To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, ...[Aristotle]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by BattyOldMaid, Oct 13, 2008.

  1. BattyOldMaid New Member

    I'm reading a book of quotes, and came across this one from Aristotle, I'm unable to make a head or tails of this.

  2. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    "what is" can be read as meaning "something that is/exists." To say that that something "is not" is to say that it does not exist. Similarly, "what is not" is "something that is not" or "something that does not exist." Etcetera.

    To "say of" something is to speak about that something.

    Thus, one can paraphrase the quote as follows: "To say that something that exists
    does not exist, or to say that something that does not exist does exist, is false, while to say that something that exists exists, and to say that something that does not exist does not exist, is true."

    Bit of a tautology, really.
  3. Meeracat Senior Member

    To say that something that exists really doesn't exist, or to say that something exists when it clearly doesn't, is obviously false in both cases.
    To say something exists that does, or to say that something doesn't exist that clearly doesn't is clearly true in both cases.
  4. chajadan Senior Member

    Good deciphering guys. I wasn't quite catching on on my own I'm afraid.
  5. BattyOldMaid New Member

    Thank you guys for the reply, it did my head in, now I understand it better.
  6. Sapient New Member

    Good eye.

    This statement is Aristotle's postulate of what is called The Correspondence Theory or View of Truth. Simply put, truth is what corresponds to objective reality--ie OUTSIDE someone's thinking, feeling, etc. This view is the foundation of logic and indeed Western Civilization--the law of non contradiction, identity, and excluded middle.

    It is the very antithesis of the post modern view / pantheistic view that truth is what ever someone wants it to be, can be contradictory, self defeating, etc.

    If you want to pinpoint a fount for the insanity in our world, look at the ignoring of the Correspondence Theory of Truth--ie all truth is relative and subjective. The latter is the very definition of foolishness.

    God bless
  7. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    Hi Sapient. Aristotle is indeed defining truth as based on correspondence with reality, but there are a few key points also in play here:

    - for Aristotle, reality is defined as phusis (nature); that is, "truth" means saying things as they really appear in the natural world. This is the definition of truth that is proper to science.
    - Aristotle gives a corresponding definition of another kind of truth/conviction based on nomos (what people think) in the Rhetoric. That is, logic is not the only model proposed by Aristotle.

    There are other definitions of truth as well. For instance, philosophy as an institution does not hold to the Aristotelian model; although philosophers trace truth back to "correspondence with reality," they define reality in terms of eidos (ideal). For Plato, true statements correspond to the ideal, which can be found nowhere in the natural world. Aristotle's definition is entirely at odds with Plato's.

    When you write:
    I think it's a bit misleading. Certainly nobody, or very few, people argue that truth is "whatever someone wants it to be." (In the influential psychoanalytic model, for instance, the truth of reality is precisely what the psychic life is set up to avoid.) There are several different kinds of "postmodern" argument that redefine or criticize both Platonic and Aristotelian models of truth. But that is not to say that those theories foreclose any notion of "truth" whatsoever. Furthermore, Aristotle already had named rhetoric as an art related to "whatever people want to think," with a mode of truth proper to it. Rhetoric is necessary along with philosophy because philosophy is incapable of producing conviction.

    Just wanted to suggest that you nuance your understandings of both Aristotelianism and "postmodernism."

    I also think Aristotle was much more stricto sensu "pantheist" than we are today!
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2012
  8. gjanton New Member

    This is a statement of what philosophers call the "correspondence theory of truth," which simply asserts that a declarative sentence is true if and only if what it says about the world is actually the case. This almost seems tautological, but there are other accounts of truth such as the "coherence theory," which takes being part of a coherent (i.e., consistent) complex of propositions to be the mark of truth. A spirited defense of the latter theory may be found in Keith Lehrer's book, Knowledge.
  9. Sapient New Member

    Hi gjanton

    Coherence is important of course...but it is not the ONLY thing that is important.
    Logically, we might call coherence, validity, as in, say, an argument's form---as say:

    • All leprechauns are green
    • Sapient is a leprechaun
    • Therefore, Sapient is green.

    Now, that is consistent / coherent---a valid form. And we could hold to that, consistently, in our entire worldview. Is that enough? Hardly. Why? Because the premises are not ALSO true--ie based on reality. Coherence is important because reality is coherent.

    That is in no way to be taken to minimize the value of non-contradiction, only that something else is required.

    If we go with consistency alone, we might ask, then on what basis do we judge Nazism---it was very consistent re Arian superiority, belief in The Third Reich, just wasn't true.

    God bless

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