Platonic arguments often have premises of a particular form which is misunderstood. These sentences look like universal generalizations, but in fact involve an implicit qua phrase which makes them a fundamentally different kind of predication. Such general implicit redoubled qua predications (girqps) are not an expression of Plato's proprietary views; they are also very common in everyday discourse. Seeing how they work in Plato can help us to understand them.
This paper defends an interpretation of Plato, Soph. 259c7–d7, which describes a distinction between genuine and pretender forms of ‘examination’ or ‘refutation’ (ἔλεγχος). The passage speaks to a need, throughout the dialogue, to differentiate the truly philosophical method from the merely eristic method. But its contribution has been obscured by the appearance of a textual problem at 259c7–8. As a result, scholars have largely not recognized that the Eleatic Stranger recommends accepting contrary predication as a condition of genuine refutation. After (...) reviewing various proposals to change the text, the paper defends this reading. Finally, the paper turns to the methodological significance of accepting contrary predication. The dialogue depicts contrary predication as an instance of a class of statements that compel the soul's disbelief. Soph. 259c7–d7 suggests that these kinds of statements are a crossroad: one can either reject them and turn to eristic discourse or accept them and practise genuine refutation. The paper reflects on what this indicates about Plato's meditations on contradiction and philosophy. (shrink)
At Sophist 260e3-261a2, the Eleatic Stranger claims that in order to demonstrate that falsehood is, he and Theaetetus must first track down what speech (logos), opinion (doxa), and appearance (phantasia) are, and then observe the communion (koinōnia) that speech, opinion, and appearance have with non-being. The Stranger, however, never explicitly discusses the communion of speech, opinion, and appearance with non-being. Yet presumably their communion is implicit in his account of falsehood, given his claim that observing that communion is needed in (...) order to demonstrate that falsehood is (260e5-a2). This essay seeks to make the communion that speech has with non-being explicit. I argue that speech has communion with non-being in that the things and actions speech combines together by means of nouns and verbs need not be combined in a way that reveals how the being a given speech is about combines ontologically with other beings. (shrink)
This is a commentary on MM McCabe's "First Chop your logos... Socrates and the sophists on language, logic, and development". In her paper MM analyses Plato's Euthydemos, in which Plato tackles the problem of falsity in a way that takes into account the speaker and complements the Sophist's discussion of what is said. The dialogue looks as if it is merely a demonstration of the silly consequences of eristic combat. And so it is. But a main point of MM's paper (...) is that there is serious philosophy in the Euthydemos, too. MM argues that to counter the sophist brothers Euthydemos and Dionysodoros, Socrates points out that that there are different aspects to the verb 'to say' that run in parallel to the different aspects of the very 'to learn'. So just as there is continuity rather than ambiguity between 'to learn' and 'to understand', so there is continuity between the different aspects of saying. Thus Socrates puts forward a teleological account of both learning and meaning. Following up on some of MM's thoughts, I argue that the sophists subscribe, despite appearance, to a theory of meaning that respects serious and widely accepted philosophical theses on meaning. -/- Forthcoming in the Australasian Philosophical Review. The curator of the volume is Fiona Leigh, and the committee also has Hugh Benson and Tim Clarke. You can find MM's paper as well as the commentaries by Nicholas Denyer and Russell E. Jones and Ravi Sharma (and myself) by registering. (shrink)
Empleando procedimientos de la lógica simbólica, se intenta contribuir a una mejor comprensión del ejercicio dialéctico llevado a cabo en el Parménides. La interpretación de las formas del ser y el no ser a partir de la oposición entre el objeto de conocimiento y el pensamiento acerca del mismo, abre la puerta a una manera original de enfocar el problema de la verdad en Platón. Puede resultar interesante, asimismo, la solución que se propone a la aporía planteada en Parménides 132b-c, (...) relativa a la confusión del pensamiento o el no ser con otras formas. (shrink)
Catherine Rowett presents an in depth study of Plato's Meno, Republic and Theaetetus and offers both a coherent argument that the project in which Plato was engaging has been widely misunderstood and misrepresented, and detailed new readings of particular thorny issues in the interpretation of these classic texts.
