Manual Aristotle on the Nature of Truth

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The ability to respond to the logos of things is at the root of an understanding of truth in terms of justice. Long, Aristotle on the Nature of Truth , 1st ed. Cambridge University Press, This book reconsiders the traditional correspondence theory of truth, which takes truth to be a matter of correctly representing objects.

Drawing Heideggerian phenomenology into dialogue with American pragmatic naturalism, I undertake a rigorous reading of Aristotle that articulates the meaning of truth as a cooperative activity between human beings and the natural world that is rooted in our endeavors to do justice to the nature of things. Christopher Long shows how the question of truth leads us ineluctably to justice and the question of justice leads us back to truth. Thus, this is as much a book about nature and about ecology as it is about truth and being, and it is an indispensable tool for those whose work in environmental philosophy is committed to mining the tradition in order to retrieve a theoretical basis for a new sense of ecological justice.

This book will contribute a great deal to overcoming the polarization that inhibits the usual philosophical approaches to ancient Greek philosophy. His reading of Aristotle as an integral part of philosophical naturalism, taken to be a living philosophical tradition, is just one of the notable and valuable aspects of this unique contribution to contemporary philosophy, not just contemporary scholarship. It is at once a learned and original study of Aristotle and his contemporary importance; a brilliant and productive dialogue with naturalism, pragmatism, and existential phenomenology; and a profound and moving meditation on truth, nature, and justice.

Aristotle and the Nature of Truth is philosophy at its best. Hosted by Reclaim Hosting. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4. Hit enter to search or ESC to close. Lysaker Animated Originally uploaded by cplong John Lysaker responds to Aristotle on the Nature of Truth.

The Nature of Truth (Part 1): What is Truth? | Quadrivium

Drew Hyland Originally uploaded by cplong Drew recognizes this as precisely the way philosophy ought to be practiced, but he questions what he calls my generous reading of Aristotle, suggesting that Aristotle in fact is interested in his predecessors only insofar as they lead up to his own thinking. Drew also calls into question the degree to which I read a Heraclitean understanding of logos into Aristotle. The data suggest that correspondence-type theories may enjoy a weak majority among professional philosophers and that the opposition is divided. This fits with the observation that typically, discussions of the nature of truth take some version of the correspondence theory as the default view, the view to be criticized or to be defended against criticism.

Historically, the correspondence theory, usually in an object-based version, was taken for granted, so much so that it did not acquire this name until comparatively recently, and explicit arguments for the view are very hard to find. Since the comparatively recent arrival of apparently competing approaches, correspondence theorists have developed negative arguments, defending their view against objections and attacking sometimes ridiculing competing views.

Definitions like 1 or 2 are too narrow. Although they apply to truths from some domains of discourse, e. The objection recognizes moral truths, but rejects the idea that reality contains moral facts for moral truths to correspond to. The logical positivists recognized logical truths but rejected logical facts.

There are four possible responses to objections of this sort: The objection in effect maintains that there are different brands of truth of the property being true , not just different brands of truths for different domains. On the face of it, this conflicts with the observation that there are many obviously valid arguments combining premises from flagged and unflagged domains. The observation is widely regarded as refuting non-cognitivism, once the most popular concessive response to the objection.

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Though it retains important elements of the correspondence theory, this view does not, strictly speaking, offer a response to the objection on behalf of the correspondence theory and should be regarded as one of its competitors see below, Section 8. Correspondence theories are too obvious. They are trivial, vacuous, trading in mere platitudes. Such common turns of phrase should not be taken to indicate commitment to a correspondence theory in any serious sense. In response, one could point out: This makes it rather difficult to explain why some thinkers emphatically reject all correspondence formulations.

The objections can be divided into objections primarily aimed at the correspondence relation and its relatives 3. C2 , and objections primarily aimed at the notions of fact or state of affairs 3. The correspondence relation must be some sort of resemblance relation. The correspondence relation is very mysterious: How could such a relation possibly be accounted for within a naturalistic framework? What physical relation could it possibly be? Negative, disjunctive, conditional, universal, probabilistic, subjunctive, and counterfactual facts have all given cause for complaint on this score.

All facts, even the most simple ones, are disreputable. Fact-talk, being wedded to that-clauses, is entirely parasitic on truth-talk. Facts are too much like truthbearers. Some correspondence theories of truth are two-liner mini-theories, consisting of little more than a specific version of 1 or 2. Normally, one would expect a bit more, even from a philosophical theory though mini-theories are quite common in philosophy.

One would expect a correspondence theory to go beyond a mere definition like 1 or 2 and discharge a triple task: One can approach this by considering some general principles a correspondence theory might want to add to its central principle to flesh out her theory. It would be much simpler to say that no truth is identical with a fact.

