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.)

The Truth--the Strict Truth--but Not the Truth

I had the pleasure of hearing some of Paulo Crivelli's thoughts on truth in Aristotle, in advance of his book, when he gave a BACAP paper on that subject at Clark. Not surprisingly, the book is receiving excellent reviews, as this one today by Ursula Coope (by the way, another Clark BACAP speaker).

Coope sets down the following challenge. Crivelli interprets Aristotle as holding both that

  • 'true' in its strictest sense holds of things
  • 'true' in a less strict (and derivative) sense holds of thoughts, but not of things
But Coope wonders whether it makes sense to say that something is strictly F but not F, and she asks: Is there some analogue to this elsewhere in Aristotle? (Well, is there?) Here's the relevant passage from the review:
The evidence for attributing to Aristotle the view that objects, such as states of affairs and material substances, can be bearers of truth and falsehood is drawn chiefly from two passages of the Metaphysics: D28 and Θ10. Crivelli makes a good case for his interpretation of these passages, but there is one point on which I find his argument unconvincing. This is his attempt to resolve an apparent inconsistency between Θ10 and another passage in the Metaphysics, E4. In Θ10, Aristotle seems to imply that 'being in the strictest sense true' and 'being in the strictest sense false' hold of objects, but in E4, he appears to say that objects cannot be true or false: 'falsehood and truth are not in objects . . . but in thought' (1027b25-7). Crivelli attempts to reconcile these two passages by arguing that 'being in the strictest sense true' does not entail being true: 'being in the strictest sense true' and 'being in the strictest sense false' hold only of objects, whereas truth and falsehood hold only of thoughts. The truth and falsehood that hold of thoughts are defined by appealing to the 'being in the strictest sense true' and 'being in the strictest sense false' that hold of objects. This is an ingenious attempt at reconciliation. However, I find it hard to believe that Aristotle would call something 'F in the strictest sense' (kuriôtata), if he thought that in fact it was not F. The argument would be more convincing if Crivelli could give an example of an analogous claim elsewhere in Aristotle's work. Of course, it is very much a matter of judgement how far one should attempt to interpret Aristotle in such a way that the claims he makes in different places are consistent. In this case, I would be inclined to accept inconsistency, rather than adopt an interpretation on which 'being in the strictest sense true' does not entail being true.

15 November 2005

The Grote Difficulty

This is the way that, I'm thinking, that the Grote (a.k.a. 'Sachs') difficulty needs to be handled. Let me know what you think.

I noticed the other day that the bulk of Plato's argument about the virtue of justice in Book IV is aimed at establishing that the word 'just' as applied to a person with a well-ordered soul, and as applied to the ideal city, is used univocally. In fact, the arguments that the soul has three parts are introduced explicitly for this purpose: "a just man won't differ at all from a just city in respect to the form of justice" (435b). And Plato takes the point to be clinched by 442a: "Is the justice in us at all indistinct? Does it seem to be something different from what we found in the city?--It doesn't seem so to me". And then immediately following this is the appeal to 'ordinary cases', the inductive argument, which we've looked at already, that a just person won't embezzle, steal, break an oath, etc. (442e ff)--which confirms that Plato took the equivalence of i-justice and o-justice to follow from the univocity of 'just' as applied to an individual with i-justice and the ideal city. So consider the following argument.

Call the following the Univocity Thesis:

1. The justice of an individual with a well-ordered soul is the same sort of thing as the justice of an ideal city.

Now consider the following principle, which I shall call the Principle of Reflection:

2. The citizens of an ideal city resemble the city.

(The Principle of Reflection is the basis for the analogy between city and individual in the first place. Intuitively, it is the idea that citizens of a sort of city are 'suited' to live in that sort of city, and they become so suited by resembling the city of which they are a part.)

Then add also:

3. In an ideal city, acts of ordinary injustice will be forbidden.

We need as well:

4. The citizens of an ideal city are lawful.


5. The citizens of an ideal city will not perform acts of ordinary injustice.

And then, by Univocity:

6. A person with i-justice will not perform acts of ordinary injustice.

The argument, in brief, is that i-justice may be understood as what suits someone to live in an ideal city. Because ordinary injustice is unlawful in such a city, i-justice suits or disposes someone to live without committing acts of ordinary injustice (or something like that).

P.D.Q. Aristotle

Sent to me by Matt Walker. Definitely looks entertaining. It's clear from the Jefferson-Adams correspondence that the Founders had little respect for Plato, at least, as a political theorist. But what might Plato or, in this case, Aristotle have thought of them?