This chapter [of the edited volume, A Companion to Ancient Philosophy] examines the shift in Plato’s account of the eidē or ‘forms’ from the Republic to the Parmenides. Forms in the Republic are characterized in terms of perfection, purity, and changelessness, with the form being an ultimate explanatory principle for being-X. Participants, while being-X, are also capable of not-being-X, either through qualitative change and coming-to-be, or through external changes in perspective or opinion, by which they “appear [φανήσεται]” not-X (R. V.479a7). (...) The form is treated as prior to participant and as prior to mixture with what would deny what it is. It is intrinsically changeless and not subject to changes in appearance. -/- In the Parmenides, the account of form shifts to accommodate the types of admixture demanded for combination with and division from other forms. In the Fifth Hypothesis, forms are subject to determinate “bonds of being and not-being,” which permits the form to present itself as an object of discursive knowing, being-X, -Y, and -Z, and not-being not-X, not-Y, and not-Z. Forms are still treated as pure and perfect, but now with the power of gathering together intelligible bonds of being and not-being. Thus, in the Parmenides, forms are the gathering source and the gathered terms subject to the admixture; they are that by which true speech is explained. In this chapter, I argue that the “turning of the soul from becoming to truth and being” (R. VII.525c) announced in the Republic is partially fulfilled through the account of veridical speech in the Parmenides. (shrink)
This study defends the view that Plato’s account of meaning and truth does not depend on strong Platonism. Strong Platonism is based, among other things, on the assumption that basic entities are pure and cannot mix with anything. In a semantic theory, such entities provide stability of reference to single terms and so keep the danger of fluctuating meanings at bay. Unfortunately, strong Platonism pays a heavy price for this stability in that it cannot explain how terms can be combined (...) into sentences and how statements can be true if truth consists in correspondence between the statement and how things really are. The book under review offers an account of a more restricted ontology. By doing so, it... (shrink)
What is the nature of truth? Blake Hestir offers an investigation into Plato's developing metaphysical views, and examines Plato's conception of being, meaning, and truth in the Sophist, as well as passages from several other later dialogues including the Cratylus, Parmenides, and Theaetetus, where Plato begins to focus more directly on semantics rather than only on metaphysical and epistemological puzzles. Hestir's interpretation challenges both classical and contemporary interpretations of Plato's metaphysics and conception of truth, and highlights new parallels between Plato (...) and Aristotle, as well as clarifying issues surrounding Plato's approach to semantics and thought. This book will be of interest to scholars and students of ancient Greek philosophy, metaphysics, contemporary truth theory, linguistics, and philosophy of language. (shrink)
Against the background of a conventionalist theory, and staged as a defense of a naturalistic notion of names and naming, the critique of language developed in Plato’s Cratylus does not only propose that human language, in contrast to the language of the gods, is bound to the realm of myth and lie. The dialogue also concludes by offering a set of reasons to think that knowledge of reality is not within the reach of our words. Interpretations of the dialogue’s long (...) etymological sections often neglect this critique and tend to end up with an overly optimistic assessment of the theory of language on offer. In the light of one of the dialogue’s central etymological accounts, Socrates’ etymology of the name Hermes, this paper discusses two recent and influential versions of such a view: David Sedley’s theory of onomatopoetic encapsulation and Franco Trivigno’s qualified referentialism. It argues that the complex relation between language and reality expressed in the Cratylus cannot be exhaustively captured by either of these theories because Plato considers all names to be semantically underdetermined until they are put to use. It suggests that Plato rather works with a functionalistic notion of names and naming, and that the dialogue’s account of natural and correct naming is to be understood in these terms. (shrink)
This paper is a reaction to a recent article by Raphael Woolf, the drift of which is that, according to the Republic , truth as such is not important. I am not persuaded and in what follows I try to get clear about why.
A claim for minimalism about ‘real’ on the model of minimalism about ‘true’. The article, in effect, develops J.L. Austin’s remark that with ‘real’, the negative ‘wears the trousers’. The development is then exploited for a proposed elucidation of Plato’s discussion of the fields of knowledge and belief in his Republic. It is proposed that Plato was striving for something whose futility was a leading theme of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy.