However, some authors, e. Wittgenstein , hold that a proposition Satz , his truthbearer is itself a fact, though not the same fact as the one that makes the proposition true see also King Nonidentity is usually taken for granted by correspondence theorists as constitutive of the very idea of a correspondence theory—authors who advance contrary arguments to the effect that correspondence must collapse into identity regard their arguments as objections to any form of correspondence theory cf.

Concerning the correspondence relation, two aspects can be distinguished: Pitcher ; Kirkham , chap. Pertaining to the first aspect, familiar from mathematical contexts, a correspondence theorist is likely to adopt claim a , and some may in addition adopt claim b , of:. Together, a and b say that correspondence is a one-one relation. This seems needlessly strong, and it is not easy to find real-life correspondence theorists who explicitly embrace part b: Explicit commitment to a is also quite rare. However, correspondence theorists tend to move comfortably from talk about a given truth to talk about the fact it corresponds to—a move that signals commitment to a.

Correlation does not imply anything about the inner nature of the corresponding items. Contrast this with correspondence as isomorphism , which requires the corresponding items to have the same, or sufficiently similar, constituent structure. This aspect of correspondence, which is more prominent and more notorious than the previous one, is also much more difficult to make precise. Let us say, roughly, that a correspondence theorist may want to add a claim to her theory committing her to something like the following:. The basic idea is that truthbearers and facts are both complex structured entities: The aim is to show how the correspondence relation is generated from underlying relations between the ultimate constituents of truthbearers, on the one hand, and the ultimate constituents of their corresponding facts, on the other.

One part of the project will be concerned with these correspondence-generating relations: The other part of the project, the specifically ontological part, will have to provide identity criteria for facts and explain how their simple constituents combine into complex wholes. Putting all this together should yield an account of the conditions determining which truthbearers correspond to which facts. Correlation and Structure reflect distinct aspects of correspondence.

One might want to endorse the former without the latter, though it is hard to see how one could endorse the latter without embracing at least part a of the former. The isomorphism approach offers an answer to objection 3. This is not a qualitative resemblance; it is a more abstract, structural resemblance. The approach also puts objection 3.

C2 in some perspective. The correspondence relation is supposed to reduce to underlying relations between words, or concepts, and reality.


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This reminds us that, as a relation, correspondence is no more—but also no less—mysterious than semantic relations in general. Such relations have some curious features, and they raise a host of puzzles and difficult questions—most notoriously: Can they be explained in terms of natural causal relations, or do they have to be regarded as irreducibly non-natural aspects of reality?

Some philosophers have claimed that semantic relations are too mysterious to be taken seriously, usually on the grounds that they are not explainable in naturalistic terms. But one should bear in mind that this is a very general and extremely radical attack on semantics as a whole, on the very idea that words and concepts can be about things. The common practice to aim this attack specifically at the correspondence theory seems misleading. As far as the intelligibility of the correspondence relation is concerned, the correspondence theory will stand, or fall, with the general theory of reference and intentionality.

The Nature of Truth (Part 1): What is Truth?

It should be noted, though, that these points concerning objections 3. If truthbearers are taken to be sentences of an ordinary language or an idealized version thereof , or if they are taken to be mental representations sentences of the language of thought , the above points hold without qualification: If, on the other hand, the primary truthbearers are taken to be propositions , there is a complication:. Though they have no room for 1 from Section 3, when applied to propositions as truthbearers, correspondence will enter into their account of truth for sentences, public or mental. Commitment to states of affairs in addition to propositions is sometimes regarded with scorn, as a gratuitous ontological duplication.

But Russellians are not committed to states of affairs in addition to propositions, for propositions, on their view, must already be states of affairs.

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This conclusion is well nigh inevitable, once true propositions have been identified with facts. If a true proposition is a fact, then a false proposition that might have been true would have been a fact, if it had been true. So, a contingent false proposition must be the same kind of being as a fact, only not a fact—an unfact; but that just is a non-obtaining state of affairs under a different name. Russellian propositions are states of affairs: The Russellian view of propositions is popular nowadays.

Somewhat curiously, contemporary Russellians hardly ever refer to propositions as facts or states of affairs. This is because they are much concerned with understanding belief, belief attributions, and the semantics of sentences. In such contexts, it is more natural to talk proposition-language than state-of-affairs-language. It feels odd wrong to say that someone believes a state of affairs, or that states of affairs are true or false. For that matter, it also feels odd wrong to say that some propositions are facts, that facts are true, and that propositions obtain or fail to obtain.

Nevertheless, all of this must be the literal truth, according to the Russellians. Many philosophers have found it hard to believe in the existence of all these funny facts and funny quasi-logical objects. This deep structure might then be expressed in an ideal-language typically, the language of predicate logic , whose syntactic structure is designed to mirror perfectly the ontological structure of reality.

