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say “ an assertion is evaluated as true or false by considering what it asserts,
a present-tense predicative assertion, which asserts that a certain state of
affairs obtains (or fails to obtain) at the time when it is produced, is true just
in case this state of affairs does obtain (or fail to obtain) at this time. This
modern conception leaves no room for a present-tense predicative assertion
being true at a time. By generalising this result, modern philosophers reach
the claim that no utterance is true or false at a time.
To see how Aristotle™s conception differs from the modern one, let us
keep focusing on present-tense predicative assertions. Aristotle would deny
that what a present-tense predicative assertion asserts is that a certain state
of affairs obtains (or fails to obtain) at the time when the assertion itself is
produced. Instead he would claim that a present-tense predicative assertion
is temporally indeterminate, i.e. posits the obtaining (or failing to obtain)
of a certain state of affairs without specifying any time for its obtaining
(or failing to obtain). This is because he regards assertions as expressions
of beliefs (this is part of what he means when, at the beginning of de
Interpretatione, he says that ˜utterances are symbols of affections in the
soul™), so that the content asserted by an assertion is the same as that of the
belief of which it is an expression. Beliefs are states, and a thinker can hold
the same belief for a relatively long portion of time. Hence, assertions that
are utterances produced during a relatively short period encompassed by
the much longer one during which the same belief is held cannot include
30 Introduction
the time of utterance within their assertoric content. For example, if from
15.00 to 18.00 Plato holds one and the same belief, i.e. the belief that
Socrates is seated, the content of this belief cannot be that-Socrates-is-
seated-at-16.00 (it cannot be this any more than it is that-Socrates-is-seated-
at-17.00). Hence the content asserted by Plato™s utterance of ˜Socrates is
seated™ produced at 16.00, being the same as that of the belief Plato held
from 15.00 to 18.00, cannot be that-Socrates-is-seated-at-16.00. If present-
tense predicative assertions are temporally indeterminate, it is natural to
assume that a present-tense predicative assertion should be true when and
only when the state of affairs it posits to obtain (or to fail to obtain) does in
fact obtain (or fail to obtain). This is clearly brought out by the conditions
of truth and falsehood formulated in a preceding subsection: a present-tense
predicative assertion that is an utterance of ˜Socrates is seated™ is true when
and only when the state of affairs that Socrates is seated is true, i.e. when
and only when the universal seated (signi¬ed by the part of the utterance
that constitutes its predicate) is combined with Socrates (the individual
signi¬ed by the part of the utterance that constitutes its subject) in such a
way as to hold of him.

Different truth-values at different times do not involve change. According
to Aristotle a belief, or an assertion, that is true at one time and false at
another does not thereby change: whatever change is involved goes on in
the object the belief, or assertion, is about. For example, if an utterance
of ˜Socrates is seated™ is true at one time and false at another, it does not
follow that the utterance undergoes any change “ it is only Socrates (or,
perhaps, the state of affairs that Socrates is seated) that changes. This is
probably because truth (being correspondence to the world) is a relational
property, and therefore, like other relational properties, is involved at most
in a ˜mere Cambridge change™ that does not count as a genuine change:
just as if Socrates is taller than Theaetetus at one time and shorter than
him at another, it does not follow that Socrates has changed (because all
the change occurred in Theaetetus, who has grown); so if an utterance of
˜Socrates is seated™ is true (corresponding to the world) at one time and
false (non-corresponding to the world) at another, it does not follow that
the utterance has changed (because all the change occurred in the world, or
in a part of it, be it Socrates, who got up, or the state of affairs that Socrates
is seated, which passed from being true to being false).
The fact that an object can have a relational property at one time and
lack it at another without undergoing any change is for Aristotle a sign
that relational properties are hardly real, i.e. are not genuine properties
Introduction 31
(acquiring or losing them ˜does not make a change™). Aristotle is therefore
committed to the view that truth is not a genuine property. In this respect
Aristotle™s position is close to modern ˜minimalist™ theories of truth, which
also claim that truth is not a genuine property. A fundamental difference,
however, remains: in Aristotle™s case the idea that truth is not a genuine
property is a consequence of his regarding truth as a sort of correspondence
to the world, while modern ˜minimalist™ theories of truth reject the idea
that to be true is to correspond to the world.

