to indicate something that is the good or goal of the intellect, then that use of the term must be regarded as the central case, with respect to which other uses need ultimately to be understood. If, then, (for instance) we find Aristotle saying something like, "The diagonal's commensurability is false", we would be initially disposed to gloss this as something like: "One is not getting it right in thinking that the diagonal is commensurable".

In a similar way, although to a lesser extent, it concerns me that there is no discussion of Plato, even of a basic sort, in Crivelli's book, since I find that there is hardly any viewpoint in Aristotle, which is not more reliably understood, if put in relation to Plato's thought. It could be the case that Plato turns out to be entirely irrelevant to an Aristotelian theory of truth, and yet, as I see it, this is something that would need to be justified, not presupposed.

18 November 2005

Brutes, Yahoos, and Daemons

John Adams, in a letter in reply of July 16, 1814, affirmed his complete agreement with Jefferson's thoughts on Plato. "Some thirty Years ago," Adams wrote, "I took upon me the severe task of going through all his Works."

With the help of two Latin Translations, and one English and one French Translation and comparing some of the most remarkable passages with the Greek, I laboured through the tedious toil. My disappointment was very great, my Astonishment was greater, and my disgust was shocking...

Some Parts of his Dialogues are entertaining, like the Writings of Rousseau: but his Laws and Republick from which I expected most, disappointed me most. I could scarcely exclude the suspicion that he intended the latter as a bitter Satyre upon all Republican Government...

Nothing can be conceived more destructive of human happiness; more infallibly contrived to transform Men and Women into Brutes, Yahoos, or Daemons than a Community of Wives and Property. Yet, in what, are the Writings of Rousseau and Helvetius wiser than those of Plato?
But how could Cicero have been duped? Adams speculates that it is likely that Cicero did decisively refute Plato, but, once again, probably because of priestcraft, Plato's reputation survived:
Cicero was educated in the Groves of Academus where the Name and Memory of Plato, were idolized to such a degree, that if he had wholly renounced the Prejudices of his Education his Reputation would have been lessened, if not injured and ruined. In his two Volumes of Discourses on Government We may presume, that he fully examined Plato's Laws and Republick as well as Aristotles Writings on Government. But these have been carefully destroyed; not improbably, with the general Consent of Philosophers, Politicians, and Priests.
And, giving a new sense to 'contemplation', Adams concludes:
Nothing seizes the Attention, of the stareing Animal, so surely, as Paradox, Riddle, Mystery, Invention, discovery, Mystery, Wonder, Temerity.

17 November 2005

Minding the Gap

Remember that the Sachs/Grote problem is that Plato's argument in Republic II-IV changes the subject. What is at issue is whether to be just in the ordinary sense makes someone happy. But Plato argues that to be just in a special, newly defined sense makes someone happy. Plato therefore needs to connect the two notions of justice and argue:

(A) Anyone who has internal (psychological, Platonic) justice also has ordinary (pratical, vulgar) justice.
(B) Anyone who has ordinary (practical, vulgar) justice also has internal (psychological, Platonic) justice.
Eric Brown attempts a solution (at least for claim (A)) in his recent, stimulating article, "Minding the Gap in Plato's Republic" (Philosophical Studies, 2004, 275-302). The solution is also encapsulated in Brown's contribution to SEP. Brown's view, in brief, is that the 'gap' between these two notions of justice is meant to be filled by Plato in his account of early childhood education in books II and III:

This brings us to Books Two and Three, where Socrates offers a long discussion of how to educate the guardians for the ideal city. This education is most notable for its carefully censored "reading list;" the young guardians-to-be will not be exposed to inappropriate images of gods and human beings. But Socrates is remarkably optimistic about the results of a sufficiently careful education. Well-trained guardians will "praise fine things, be pleased by them, receive them into his soul, and, being nurtured by them, become fine and good," and each will "rightly object to what is shameful, hating it while he's still young and unable to grasp the reason" (401e4-402a2). Note that Socrates has the young guardians not only responding to good things as honorable (with spirited attitudes), but also becoming fine and good. Moreover, Socrates is confident that the spirited guardians are stably good: when he is describing the possibility of civic courage in Book Four, he suggests that proper education can stain the spirited part of the soul with the right dispositions so deeply that they will be preserved "through everything" (429b8, 429c8, 430b2-3).