Austin rejects the isomorphism approach on the grounds that it projects the structure of our language onto the world. On his version of the correspondence theory a more elaborated variant of 4 applied to statements , a statement as a whole is correlated to a state of affairs by arbitrary linguistic conventions without mirroring the inner structure of its correlate cf. This approach appears vulnerable to the objection that it avoids funny facts at the price of neglecting systematicity. Language does not provide separate linguistic conventions for each statement: Rather, it seems that the truth-values of statements are systematically determined, via a relatively small set of conventions, by the semantic values relations to reality of their simpler constituents.

Recognition of this systematicity is built right into the isomorphism approach. At bottom, this is a pessimistic stance: Advocates of traditional correspondence theories can be seen as taking the opposite stance: Wittgenstein and Russell propose modified fact-based correspondence accounts of truth as part of their program of logical atomism. Such accounts proceed in two stages. At the first stage, the basic truth-definition, say 1 from Section 3, is restricted to a special subclass of truthbearers, the so-called elementary or atomic truthbearers, whose truth is said to consist in their correspondence to atomic facts: This restricted definition serves as the base-clause for truth-conditional recursion-clauses given at the second stage, at which the truth-values of non-elementary, or molecular, truthbearers are explained recursively in terms of their logical structure and the truth-values of their simpler constituents.

Logical atomism exploits the familiar rules, enshrined in the truth-tables, for evaluating complex formulas on the basis of their simpler constituents. These rules can be understood in two different ways: Logical atomism takes option b. Logical atomism is designed to go with the ontological view that the world is the totality of atomic facts cf.

F2 by doing without funny facts: An elementary truth is true because it corresponds to an atomic fact: There is no match between truths and facts at the level of non-elementary, molecular truths; e. The trick for avoiding logically complex facts lies in not assigning any entities to the logical constants. This is expressed by Wittgenstein in an often quoted passage , 4. Though accounts of this sort are naturally classified as versions of the correspondence theory, it should be noted that they are strictly speaking in conflict with the basic forms presented in Section 3.

According to logical atomism, it is not the case that for every truth there is a corresponding fact. It is, however, still the case that the being true of every truth is explained in terms of correspondence to a fact or non-correspondence to any fact together with in the case of molecular truths logical notions detailing the logical structure of complex truthbearers. Logical atomism attempts to avoid commitment to logically complex, funny facts via structural analysis of truthbearers. It should not be confused with a superficially similar account maintaining that molecular facts are ultimately constituted by atomic facts.

The latter account would admit complex facts, offering an ontological analysis of their structure, and would thus be compatible with the basic forms presented in Section 3, because it would be compatible with the claim that for every truth there is a corresponding fact. For more on classical logical atomism, see Wisdom , Urmson , and the entries on Russell's logical atomism and Wittgenstein's logical atomism in this encyclopedia.

While Wittgenstein and Russell seem to have held that the constituents of atomic facts are to be determined on the basis of a priori considerations, Armstrong , advocates an a posteriori form of logical atomism. On his view, atomic facts are composed of particulars and simple universals properties and relations. The latter are objective features of the world that ground the objective resemblances between particulars and explain their causal powers.

Accordingly, what particulars and universals there are will have to be determined on the basis of total science. Logical atomism is not easy to sustain and has rarely been held in a pure form. Among its difficulties are the following: How are they determined? Wittgenstein disapproves of universal facts; apparently, he wants to re-analyze universal generalizations as infinite conjunctions of their instances.

Russell and Armstrong , reject this analysis; they admit universal facts. Russell finds himself driven to admit negative facts, regarded by many as paradigmatically disreputable portions of reality. Wittgenstein sometimes talks of atomic facts that do not exist and calls their very nonexistence a negative fact cf.


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Atomism and the Russellian view of propositions see Section 6. By the time Russell advocated logical atomism around , he had given up on what is now referred to as the Russellian conception of propositions which he and G. Moore held around But Russellian propositons are popular nowadays.

Note that logical atomism is not for the friends of Russellian propositions. The argument is straightforward. We have logically complex beliefs some of which are true. According to the friends of Russellian propositions, the contents of our beliefs are Russellian propositions, and the contents of our true beliefs are true Russellian propositions.

Since true Russellian propositions are facts, there must be at least as many complex facts as there are true beliefs with complex contents and at least as many complex states of affairs as there are true or false beliefs with complex contents. Atomism may work for sentences, public or mental, and for Fregean propositions; but not for Russellian propositions. Logical atomism is designed to address objections to funny facts 3. It is not designed to address objections to facts in general 3. Here logical atomists will respond by defending atomic facts.