The failure of Bivalence. Bivalence is the principle that states that every
assertion is always either true or false. On at least two important occasions
Aristotle seems to reject Bivalence: one is connected with the paradox of
the liar (henceforth ˜Liar™), the other with future-tense singular assertions.

The Liar. The only passage where Aristotle seems to discuss the Liar is within
chapter 25 of Sophistici Elenchi (180a 34“180b 7). This passage is obscure: it is
not even clear whether it addresses the Liar, and, in case it does, how it reacts
to the puzzle. Although these questions cannot be answered beyond doubt,
a case can be made for claiming, ¬rst, that the passage in question does
address the Liar, and, second, that it attempts to solve the Liar by assuming
that someone uttering ˜I am speaking falsely™ (or whatever sentence-type
the Liar turns on) is neither speaking truly nor speaking falsely.

A version of the Liar Aristotle could have addressed. There are several versions
of the Liar. I shall concentrate on one Aristotle could have addressed.
Let u be an utterance of ˜I am speaking falsely™,11 let k be a time, let
u™s utterer be an individual, and let speaking-truly and speaking-falsely be
universals. Suppose that u is the only assertion produced by u™s utterer over
some period comprising k. Also suppose that u is a singular af¬rmative
predicative assertion, that the predicate of u (an utterance of ˜speaking
falsely™) signi¬es the universal speaking-falsely, and that the subject of u
(an utterance of ˜I™) signi¬es the individual who is u™s utterer. Since u is a
singular af¬rmative predicative assertion, by Aristotle™s theory of truth we
have that u is true when and only when speaking-falsely holds of u™s utterer.
Hence u is true at k just in case speaking-falsely holds of u™s utterer at k.
For the argument to develop, the universals speaking-truly and speaking-
falsely must be de¬ned: for every time t and every individual s, speaking-
truly holds of s at t just in case every assertion produced by s over any

11 The same Greek verb can be used to say of a man both that he is speaking falsely and that he is lying.
32 Introduction
period comprising t is true at t; for every time t and every individual s,
speaking-falsely holds of s at t just in case some assertion produced by s
over some period comprising t is false at t. Note that the de¬nition just
given requires that speaking-truly should hold of any individual s at any
time t such that s produces no assertion over any period comprising t. Thus,
speaking-truly holds of a man when he is not speaking at all. In this respect,
the universal speaking-truly does not match the meaning we associate with
the expression ˜to speak truly™.
The ¬nal supposition is that for every time t and every individual s, either
speaking-truly holds of s at t or speaking-falsely holds of s at t. (If Bivalence
holds, this ¬nal supposition follows from the last paragraph™s de¬nitions.)
First, assume that speaking-falsely holds of u™s utterer at k. Then u is
true at k. Since u is the only assertion produced by u™s utterer over some
period comprising k, every assertion produced by u™s utterer over any period
comprising k is true at k. Hence speaking-truly holds of u™s utterer at k.
Thus: if speaking-falsely holds of u™s utterer at k, then speaking-truly holds
of u™s utterer at k. But either speaking-truly or speaking-falsely holds of u™s
utterer at k. Therefore speaking-truly holds of u™s utterer at k.
Second, assume that speaking-truly holds of u™s utterer at k. Then every
assertion produced by u™s utterer over any period comprising k is true
at k. Since u is the only assertion produced by u™s utterer over some period
comprising k, u is true at k. Hence speaking-falsely holds of u™s utterer at k.
Thus: if speaking-truly holds of u™s utterer at k, then speaking-falsely holds
of u™s utterer at k. But either speaking-truly or speaking-falsely holds of u™s
utterer at k. Therefore speaking-falsely holds of u™s utterer at k.
Hence speaking-truly and speaking-falsely both hold of u™s utterer at k.

