THE THEORY OF TYPES |
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so that these doctrines must be false if they are put forward without restriction,
and cannot be universally true, if, in Bradley's words, they "appear".2. "I am lying" - if it be taken in isolation from all fact - is a meaningless statement. There must be some objective truth that is distorted, and unless it is provided the assertion has no significance. This proposition means either, "I am lying about X"; "I always lie," or "I have always lied". The first Can be either true or false without giving rise to any problem, except where "all my assertions" is made an argument to X, in which case it is equivalent to either the second or third formulation. "I always lie" involves the same situation as with Epimenides, and the proposition is false. The supposition of its truth would involve a contradiction; the supposition of its falsity means simply that I sometimes lie and sometimes tell the truth. If what is meant is that "I have always lied" that does not involve a contradiction, for what is intended is a restricted proposition, applying to
all but the present one. It can be true because it does not apply to all propositions; if it were false, then sometimes I lied and sometimes I did not. In short, there is nothing like a self-reflective universal liar, which is an interesting moral conclusion to derive from a logical analysis. Similarly, there cannot be a thorough scepticism held by the sceptic to be valid.Prof. Whitehead (to whom I am also indebted for the notation) has pointed out to me that wherever a conjunction of propositions results in a
reductio ad absurdum, there is no way of determining on logical grounds alone which of the antecedents fails, or is false (though one at least must be). Thus in the case of Epimenides we have:It is because B and C are in that case assumed to hold, that we can say that A must fail. If the truth of all these antecedents were undetermined, we should have merely the general rule: a
reductio ad absurdum has as a necessary condition the conjunction of one or more false propositions. Transposition -makes it apparent that to deny the conclusion of a
reductio ad absurdum is to imply that at least one of the antecedents is false.In connection with the reductio ad absurdum involved in the assertions, "I always lie" and "I always doubt," No. 4B reduces to the tautologies: "If I assert p, p is my assertion," and "If I doubt, the doubt is mine". In these cases, the only alternatives left are the denial of the fact of the assertion (No, 4C), or the truth of the principle itself (No. 4A). |
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