This optimism suggests that the motivations to do what is right are acquired early in moral education, built into a soul that might become, eventually, perfectly just. And this in turn suggests one reason why Socrates might have skipped the question of why the psychologically just can be relied upon to do what is right. Socrates might be assuming that anyone who is psychologically just must have been raised well, and that anyone who is raised well can be relied upon to do what is right. So understood, early childhood education, and not knowledge of the forms, is the driving force that links psychological justice and just action (SEP, "Ethics and Politics in Plato").

The resolution is ingenious, not least for maintaining that the 'gap' in the Republic should be bridged by looking to material that occurs before book IV.

Nonetheless, Brown's resolution seems open to an obvious difficulty. According to Brown, Socrates is presupposing that "anyone who is raised well can be relied upon to do what is right." However, what is it to be 'raised well'? If you say: "It is to be raised in such a way that you are just in the ordinary way, so that you become as Socrates, not Thrasymachus, recommends in bk. I", then that begs the question.

Grant that it is possible to train a child so that he or she turns out (given additional education, etc.), as an adult, to be disposed not to betray, steal, commit adultery, etc. Grant even that one can be trained to prefer these things for their own sake. But what is at issue is whether that sort of upbringing is what it is to be raised well--that is, must children be raised in that way, if they are to be happy? That is what Thrasymachus would presumably dispute.

Suppose you say, "But in being raised to have a harmonious soul, the future guardians are thereby raised to do what is ordinarily right"--then someone might say in response (echoing Sachs), "But why couldn't someone be raised to have a harmonious soul, and at the same time be raised to steal, betray, commit adultery, etc., in those circumstances in which he could do so without getting caught?" Once again, the question is begged: it remains unclear why there is not an alternative, Thrasymachean way of being raised 'well', which imparts psychic harmony, while at the same time teaching a child to reach out unhesitatingly for advantages, when he can do so without punishment or loss of a good reputation.

What we need is an argument that there is only one way of being raised well, and that such an education imparts, at once, both internal justice and ordinary justice. But Plato presupposes this in books II-III, he does not argue for it. So the 'gap' remains unbridged by this approach.

Whimsies, Puerilities, and Unintelligible Jargon

Thus the judgment upon Plato, pronounced by one of America's most esteemed Founders and Framers. He had not patience for him, and thought that the most interesting puzzle, regarding Plato's works, was accounting for their influence.

"I am just returned from one of my long absences," Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams in July of 1814, "having been at my other home for five weeks past. Having more leisure there than here for reading, I amused myself with reading seriously Plato's republic..."

I am wrong however in calling it amusement, for it was the heaviest task-work I ever went through. I had occasionally before taken up some of his other works, but scarcely ever had patience to go through a whole dialogue. While wading thro' the whimsies, the puerilities, and unintelligible jargon of this work, I laid it down often to ask myself how it could have been that the world should have so long consented to give reputation to such nonsense as this? How the soi-disant Christian world indeed should have done it, is a piece of historical curiosity. But how could the Roman good sense do it? And particularly how could Cicero bestow such eulogies on Plato? Altho' Cicero did not wield the dense logic of Demosthenes, yet he was able, learned, laborious, practised in the business of the world, and honest. He could not be the dupe of mere style, of which he was himself the first master in the world. With the Moderns, I think, it is rather a matter of fashion and authority. Education is chiefly in the hands of persons who, from their profession, have an interest in the reputation and the dreams of Plato. They give the tone while at school, and few, in their after-years, have occasion to revise their college opinions. But fashion and authority apart, and bringing Plato to the test of reason, take from him his sophisms, futilities, and incomprehensibilities, and what remains?
But the fundamental explanation for Plato's enduring influence is, of course, priestcraft:
In truth, he is one of the race of genuine Sophists, who has escaped the oblivion of his brethren, first by the elegance of his diction, but chiefly by the adoption and incorporation of his whimsies into the body of artificial Christianity. His foggy mind, is forever presenting the semblances of objects which, half seen thro' a mist, can be defined neither in form or dimension. Yet this which should have consigned him to early oblivion really procured him immortality of fame and reverence. The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ levelled to every understanding, and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticisms of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power and pre-eminence.
I'm hesitant to discount entirely, however, Jefferson's explanation (in effect) of Platonic scholarship:
The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them: and for this obvious reason that nonsense can never be explained.