Aristotle™s solution for the Liar. Chapter 25 of Sophistici Elenchi is concerned
with sophistical refutations dependent on the absolute or quali¬ed use
of expressions. Sophistical refutations of this kind occur whenever the
answerer in a dialectical debate grants that a certain property holds of a
certain object in a quali¬ed sense, but is then treated by the questioner as
if he had conceded that that property holds of that object without quali¬-
cation, and thereby ¬nds himself landed with an untenable position. This
can happen in various ways. In some cases the answerer grants that one
opposite property holds of a certain object in a quali¬ed way while the
other opposite property holds of the same object without quali¬cation, but
is then treated as if he had conceded that both opposite properties hold of
the same object without quali¬cation. In other cases the answerer grants
that two opposite properties both hold of a certain object in a quali¬ed
Introduction 33
way, but is then treated again as if he had conceded that they both hold of
the same object without quali¬cation.
A special situation where the answerer can be inclined to grant that
two opposite properties both hold of a certain object in a quali¬ed way is
that where the two opposite properties ˜hold to the same extent™ in that
the strongest consideration available in support of one opposite property
holding of the object is counterpoised by an equally strong consideration
in support of the other holding of it. For example, consider a sphere that
is exactly half-white and half-black. One can then imagine an answerer in
a dialectical debate granting that whiteness and blackness both hold of the
sphere in a quali¬ed way because the strongest consideration available in
support of whiteness holding of the sphere (a consideration based on direct
observation) is counterpoised by an equally strong consideration (also based
on direct observation) in support of blackness holding of the sphere. The
answerer will however be treated as if he had conceded that whiteness and
blackness both hold of the sphere without quali¬cation.
Aristotle regards the case of the Liar as similar. Consider the version of
the Liar offered in the last subsection, which turns on an utterance u of ˜I
am speaking falsely™. The ¬rst half of that version of the Liar provides the
strongest consideration in support of speaking-truly holding of u™s utterer
at k, and is counterpoised by an equally strong consideration in support of
speaking-falsely holding of u™s utterer at k, a consideration provided by the
second half of that version of the Liar. One can then imagine an answerer
in a dialectical debate granting that at k speaking-truly and speaking-falsely
both hold of u™s utterer in a quali¬ed way. However, he will be treated as
if he had conceded that at k speaking-truly and speaking-falsely both hold
of u™s utterer without quali¬cation.
Aristotle™s advice in situations of this sort is that the answerer should insist
that the two opposites both hold of the same object only in a quali¬ed way,
and both fail to hold of that object without quali¬cation. In the case of
the sphere that is exactly half-white and half-black, one should insist that
whiteness and blackness both hold of the sphere only in a quali¬ed way,
and that both fail to hold of it without quali¬cation. Similarly, in the case
of the utterance u of ˜I am speaking falsely™, one should insist that at time
k speaking-truly and speaking-falsely both hold of u™s utterer only in a
quali¬ed way, and that at k both fail to hold of him without quali¬cation.
But, now, failing to hold without quali¬cation is failing to hold in the
proper sense. Thus, Aristotle™s analysis seems to commit him to the view
that u is sometimes neither true nor false, and therefore to the rejection of
Bivalence.
34 Introduction
Aristotle™s solution leaves him exposed to the Strengthened Liar, which
turns on an utterance v of ˜This assertion is not true™. The strategy of saying
that v is neither true nor false at j (a time within some period over which v
is produced), or that it is neither true nor not true at j, leads to disaster: in
either case, v is not true at j, and is therefore true at j. Aristotle probably did
not realise this dif¬culty, but it is worthwhile pointing out that his position
is not hopeless: certain modern treatments of the Liar, which do not fall
prey to the Strengthened Liar, are theories one could imagine Aristotle™s
position developing into.

Future-tense singular assertions constitute another important and well-
known case which, according to Aristotle, shows Bivalence to be false.
Aristotle discusses Bivalence and future-tense singular assertions in de Inter-
pretatione 9. He confronts certain arguments that assume Bivalence and
conclude to Determinism. Since Aristotle regards these arguments as valid
but rejects Determinism, he rejects Bivalence. Speci¬cally, he claims that
some future-tense singular assertions are sometimes neither true nor false.

