Truth and Contradiction in Aristotle’s De Interpretatione 6-9

in Phronesis
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Abstract

In De Interpretatione 6-9, Aristotle considers three logical principles: the principle of bivalence, the law of excluded middle, and the rule of contradictory pairs (according to which of any contradictory pair of statements, exactly one is true and the other false). Surprisingly, Aristotle accepts none of these without qualification. I offer a coherent interpretation of these chapters as a whole, while focusing special attention on two sorts of statements that are of particular interest to Aristotle: universal statements not made universally and future particular statements. With respect to the former, I argue that Aristotle takes them to be indeterminate and so to violate the rule of contradictory pairs. With respect to the latter, the subject of the much discussed ninth chapter, I argue that the rule of contradictory pairs, and not the principle of bivalence, is the focus of Aristotle’s refutation. Nevertheless, Aristotle rejects bivalence for future particular statements.

Phronesis

A Journal for Ancient Philosophy

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