The Gap

Hmmm... I'm wondering how to interpret the astounding silence of DB readers as regards the 'Sachs problem'. (Yes, I well understand it's a busy time of the academic year.)

I'm planning to continue this thread by looking at recent solutions proposed by Eric Brown and Terry Penner. (And, not to worry, I'm initiating other threads besides.) But I wonder if you have thoughts on my suggestion of how to understand the problem.

We saw that Sachs (following Grote) says that Plato has changed the subject. Plato wants to show, at the beginning of Rep. II, that it is preferable not to steal, break an oath, murder, betray, etc., even apart from any good results of acting in this way, and even if it brings bad results. But what he actually argues for, in Rep. IV, is that it's in this way preferable to have a harmonious soul. That leaves a gap. What is the argument that takes us from 'harmonious soul' to 'consistently acts justly' and back?

What I proposed is the following. We see in Rep. IV that Plato, at least, seems most concerned with establishing this claim:

The word 'just' as applied to an individual with a harmonious soul is used in exactly the same way as when the word is applied to an ideal, well-ordered city.
I urged that the Sachs/Grote problem then becomes: What line of argument takes us from the above claim (the 'Univocity Thesis') to the claims that: someone with a harmonious soul refrains from ordinary acts of injustice; and someone who refrains (consistently and with stability) from ordinary acts of injustice has a harmonious soul. (And then it seemed possible to give a line of thought which achieved this, since we could reasonably hold that ordinary acts of injustice would be forbidden by law in an ideal city. But see the earlier post.)

You may not agree with exactly how I supposed that Plato wished to bridge this gap. But do you agree that this is a useful way to conceive of the argumentative task?

16 November 2005

This Seems the Weak Point

Coope writes:

In Θ10, Aristotle seems to imply that 'being in the strictest sense true' and 'being in the strictest sense false' hold of objects, ...
But I don't see that implication, or suggestion, in Aristotle's text. I wish Coope had discussed that in her review. (No, I don't yet have Crivelli's book! Does anyone know what his arguments are?)

Truth Be Told

Coope's challenge (explained in the previous post) led me to think of a similar passage in the Summa, where Aquinas argues that, although truth is derived from things, still, things are not true. Here's the third objection from ST I.16.i:

Praeterea, propter quod unumquodque, et illud magis, ut patet I Poster. Sed ex eo quod res est vel non est, est opinio vel oratio vera vel falsa, secundum Philosophum in Praedicamentis. Ergo veritas magis est in rebus quam in intellectu.
The sed contra cites the text which causes the trouble:
Sed contra est quod Philosophus dicit, VI Metaphys., quod verum et falsum non sunt in rebus, sed in intellectu.
And here's the reply to the objection:
Ad tertium dicendum quod, licet veritas intellectus nostri a re causetur, non tamen oportet quod in re per prius inveniatur ratio veritatis: sicut neque in medicina per prius invenitur ratio sanitatis quam in animali; virtus enim medicinae, non sanitas eius, causat sanitatem, cum non sit agens univocum. Et similiter esse rei, non veritas eius, causat veritatem intellectus. Unde Philosophus dicit quod opinio et oratio vera est ex eo quod res est, non ex eo quod res vera est.
(For the English: here.)

(By the way, Aquinas' argument in the corpus, that 'true' applies only to something in the intellect, is that truth is the practically attainable good of the intellect, and thus it is something that the intellect has.)