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
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.