The Whitney Humanities Center at Yale's Working Group in Ancient Philosophy
invites you to a workshop on:

"Aristotle's 'Regime of the Americans'"
Peter Simpson

Wednesday, November 16, 4pm
Linsly-Chittenden Hall, Room 211
Yale University

Refreshments provided.

Professor Simpson is Professor of Classics and Philosophy at the City University
ARISTOTLE (University of North Carolina Press, 2002) and a translation of THE
_POLITICS_ OF ARISTOTLE (University of North Carolina Press, 1997).

Copies of Professor Simpson's English translation of this recently discovered
lost work of Aristotle's will be available in Connecticut Hall Room 101.

(By the way, it's not an a recently discovered work of Aristotle's. Rather, it's
a speculative reconstruction of a work Aristotle _might_ have written about the
American political system had he existed today.)

14 November 2005




Present a Lecture By

Ed Halper
University of Georgia

“Aristotle’s Paradigmatism”

Commentary by Arthur Madigan
Philosophy, Boston College

Thursday, November 17 -- 7:30pm
Dinand Library Faculty Room

And a Seminar:

Metaphysics X”

3:30pm -- Smith Hall 201

13 November 2005

Changing the Subject

Scholars in ancient philosophy need to stop speaking of 'the Sachs difficulty' and begin speaking, rather, of 'the Grote difficulty'.

Here is Penner's characterization of Sachs' objection, from the first page of his recent paper:

In David Sachs’s classic 1963 article ‘A Fallacy in Plato’s Republic,’ Sachs finds Plato guilty of what he calls a ‘fallacy of irrelevance’ in the response he has Socrates give to the Thrasymachean challenge. What this fallacy consists of, in brief, is (as I shall put it) Socrates’ ‘changing the subject’ on Thrasymachus, Glaucon, and Adeimantus. Their challenge is a challenge to justice on the ordinary conception of justice, which Sachs sees as consisting in ‘the non-performance of acts of certain kinds.’ (Though he does not say so explicitly, it is clear from other remarks in Sachs that he thinks of this nonperformance conception of justice as identical with the ordinary moral conception of justice. Sachs calls this the ‘vulgar’ conception of justice, as though it is the conception which most ordinary people work with). But what Socrates does in response is to introduce a new conception of justice - one which would not have occurred to Thrasymachus, Glaucon, or Adeimantus in a million years unless Socrates had proposed it, and which probably would not even have occurred to us if we had not read the Republic. Socrates then argues - employing that new conception of justice - that the just are always happier than the unjust.
But Grote had said the same thing, that Plato is guilty of equivocation ('changing the subject', the 'fallacy of irrelevance'):
Now in regard to the definition here given by Plato of Justice, we may first remark that it is altogether peculiar to Plato; and that if we reason about Justice in the Platonic sense, we must take care not to affirm of it predicates which might be true in a more usual acceptation of the word...

The narrower sense is that which is in more common use; and it is that which Plato assumes provisionally when he puts forward the case of opponents in the speeches of Glaukon and Adeimantus. But when he comes to set forth his own explanation, and to draw up his own case, we see that he uses the term justice in its larger sense...

He appears to be successful only because he changes the terminology, and the state of the question...
These are surely the same objection.

In his footnote 67, however, in which he refers to Grote, and argues that Sachs has a different criticism, Penner refers to other passages in Grote, which are not directly to the point (committing the fallacy of irrelevance, as it were). Read Penner and say whether he has represented Grote's complaint well:
Grote 1888, ch. 34, also speaks in terms of a Platonic sense vs. an ordinary sense. But the gravamen of his charge is not so much the new Sachsian charge that Plato commits a fallacy in reasoning, as the old charge that Plato’s account of the reference of ‘justice’ is wrong. Justice cannot be what the Republic says it is - a single internal ‘entirely self-regarding’ state (‘a state of internal happiness to the agent’). What it has to be, Grote insists, is rather a state of exchange - ‘reciprocity’ - between its possessor and others, in which the possessor exchanges the fulfilling of his or her obligations to others for the receiving of his or her rights from others. (In just this way, Grote will have thought the Greatest Happiness of the Greatest Number will have been served -- the true idea of justice, in Grote’s view). This should, indeed, have been the upshot, Grote says, of taking seriously the idea of justice being based naturally on our need that each ‘does his own’ (369bc with 370c) -- presumably since each needs that the other does his own. It should also have led Socrates to grant that fathers do act correctly in praising justice to their sons for its consequences in how other people see us. Socrates is quite wrong to suggest (368c) that it would be a slander on justice to allow such consequences to be the real basis for justice being a virtue. (Grote usefully cites Laws 950b as an implicit criticism of Republic Book II).
By the way, Grote introduces his point about reciprocity in order to argue, not merely that the Platonic notion of justice is different from the ordinary notion, but also that the two notions cannot be bridged, because the ordinary notion essentially involves reciprocity, whereas the Platonic notion does not.

