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.


Anonymous said...

No comment to leave. I just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying this mini-seminar on Aristotle on Truth & Falsity.