24 October 2007

"falsity and truth have to do with combination and separation"

For those who want to continue thinking with me about this, here's a passage from earlier in De Int which looks to be relevant for understanding the passage quoted below:

ἔστι δέ, ὥσπερ ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ
[16a.10]οὔτε ἀληθές πω. σημεῖον δ' ἐστὶ τοῦδε· καὶ γὰρ τραγέλα-
εἶναι μὴ εἶναι προστεθῇ ἁπλῶς κατὰ χρόνον.
And Ackrill's translation:
Just as some thoughts in the soul are neither true nor false while some are necessarily one or the other, so also with spoken sounds. For falsity and truth have to do with combination and separation. Thus names and verbs by themselves--for instance 'man' or 'white' when nothing further is added--are like the thoughts that are without combination and separation; for so far they are neither true nor false. A sign of this is that even 'goat-stag' signifies something but not, as yet, anything true or false--unless 'is' or 'is not' is added (either simply or with reference to time).
A quibble: I might have put "while some necessarily are one or the other", to avoid the (slight) suggestion that Aristotle has in mind modal truth, rather than bivalence.

That passage seems relevant because:
(i) it shows how Aristotle uses τὸ εἶναι μὴ εἶναι as a stand-in to signify the occurrence of "is" or "is not" in an assertion;
(ii) it suggests that εἰ ἔστιν μή οὔπω σημαίνει (infra) is likely to mean "does not yet signify whether it is or is not truth"; and
(iii) it indicates that by προσσημαίνει δὲ σύνθεσίν τινα (infra) Aristotle likely means precisely that sort of combination that results in an assertion with a truth-value.
(Curiously, in a blog infra is supra!)