Determinism. Determinism is the thesis that for every state of affairs s and
every time t, if s is true at t then at every time t earlier than t it is necessary
that s should be true at t, and if s is false at t then at every time t earlier
than t it is necessary that s should be false at t. For example, according to
Determinism, if the state of affairs of your being seated is true now then
in the whole of the past it was always necessary that this state of affairs
should be true now, and if the state of affairs of your being seated is false
now then in the whole of the past it was always necessary that this state of
affairs should be false now.

Necessity as ineluctability. The necessity mentioned in Determinism is
ineluctability: the necessity of what nothing can be done about to change
or avoid it. It is a ˜diachronic™ modality, i.e. a modal attribute with two
˜slots for dates™: the key formulations are instances of the schema ˜At t it is
necessary that a at t ™ (where ˜t™ and ˜t ™ are to be replaced with designations
of times, ˜a™ with an assertoric sentence-type that does not contain dates),
e.g. ˜At 13.00 of 1 January 1997 it was necessary that the train should arrive
at 13.20 of 1 January 1997™.

The necessity of the present and the past. The advocate and the opposer of
Determinism agree that the present and the past are necessary: for every
state of affairs s and every time t, if s is true at t then at every time t not
earlier than t it is necessary that s should be true at t, and if s is false at t
Introduction 35
then at every time t not earlier than t it is necessary that s should be false
at t. For example, if the milk was spilled (i.e. if the state of affairs of the
milk having been spilled was true at some time earlier than now) then it is
necessary now (i.e. it is now necessary that the state of affairs in question
should be true at that earlier time): nothing can be done now about the
milk having been spilled earlier. The two parties therefore agree that the
realm of the non-necessary, i.e. of the contingent, is restricted to a part of
the future. The disagreement between the two parties surfaces with regard
to the extension of this part of the future that constitutes the realm of the
contingent: for the advocate of Determinism it is null, for the opposer of
Determinism it is inhabited.

A deterministic argument. The most interesting deterministic argument
addressed by Aristotle is close to an argument that assumes Bivalence and
has Determinism as its conclusion. Before presenting this argument from
Bivalence to Determinism, let me give a taste of it by displaying its most
characteristic moves. Consider the state of affairs of your opening this book,
and let t0 be the time when you ¬rst opened this book today. The state of
affairs of your opening this book was therefore true at t0 . Let t1 be the time
exactly 24 hours before t0 , i.e. the time yesterday exactly 24 hours before
when you ¬rst opened this book today. Consider an assertion that is an
utterance of ˜In 24 hours you will open this book™. Since Bivalence holds
(by assumption), at t1 this assertion was either true or false. Since 24 hours
after t1 , at t0 , the state of affairs of your opening this book was true, at t1 the
assertion surely was not false. Hence the assertion was true at t1 . Therefore
the state of affairs of the assertion™s being true was true at t1 . Hence (by the
necessity of the present and the past) at t1 it was necessary that the state of
affairs of the assertion™s being true should be true at t1 . Therefore at t1 it
was necessary that at t1 it should be the case that 24 hours later the state of
affairs of your opening this book would have been true. Hence at t1 it was
necessary that the state of affairs of your opening this book should be true
at t0 .
Having given a taste of it, I am now in a position to present the argument
from Bivalence to Determinism. Let s0 and t0 be a state of affairs and a
time. Suppose that s0 is true at t0 . Let t1 be a time earlier than t0 . Let i be the
exact interval between t1 and t0 . Since Bivalence holds (by assumption), at
t1 an assertion that is an utterance of an appropriate instance of ˜In i s will
be true™ (where ˜i™ is replaced with an expression which signi¬es i, ˜s™ with
a name of s0 ) is either true or false. Since i after t1 s0 is true, the assertion
is not false at t1 . Hence the assertion is true at t1 . Therefore the state of
affairs of the assertion™s being true is true at t1 . Hence (by the necessity of
36 Introduction
the present and the past) at t1 it is necessary that the state of affairs of the
assertion™s being true should be true at t1 . Therefore at t1 it is necessary that
at t1 it should be the case that s0 is true i later. Hence at t1 it is necessary
that s0 should be true at t0 . Since t1 was arbitrary, this conclusion can be
generalised: at every time t earlier than t0 it is necessary that s0 should
be true at t0 . Since s0 and t0 were arbitrary, this conclusion also can be
generalised: for every state of affairs s and every time t, if s is true at t then at
every time t earlier than t it is necessary that s should be true at t. A parallel
argument will establish that for every state of affairs s and every time t, if s
is false at t then at every time t earlier than t it is necessary that s should
be false at t. Thus, Determinism is true.