According to one defense, facts are needed because mere objects are not sufficiently articulated to serve as truthmakers. Armstrong and Olson also maintain that facts are needed to make sense of the tie that binds particular objects to universals. In this context it is usually emphasized that facts do not supervene on , hence, are not reducible to, their constituents. Facts are entities over and above the particulars and universals of which they are composed: Another defense of facts, surprisingly rare, would point out that many facts are observable: The objection that many facts are not observable would invite the rejoinder that many objects are not observable either.

See Austin , Vendler , chap. Some atomists propose an atomistic version of definition 1 , but without facts, because they regard facts as slices of reality too suspiciously sentence-like to be taken with full ontological seriousness. Mulligan, Simons, and Smith Logical atomism aims at getting by without logically complex truthmakers by restricting definitions like 1 or 2 from Section 3 to elementary truthbearers and accounting for the truth-values of molecular truthbearers recursively in terms of their logical structure and atomic truthmakers atomic facts, events, objects-plus-tropes.

Such accounts analyze truthbearers, e. Satisfaction of complex predicates can be handled recursively in terms of logical structure and satisfaction of simpler constituent predicates: These recursions are anchored in a base-clause addressing the satisfaction of primitive predicates: Some would prefer a more nominalistic base-clause for satisfaction, hoping to get by without seriously invoking properties.

Truth for singular sentences, consisting of a name and an arbitrarily complex predicate, is defined thus: A singular sentence is true iff the object denoted by the name satisfies the predicate. Logical machinery provided by Tarski can be used to turn this simplified sketch into a more general definition of truth—a definition that handles sentences containing relational predicates and quantifiers and covers molecular sentences as well. Popper ; Field , ; Kirkham , chaps. Subatomism constitutes a return to broadly object-based correspondence.

Since it promises to avoid facts and all similarly articulated, sentence-like slices of reality, correspondence theorists who take seriously objection 3. F2 favor this approach: The correspondence relation itself has given way to two semantic relations between constituents of truthbearers and objects: Some advocates envision causal accounts of reference and satisfaction cf. Field ; Devitt , ; Schmitt ; Kirkham , chaps. It turns out that relational predicates require talk of satisfaction by ordered sequences of objects.

Problems for both versions of modified correspondence theories: The relationship between human being and its world is not that of a subject set over against and potentially completely cut off from objects. Rather, the things of the world are always already presenting themselves to us, and in so doing things allow themselves to be understood and grasped even as they partly withhold themselves from us, denying our efforts to know or master them completely. Long speaks here of our fundamental relation to the world as a "dynamic transaction, which, strictly speaking, is prior to the analytic distinction between subject and object, [and which] is quite literally onto-logical: Given this, 'truth' as it applies to this more original condition must be something quite different from and prior to the traditional conception thereof, i.

Long defines truth as cooperative 47 , dialogical 25 , symbiotic 48 , and even as a form of justice , all of which indicate, on the one hand, that truth is constituted by the interaction of human thought or saying and the things thought or said, and that, on the other hand, discord or at least difference could be proper to that truthful interaction. If read in a certain light, we can find both 1. This makes for an original and compelling interpretation of Aristotle.

His command of Aristotle's texts is impressive throughout. And it must be said that Long admirably refuses to shy away from those themes that might seem to resist his unconventional vision e. For Long, the world's irremediable partial inaccessibility results from what he refers to as the "unicity" of things, their concrete singularity.

This fundamental recalcitrance entails that a truthful relation to things, or as Long would have it, a truthfully responsive saying of things, must somehow hold within it a certain "stillness" 34 , a self-limitation that reflects the essentially unknowable or unsayable aspect of things. It should be noted, however, that Long does not argue for this claim. Instead, he takes for patently clear the "paradoxical ways things show themselves" 1 and "the concrete phenomenon of singularity that announces itself in each ontological encounter" 2.

Indeed, he even refers to "the natural fact that things speak, that being expresses itself" 12 and that, in so doing, "something [their unicity] is always also withheld in the manifold expressions of things" Beginning then from this claim about the way things appear, Long presents Aristotle as one who recognizes it as well and who, as a result, attempts to think and speak at the limit of what is thinkable and sayable: Indeed, in its task of offering an interpretation of Aristotle, Long's text does not proceed primarily by way of argumentation.

Rather, Long presents what might be understood as illuminating reiterations of Aristotle. Throughout, Long simply restates what is said in these passages, using a terminology he constructs partly through non-traditional and sometimes more literal translations of the Greek and partly from the independent philosophical terminology he draws from Heidegger and certain American philosophers.

Long clearly hopes that the passages in question will thereby be released from obscuring and anachronistic presuppositions and that they will come to say for the reader more or less self-evidently what he is claiming they say. By noting this lack of argument, my intention is not to be critical.