At Cratylus 385b–c, Plato appears to argue that names have truth-value. Critics have almost universally condemned the argument as fallacious. Their case has proven so compelling that it has driven editors to recommend moving or removing the argument from its received position in the manuscripts. I argue that a close reading of the argument reveals it commits no fallacy, and its purpose in the dialogue justifies its original position. I wish to vindicate the manuscript tradition, showing that the argument establishes (...) that there is subject matter for investigation, and there is a correctness of names. (shrink)
Some philosophers argue that false speech and false belief are impossible. In the Sophist, Plato addresses this 'falsehood paradox', which purports to prove that one can neither say nor believe falsehoods. In this book Paolo Crivelli closely examines the whole dialogue and shows how Plato's brilliant solution to the paradox is radically different from those put forward by modern philosophers. He surveys and critically discusses the vast range of literature which has developed around the Sophist over the past fifty years, (...) and provides original solutions to several problems that are so far unsolved. His book will be important for all who are interested in the Sophist and in ancient ontology and philosophy of language more generally. (shrink)
The logos question, one of the most important among the subjects that traverse the Plato's Sophist, has in fact some different aspects: the criticism of father Parmenides' logos, that is unable to speak about the not-being, but also about the being; the relations between logos and its cognates, phantasia, doxa and dianoia; the logos’ complex structure, that is a compound with onoma and rema; the difference between naming and saying, two distinct but inseparable actions; the logical and ontological conditions that (...) make possible to say the truth, or to lie or simply to joke; the necessity of a most flexible logos that allows us to speak about the not-being, and about the being, but at the same time is a logos dangerously similar to the sophist’ one; finally, the identity between the power to produce “spoken images” and the very power to speak. The aim of the present article is giving a systematical view of the matter that grasps all these faces. (shrink)
Two readings of the much-discussed περιτροπή argument of "Theaetetus" 170c-171c have dominated the literature. One I call "the relativity reading". On this reading, the argument fails by ignoratio elenchi because it "carelessly" omits "the qualifications 'true for so-and-so' which [Protagoras'] theory insists on" (Bostock 1988: 90). The other reading I call "the many-worlds interpretation". On this view, Plato's argument succeeds in showing that "Protagoras' position becomes utterly self-contradictory" because "he claims that everyone lives in his own relativistic world, yet at (...) the same time he is forced by that very claim to admit that no one does" (Burnyeat 1976b: 48). I discuss and criticise both readings, and present a third, according to which the point of the argument is, very roughly, that Protagoras is committed to equating truth and truth-for, and so, further, to their intersubstitutability. This further commitment proves fatal to his argument. (shrink)
In the first chapter of The Contribution of Socratic Method and Plato’s Theory of Truth to Plato Scholarship, Rod Jenks argues that since Socrates and Plato take the Socratic elenchus to establish truths and the Socratic elenchus can only establish consistency, Socrates and Plato must be committed to a coherence theory of truth. Jenks denies any explicit recognition of such a commitment in Plato’s early dialogues. The claim is rather that “early Socratic practice as recorded by Plato makes sense only (...) against the backdrop of the assumption of a coherence theory of truth”. It is, according to Jenks, Plato’s solution to “the problem of the elenchus.” In the middle and later dialogues, Jenks argues, Plato exposes the philosophical foundations of this assumption and addresses various problems associated with it, only to return to the Socratic elenchus—now supported by a philosophically grounded CTT—in the Philebus. (shrink)
I argue that in Plato's _Sophist, the account of true and false statement which emerges within the discussion of not being and falsehood neither entails nor outwardly suggests any of the traditional characterizations of a correspondence "theory" of truth. On the contrary, what emerges is a minimalistic "conception" of truth which requires neither positing the existence of facts nor formulating an explanatory definition of truth. I make comparisons with Aristotle's discussion of truth in the _Categories and _De Interpretatione, and I (...) offer reasons why one should not expect to find the emergence of a "theory" of truth in the _Sophist. (shrink)
This study offers a ckomprehensive new interpretation of one of Plato's dialogues, the _Cratylus_. Throughout, the book combines analysis of Plato's arguments with attentiveness to his philosophical method.
