Friday, December 09, 2005

Liar, Liar

A few days ago Rad Geek guestblogged a fascinating post on insolubilia at Philosophy, etc. that I wanted to say something briefly about. I'll have to return to the issue when I have the time, but I am much in favor of the medieval approach to insolubilia. Take a typical paradox:

(L) This statement (L) is false.

The modern reading regards this as problematic on the face of it: if (L) is true, (L) is false, and if it is false it is true, so we cannot assign a truth-value to (L) -- that is, it cannot be true or false. The medievals had a completely different approach. The medievals tend to see insolubilia as sophistical inferences. On their view, the real paradox lies not in sentences like (L) but in what we are assuming that we can infer from (L)'s being true or false. They are certainly right about that. A modern reader of (L) might hold, of course, that the sort of inferences that generate the paradox are necessary; but even if you hold this view, the medievals are to be congratulated on not taking it for granted. On most medieval views, (L) would be false; and inferences from its truth-value would all be illegitimate. (On one possible view this would also be true of the truth-value of "This statement is true", which yields no paradox; i.e. the restriction is not necessarily ad hoc, but done on principle.) This sort of discussion gets very complicated very quickly; I'll have to look at it more closely at a future time.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.