27 Jul 2016

Priest (1.1) Doubt Truth To Be a Liar, ‘Introduction [to Ch.1],’ summary

by Corry Shores

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Graham Priest
Doubt Truth To Be a Liar
Part 1 Truth
Ch.1 Aristotle on the Law of Non-Contradiction
1.1 Introduction
Brief summary:
Some Presocratic philosophers held views that were self-contradictory. Aristotle argued against such contradictions in book Γ of the Metaphysics where he defended his Law of Non-Contradiction. Since then Aristotle’s view has prevailed. However, in the last century, logic developed in certain ways that have allowed for the legitimate view that certain contradictions do exist. This means we should evaluate Aristotle’s claims to see if they really do hold up. So far, all other commentators on the matter have taken Aristotle’s side in the debate, even if some think his arguments have flaws. Priest is unique in that he will argue Aristotle was ultimately wrong in his defense of the law of non-contradiction.


Priest explains that there were Presocratic philosophers who “endorsed explicitly contradictory views” (Priest 7), and against them, Aristotle defended the law of non-contradiction (LNC), which has prevailed since then.
A number of the Presocratic philosophers endorsed explicitly contradictory views. In book Γ of the Metaphysics, Aristotle took these in his sights, and defended what was to become known as the Law of Non-Contradiction. This was a crucial moment in the history of philosophy. With the exception of Hegel and his fellow-travellers, and whilst Aristotle’s opinion on nearly every other matter has been overturned—or at least challenged—nearly every Western philosopher and logician has accepted the authority of Aristotle on this matter. There is hardly a defence of the Law since Aristotle’s, worth mentioning.
(Priest 7)

But recent advances in logic allow us to seriously consider the possibility that there are true contradictions. In this chapter Priest will examine whether Aristotle’s defense is conclusive (7).
Many commentators in the last hundred years have addressed this issue. All of them think that Aristotle was correct, although some may still say that although Aristotle was ultimately right, his arguments were still flawed. Priest is unique in that he does not think that Aristotle’s conclusion was correct (7).
Priest will analyze the relevant parts of Aristotle’s text. But his aim is not a purely scholastic sort. For that kind of a treatment he refers us to other commentaries (see p.7).
What interests me is not so much the niceties of exegesis as whether there is any interpretation of what Aristotle says that will establish what he wishes.
(Priest 7)

Graham Priest. Doubt Truth To Be a Liar. Oxford: Oxford University, 2006.


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