Plato conceives of truth in two different ways: on the one hand, truth is an object which philosophers aim at in dialectic, yet, on the other hand, truth is treated as a quality of a particular brand of statements and beliefs . Examples of both of these conceptions can be found in almost all of Plato's dialogues, though the former conception of truth is most visible in the Republic , while the latter conception is expressed most succinctly in the Sophist. (...) My intent is to offer an explanation of what Plato means by truth and what role the solution to the problem of falsehood plays in shaping this notion of truth. My project is, therefore, two-fold: first, I clarify and describe these two conceptions of truth which we find in the Republic and Sophist, respectively; second, since Plato's conception of truth in the Sophist is inextricably bound up with Plato's solution to the problem of falsehood, I explain in some detail that solution and show how the solution, as I understand it, motivates the particular conception of truth we find in the Sophist . ;These two conceptions of truth are not totally unrelated. In the Republic, truth is synonymous with all the things that really are, i.e. being, and these things that are the forms. In the Sophist, Plato says that a true statement states of the things that are that they are about something and a false statement states of the things that are not that they are about something. Some interpreters have argued that in the Sophist the expression `the things that are' refers to states of affairs. I argue that the expression refers to the forms insofar as they have being with respect to some subject. Some of these same interpreters suggest that Plato conceived of truth in terms of correspondence. I question the evidence for such a view by showing how my interpretation of Plato's account of true and false statement suggests that truth might be a simpler notion than correspondence. (shrink)
We ought to combine the predicative and veridical readings of estin. Plato’s view involves a parallelism between truth and being: when we know, we grasp a logos which is completely true and is made true by an on which is completely (F). Opinion takes as its object a logos which is no more true than false and which concerns things which are no more (F) than not (F). This view, I argue, is intelligible in the context of the presuppositions which (...) underlie Socratic ‘What is F?’ questions. (shrink)
A new reading of Plato's account of conventionalism about names in the Cratylus. It argues that Hermogenes' position, according to which a name is whatever anybody 'sets down' as one, does not have the counterintuitive consequences usually claimed. At the same time, Plato's treatment of conventionalism needs to be related to his treatment of formally similar positions in ethics and politics. Plato is committed to standards of objective natural correctness in all such areas, despite the problematic consequences which, as he (...) himself shows, arise in the case of language. (shrink)
Writing deliberately in a nontechnical style so as to make his book accessible to readers who are not professional philosophers, Michael Gelven here offers an extended meditative essay on the nature and meaning of truth. He approaches this subject directly, rather than through a critique of what others have said about it, and takes off from the realization that truth has a wider meaning than that which can be found in the analysis of true sentences, which is the focus of (...) traditional epistemology. Pursuing philosophical inquiry as a voyage of discovery, the book begins with ordinary questions about the worth and meaning of truth. A fundamental distinction is drawn between the "true" and "truth" as essence, that which we confront as the ultimate terminus of our questioning—for example, between the true definition of mother as a female parent and truth as what we understand being a mother to mean, as one who sacrifices her own interests and safety for her child. The analysis then proceeds to examine the four ways in which we confront truth—through affirmation, acceptance, acknowledgment, and submission—and the existential modes of experience in which these confrontations are embodied: pleasure, fate, guilt, and beauty. Each of these four confrontations has consequences for how we understand the world in which we dwell. Thus the book concludes with interpretation of the world as our home, our history, our tribunal, and ultimately that which lures or beckons us to confront ourselves. Plato, Kant, and Heidegger are the primary sources of philosophical inspiration for Gelven, but he eschews textual exegesis and academic debate in favor of engaging the reader as co-explorer in the discovery of what it means for each of us to be in truth. (shrink)
The standard interpretation of "Theaetetus" 152-160 has Plato attribute to Protagoras a relativistic theory of truth and existence. It is argued here that in fact the individuals of Protagorean worlds are inter-Personal. (thus the Protagorean theory has public objects, but private truth). Also, a new interpretation is offered of Plato's use of heraclitean flux to model relativism. The philosophical and semantic consequences of the interpretation are explored.
Heidegger, in his Platons Lehre von der Wahrheit, recognizes that the “image of the cave” is the central point of Plato's thought. According to Heidegger, this image is Plato's “doctrine” on truth, offered in order to “put in light the essence of the paideia“, for “an essential rapport unites the formation and the truth”. “The being of the ‘formation’”, he says, “is founded on the being of ‘truth’;”. But in the myth of the Cave, Plato passes, according to Heidegger, from (...) the alêtheia as not-veiling to an alêtheia as exactitude. The truth for Plato, according to Heidegger, is found not in things, but in ideas: “from the not-veiling of the essent, truth has become exactitude of the regard”; it is the “agreement” or “conformity” of essent and knowledge. Truth is thus ”under the yoke” of the idea. We note in Plato, according to Heidegger, ”a change in the essence of truth”, and “Plato treats and speaks of alêtheia, when he actually thinks of orthotês”. Here, claims Heidegger, lies Plato's “ambiguity”: “Is it not then alêtheia which forms the main object of the ‘myth of the Cave’? Certainly not. And nevertheless it remains certain that this myth contains Plato's ‘doctrine’ on truth. For it is founded on an event he does not mention, namely that the idea is above alêtheia.”. (shrink)