12 November 2005

Addendum: Penner on Grote and Sachs

I note a recent paper by Terry Penner, which I've just discovered, "Platonic Justice and What We Mean by Justice", where in footnote 38 (page 67) he refers to Grote but claims that Sachs offers a distinctively new criticism. (Not that this would help with my worry: even if the criticism is in some important way new, of which I'm unsure, still, shouldn't the argument that the criticism is new, relative to Grote, have been made before it was published? And presumably in the process many of the points which Penner wishes to make would have been clarified.)

Was There Scholarship Before 1963?

My copy of Grote ("gift of Jonas Gilman Clark" in pencil on reverse of the title page, later withdrawn from the Clark University Library) is the second edition, 1867, not the 1888 new edition, to which Nicholas White refers. So I cannot check the page numbers that he gives. But below are the three passages which are my best guess for not so Sachs-y criticisms of Plato.

When you read these passages, do you ask yourself: "How is it that an article on Plato gets published in a prestigious philosophical journal, which adds nothing to a criticism advanced 100 years earlier by a much more distinguished scholar?" (I would add: if one looks at Grote's criticisms in context, one sees that they form simply a part of several searching criticisms of Plato, very much worthy of our attention, as I shall perhaps show later.) Isn't there something deeply wrong with our discipline, that this can happen?

Now in regard to the definition here given by Plato of Justice, we may first remark that it is altogether peculiar to Plato; and that if we reason about Justice in the Platonic sense, we must take care not to affirm of it predicates which might be true in a more usual acceptation of the word. Next, that even adopting Plato's own meaning of Justice, it does not answer the purpose for which he produces it--viz.: to provide reply to the objections, and solution for the difficulties, which he had himself placed in the mouths of Glaukon and Adeimantus (126).
The ambiguous meaning of the word justice is known to Plato himself (as it is also to Aristotle). One professed purpose of the dialogue called the Republic is to remove such ambiguity. Apart from the many other differences of meaning (arising from dissentient sentiments of different men and different ages), there is one duplicity of meaning which Aristotle particularly dwells upon. In the stricter and narrower sense, justice comprehends only those obligations which each individual agent owes to others, and for the omission of which he becomes punishable as unjust--though the performance of them, under ordinary circumstances, carries little positive merit: in another and larger sense, justice comprehends these and a great deal more, becoming co-extensive with wise, virtuous, and meritorious character generally. The narrower sense is that which is in more common use; and it is that which Plato assumes provisionally when he puts forward the case of opponents in the speeches of Glaukon and Adeimantus. But when he comes to set forth his own explanation, and to draw up his own case, we see that he uses the term justice in its larger sense, as the condition of a mind perfectly well-balanced and well-regulated: as if a man could not be just, without being at the same time wise, courageous, and temperate. The just man described in the counter-pleadings of Glaukon and Adeimantus, would be a person like the Athenian Aristeides: the unjust man whom they contrast with him, would be one who maltreats, plunders, or deceives others, or usurps power over them. But the just man, when Sokrates replies to them and unfolds his own thesis, is made to include a great deal more...The just man, so described, becomes identical with the true philosopher: no man who is not a philosopher can be just. Aristeides would not at all correspond to the Platonic ideal of justice. He would be a stranger to the pleasure extolled by Plato as the exclusive privilege of the just and virtuous--the pleasure of contemplating universal Ideas and acquiring extended knowledge (129-131).
[Plato] professes to have satisfied the requirement of Glaukon, by proving that the just man is happy by reason of his justice--quand même--however he may be esteemed or dealt with either by Gods or men. But even if we grant the truth of his premisses, no such conclusion can be elicited from them. He appears to be successful only because he changes the terminology, and the state of the question. Assume it to be true, that the philosopher, whose pleasures are derived chiefly from the love of knowledge and of intellectual acquisitions, has a better chance of happiness than the ambitious or the money-loving man. This I believe to be true in the main, subject to many interfering causes--though the manner in which Plato here makes it out is much less satisfactory than the handling of the same point by Aristotle after him. But when the point is granted, nothing is proved about the just and the unjust man, except in a sense of those terms peculiar to Plato himself (147).
For more on Aristides "the Just", see this dictionary entry and Plutarch's life. Thus Plutarch:
In all the vicissitudes of public affairs, the constancy he showed was admirable, not being elated with honours, and demeaning himself tranquilly and sedately in adversity; holding the opinion that he ought to offer himself to the service of his country without mercenary views and irrespectively of any reward, not only of riches, but even of glory itself. Hence it came, probably, that at the recital of these verses of Aeschylus in the theatre, relating to Amphiaraus-

"For not at seeming just, but being so
He aims; and from his depth of soil below
Harvests of wise and prudent counsels grow..."

