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Canto-Sperber and P. Pellegrin eds. Geach, Peter T. Guthrie, W. CrossRef Google Scholar. Kneale, W. Mignucci, Mario: , 'Logica', in E.

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Aristotle's De Interpretatione - Contradiction and Dialectic (Paperback)

Olympiodorus: , In Categorias Commentarium ed. Philoponus: , In Analytica Priora commentaria ed. Philoponus: , In Analytica Posteriora commentaria ed. Pickard-Cambridge, W. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Rose, Lynn E. Ross, David W. Smith, Robin: , Aristotle: Prior Analytics , translated, with introduction, notes, and commentary, Indianapolis: Hackett.

Robin: , 'Logic' in J. Barnes ed. Frede and G. Striker eds. Gentzler ed. Durand repr. Whitaker, C. Department of Philosophy University of Florence Italy.

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Buy options. Suppose I assert "There will be a sea battle tomorrow. According to one variant of this traditional interpretation, Aristotle's work in chapter 9 is in response to an argument similar to one reported by Arrian in his summaries of the discourses of Epictetus 2. Although there is some evidence that Diodorus is actually a younger contemporary of Aristotle, it is not inconceivable that the argument as he is reported as presenting it was already current in discussions of fatalism.


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The argument as it has been preserved is rather muddled, and better versions of it have been reconstructed notably by Arthur Prior, Past, Present and Future [Oxford, ] , but the gist of it is this. Suppose there was a sea battle yesterday. If I assert, today, "There was a sea battle on 19 August ", then my assertion is not only true, it is necessarily true in the sense that it cannot possibly be false.

If it is necessarily true, according to the Master Argument, then it has always been true. This means that it is not only true to say it today, but it would have been true to say it yesterday, or four days ago, or four years ago, or ten thousand years ago. But if it was true to say it ten thousand years ago, then the sea battle was a fixed part of the future for that distant time, and human deliberation and action could have no power to alter the course of the future.

Generalize this argument and you have fatalism. For Aristotle it is precisely this deliberation and human action that makes the future indeterminate rather than fixed, and the traditional interpretation takes him to be responding to the fatalist challenge in our chapter. Metaphysically, according to Aristotle's well-known view about the criteria of truth "To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true"; cf. Metaphysics IV 7, b , an assertion is made true or false by corresponding or not corresponding with some actually obtaining state of affairs in the world.

C. W. A. Whitaker

Let us return to my first assertion, the one about the future sea battle "There will be a sea battle tomorrow". Since my assertion refers to a state of affairs that does not yet exist, it appears as though we cannot say that it is true according to the correspondence theory, but if we say that it is false, aren't we saying that there is some other state of affairs -- the one in which there is no sea battle tomorrow -- that makes the assertion false? Perhaps it is neither true nor false: perhaps we need to wait until tomorrow to determine its truth value.

But if we say that the assertion has no truth value we are rejecting the Principle of Bivalence, a principle that Aristotle is known to have accepted indeed, he is often regarded as the inventor of the principle , even for future assertions. The Principle of Bivalence PB is the semantic thesis that, necessarily, every meaningful, assertoric statement is either true or false; it is to be distinguished from the Law of Excluded Middle LEM , the syntactic thesis that "either p or not- p " holds for any substitution of an assertoric statement for p.

The traditional interpretation has often maintained that Aristotle is more committed to the ontological thesis about the criteria of truth than he is to the semantic Principle of Bivalence, so in the ninth chapter of De Interpretatione he rejects PB for FCAs in order to avoid the fatalist conclusion the most recent, and in my view most exhaustive, treatment of the traditional view is Richard Gaskin, The Sea Battle and the Master Argument: Aristotle and Diodorus Cronus on the Metaphysics of the Future [Leiden, ].

According to Whitaker, Aristotle does not reject PB for FCAs, nor does he commit himself to fatalism; indeed, on Whitaker's view the chapter is not about PB or the metaphysics of the future at all. Rather the chapter is about RCP and the fact that, precisely because the future is not yet determined, we cannot know which of the pair of contradictory assertions is true and which false, though necessarily one of them is true and the other false.

This is not an epistemic claim, however: "we should note that Aristotle does not mean that it is merely a limit on our knowledge that means that we cannot pick out the true member of a future contingent contradictory pair.

Aristotle's de Interpretatione: Contradiction and Dialectic

It is not just that we have no means of knowing which is which. Rather, it is genuinely still open. Otherwise, fatalism would not have been refuted, and we would merely have the illusion of being able to deliberate and make decisions" pp. Whitaker's illustrative example is helpful for understanding what he intends here: when there are two candidates in an election, we can claim with certainty that one or the other of them will be the officeholder, but until the election is held we do not know which it will be, because that has not yet been determined.

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It is not entirely clear that this emphasis on RCP will always solve every interpretive puzzle in the text, however, or that it treats sufficiently the question of PB and the metaphysics of the future. For example, at 18b Aristotle considers, as a possible answer to the fatalist, the possibility that both members of a FCA pair might be false.

According to Whitaker, "the move of denying that there are true future singular assertions, far from destroying the fixedness of the future and releasing future events to go either way, would actually destroy the reality of the future altogether" p. But given Aristotle's emphasis on meeting the fatalist's challenge, the point of this passage seems to be not that the reality of the future would be destroyed by such a response, but rather that if both members of the pair are false then the fatalist's argument will still go through.

For example, suppose we use the letter p to stand for the assertion "There will be a sea-battle tomorrow. The fatalist can claim that if both members of a FCA pair are false then fatalism has not been blocked, since it is possible to infer by PB the truth of either member from the falsity of the other, and the future is still determined.

Part of the puzzle here has to do with what makes assertions true or false.

Aristotle is known for his realism about the correspondence theory of truth: an assertion is true just in case it corresponds with that aspect of reality that it picks out. It is true to say "the cat is on the mat" just in case the cat actually is on the mat. So what can possibly make an assertion about the future either true or false, given that the future does not exist? There is nothing for such assertions to refer to, no ontological foundation for their truth or falsity.

Although Whitaker makes a good case for the relevance of RCP in this chapter, he does not explain sufficiently why PB is not at issue.