[FOM] Richard Epstein's view

Sara L. Uckelman S.L.Uckelman at uvt.nl
Mon Apr 2 08:31:39 EDT 2012

On 3/30/2012 8:20 PM, Timothy Y. Chow wrote:
> Now one can try to develop a theory of the truth of abstract statements,
> but it will necessarily rest on a prior notion of the truth of the
> concrete instantiations.  That is, we would declare an abstract statement
> false if and only if there are no true concrete instantiations of it.

Such a view is almost certainly a non-starter, as it would be
straightforward to come up with examples of abstract statements
(propositions, propositions types, whatever you would like to call
them) which describe situations that can be true but of which no
true token could ever exist, for example, by adapting the distinction
between the possible and the possibly-true used by John Buridan in the
8th chapter of his _Sophismata_ (cf. [1,2]).  In the first sophisma,
Buridan discusses the insoluble "Every proposition is affirmative,
therefore no proposition is negative."  Such an inference is problematic
on Buridan's view because of the token-based approach to propositions
that he (and other medieval logicians) took.  It is certainly *possible*
that every (token) proposition that happens to exist is affirmative,
and thus it is *possible* that no proposition is negative, but it will
never be possibly-true that no proposition is negative, for in order for
this proposition to have a truth value, it must exist, and it itself is
negative, and thus its very existence falsifies itself.

To transpose this to an example perhaps more apt for the current
discussion, it may be the case that the abstract statement "No
assertion is negative" is true even if no true concrete instantiation
(i.e., no assertion of it) can ever exist, for the simple fact of
asserting "No assertion is negative" makes the assertion false.


[1] A.N. Prior, 1969. "The possibly-true and the possible", Mind
78(312): 481–492

[2] Sara L. Uckelman, "Prior on an insolubilium of Jean Buridan",
Synthese, online first,

Dr. Sara L. Uckelman
Tilburg Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science
Tilburg University

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