--the eyes of all the spectators turned on Aristides, as if this virtue, in an especial manner, belonged to him.

Knowledge by Acquaintance

I was led to the following interesting remark by a review in today's WSJ:

There are characters whom we know to be historical but of whom we do not feel that we have any personal knowledge -- knowledge by acquaintance; such are Alexander, Attila, or William of Orange. There are others who make no claim to historical reality but whom, none the less, we know as we know real people: Falstaff, Uncle Toby, Mr. Pickwick. But there are only three characters who, claiming the first sort of reality, also actually have the second. And surely everyone knows who they are: Plato's Socrates, the Jesus of the Gospel, and Boswell's Johnson.
--C.S. Lewis, "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism".
Lewis goes on to say that our sense of the character of Jesus or Johnson is so strong, that our judgments coincide on the spuriousness of apocryphal gospels and 'pseudo-Johnsoniana':
Our acquaintance with them shows itself in a dozen ways. When we look into the Apocryphal gospels, we find ourselves constantly saying of this or that logion, 'No. It's a fine saying, but not His. That wasn't how He talked.' -- just as we do with all pseudo-Johnsoniana.
But curiously Lewis (regardless of whether he is correct about Jesus and Johnson) is silent on whether this test works also for Socrates. Do the sayings of Socrates in Xenophon, for instance, ring true? If Lewis is correct about Plato's character, we should at once agree either that 'That's how he talked' or not.

11 November 2005

You Are What You Do

At Rep. 442b-443d, it sure looks as though Plato is arguing, even if imperfectly, that internal justice implies ordinary justice. In the passage below, which Sam Rickless drew attention to, it looks as though he wishes to argue that acts of ordinary justice lead to internal justice: and then the one trait would imply the other, because anyone who consistently carried out just deeds in the ordinary sense would thereby have established in his soul the 'healthy' state of internal justice.

The argument looks weak and abbreviated, to be sure, yet it does seem to be an argument. Moreover, it's an argument which, apparently, is part of Plato's aim to confirm that his definition of justice is correct. (Plato confirms the definition at the end of IV, before going on to argue later, in VIII and IX, that justice so defined makes for happiness and other good things.)

So isn't Sachs simply mistaken in alleging a fallacy? Better perhaps to observe that Plato's arguments are weak and then to ask the (surely fruitful) question of why Plato supposed that what he said was sufficient--what view of just and unjust action led him to suppose this.

“Healthful things surely engender health and diseaseful disease.” “Yes.” “Then does not doing just acts engender justice [444d] and unjust injustice?” “Of necessity.” “But to produce health is to establish the elements in a body in the natural relation of dominating and being dominated by one another, while to cause disease is to bring it about that one rules or is ruled by the other contrary to nature.” “Yes, that is so.” “And is it not likewise the production of justice in the soul to establish its principles in the natural relation of controlling and being controlled by one another, while injustice is to cause the one to rule or be ruled by the other contrary to nature?” “Exactly so,” he said. “Virtue, then, as it seems, would be a kind of health [444e] and beauty and good condition of the soul, and vice would be disease, ugliness, and weakness.” “It is so.” “Then is it not also true that beautiful and honorable pursuits tend to the winning of virtue and the ugly to vice?” “Of necessity.”

ta\ me/n pou u(gieina\ u(gi/eian e)mpoiei=*, ta\ de\ nosw/dh no/son.


ou)kou=n kai\ to\ me\n di/kaia pra/ttein dikaiosu/nhn e)mpoiei=, to\ d' a)/dika a)diki/an;


e)/sti de\ to\ me\n u(gi/eian poiei=n* ta\ e)n tw=| sw/mati kata\ fu/sin kaqista/nai kratei=n te kai\ kratei=sqai u(p' a)llh/lwn, to\ de\ no/son* para\ fu/sin a)/rxein te kai\ a)/rxesqai a)/llo u(p' a)/llou*.

e)/sti ga/r.

ou)kou=n au)=, e)/fhn, to\ dikaiosu/nhn e)mpoiei=n ta\ e)n th=| yuxh=| kata\ fu/sin kaqista/nai kratei=n te kai\ kratei=sqai u(p' a)llh/lwn, to\ de\ a)diki/an para\ fu/sin a)/rxein te kai\ a)/rxesqai a)/llo u(p' a)/llou;

komidh=|, e)/fh.

a)reth\ me\n a)/ra, w(j e)/oiken, u(gi/eia/ te/ tij a)\n ei)/h kai\ ka/lloj kai\ eu)eci/a yuxh=j, kaki/a de\ no/soj te kai\ ai)=sxoj kai\ a)sqe/neia.

e)/stin ou(/tw.

a)=r' ou)=n ou) kai\ ta\ me\n kala\ e)pithdeu/mata ei)j a)reth=j kth=sin fe/rei, ta\ d' ai)sxra\ ei)j kaki/aj;


Sachs on the Two Claims

We grant (do we not?) that, as Sachs emphasizes, the argument of the Republic requires:

(A) If a person has internal justice, then he has ordinary justice (i-just --> o-just).
(B) If a person has ordinary justice, then he has internal justice (o-just --> i-just).

Yet we may wonder:

1. Does Plato (in the Republic) believe them?
2. If so, does he assert them?
3. If he believes or asserts them, does he indicate that they need to be justified in some way, or does he simply take them for granted (perhaps with good reason)?
4. If he indicates that they need to be justified in some way, does he attempt to justify them?
5. If he attempts to justify them, are his attempts plausible?

Sachs takes different positions as regards (A) and (B). As regards (A), he says that, clearly, Plato believes it, and he asserts it; however, Plato seems to take it for granted, not offering any argument or indicating even that an argument is required.

As regards (B), Sachs says there is no evidence in the text that Plato even believes it.

Is Sachs right about this? Does he set up the problem correctly? Is he correct that Plato asserts (A) but offers no support for it, and that Plato does not assert (B) and may not believe it?

Here are the relevant passages from Sachs (by the way, 'internal justice' = 'Platonic justice' and 'ordinary justice' = 'vulgar justice'). As regards (A):

Both explicitly and by implication, Plato distinguished his special conception of justice from the ordinary understanding of morality. Moreover, he repeatedly alleged connections between the two. In Book IV, after Socrates defines the virtues (441c-442d), he and Glaucon agree that the Platonically just man is least likely of all men to commit what would ordinarily be thought immoral acts; and in Book VI, Socrates attributes the vulgar moral virtues to men of a philosophical nature-to men, that is, whose souls are pre-eminently ordered by Platonic justice (484a-487a). Doubtless, then, Plato thought that men who were just according to his conception of justice would pass the tests of ordinary morality. But although Plato more than once has Socrates say things to this effect, he nowhere tries to prove it. Attempts to show that Platonic justice entails ordinary morality are strikingly missing from the Republic; Plato merely assumes that having the one involves having the other. The assumption, moreover, is implausible. On Plato's view, the fulfillment of the functions of the soul's parts constitutes wisdom or intelligence, courage, and self-control; and if these obtain, justice, according to Plato, also obtains. Intelligence, courage, and self-control are, however, prima facie compatible with a variety of vulgar injustices and evil doing. Neither as usually understood nor as Plato characterizes them are those virtues inconsistent with performing any of the acts Thrasymachus and Glaucon mention as examples of injustice. In this regard it is tempting to assert that the most that can be said on behalf of Plato's argument is that crimes and evils could not be done by a Platonically just man in a foolish, unintelligent, cowardly, or uncontrolled way.

As regards (B):

[Plato] nowhere so much as assumes that men who are just according to the ordinary conception are also Platonically just. Indeed, there is no reason to suppose that this was his belief; but the omission of a claim to that effect within the framework of his argument cannot but seem surprising. Plato abundantly represents Thrasymachus, Glaucon, and Adeimantus as questioning the happiness of ordinarily just, moral men. It seems incontrovertible that when they ask to be shown how justice, because of its power, constitutes the greatest good of the soul, Glaucon and Adeimantus are taking for granted that the souls of vulgarly just men will enjoy the efects of justice. Nonetheless, an examination of Socrates' reply to Glaucon and Adeimantus (an examination, that is, of Book II, 367e to Book X, 612b) fails to uncover any claim whose import is that vulgar justice entails Platonic justice.