˜Aristotle™s dream™: rejecting Bivalence while accepting Excluded Middle. As
I said, Aristotle rejects Bivalence in order to avoid being nailed down to
the conclusion of an argument like the one described in the last subsec-
tion. Speci¬cally, he claims that certain future-tense singular assertions are
sometimes neither true nor false, and he claims that an utterance of ˜A sea-
battle will take place tomorrow™ is sometimes neither true nor false. While
rejecting Bivalence, Aristotle in the same breath says things that commit
him to accepting Excluded Middle, i.e. to endorsing every instance of the
schema ˜Either a or it is not the case that a™ (where ˜a™ is to be replaced
with an assertoric sentence-type that does not contain dates). His reason
for doing so is probably a desire to retain as much as possible of classical
logic (as we would call it) while rejecting Bivalence because, in his view,
it entails Determinism. Given that Aristotle is committed to accepting
Excluded Middle, he is likely to be committed to claiming that every utter-
ance of every instance of the schema ˜Either a or it is not the case that a™ is
always true. Thus, on the one hand, Aristotle claims that an utterance of ˜A
sea-battle will take place tomorrow™ is sometimes neither true nor false; on
the other, he seems committed to claiming that an utterance of ˜A sea-battle
will take place tomorrow or it is not the case that a sea-battle will take place
tomorrow™ is always true. Some modern logicians mock Aristotle because
they take him to be committed to this apparently inconsistent position,
which they label ˜Aristotle™s dream™.
The inconsistency, however, is merely apparent “ as I shall argue in the
next three subsections.

The history of the universe. Aristotle conceives of the history of the universe
as an accumulation of events: new events are added to the stock of earlier
ones to constitute the universe ˜to date™. At any time, while all of its past
Introduction 37
and present are given in their full determinateness, not all of its future
is yet given. For that time™s future is a multiplicity of equally possible
developments of the events accumulated until then, and the only part of
this future that is already given is what is common to all these alternative
developments (this represents what at the given time is already necessary).

The failure of Bivalence. Consider an assertion that is an utterance of ˜A sea-
battle will take place tomorrow™. Let t be a time such that in some but not
all possible future developments of the universe at t a sea-battle takes place
the day after t. Then the given assertion is correct at t with respect to those
possible future developments of the universe at t where a sea-battle takes
place the day after t, but it is incorrect at t with respect to the other possible
future developments of the universe at t, where no sea-battle takes place the
day after t. Note that the attributes of correctness and incorrectness I just
introduced differ from truth and falsehood in an important respect: they
are not merely relative to a time, they are relative both to a time and to a
possible future development of the universe at that time. Since at t there is
as yet no fact of the matter as to how the universe will develop the day after
t with respect to a sea-battle taking place, there are no suf¬cient grounds
for the assertion™s being true or false at t. For this reason at t the given
assertion is neither true nor false. Thus, an assertion that is an utterance of
˜A sea-battle will take place tomorrow™ is sometimes neither true nor false.
It is worthwhile emphasising that this conclusion has nothing to do with
the impossibility of discovering at t what the future will be like: it only
depends on the fact that at t the future is not yet suf¬ciently determined as
to settle the truth-value of the assertion. In fact, from an epistemic point
of view, the past and the present do not differ from the future: as at t we
do not and cannot know much of what is going to be the case after t, so
we do not and cannot know much of what was the case before t or is the
case at t.

The validity of Excluded Middle. Consider a disjunctive assertion that is
an utterance of ˜A sea-battle will take place tomorrow or it is not the case
that a sea-battle will take place tomorrow™. Let t be a time. Pick a possible
future development of the universe at t: if it is one where a sea-battle takes
place the day after t, the given disjunctive assertion is correct at t with
respect to this possible future development; if it is one where no sea-battle
takes place the day after t, then again the disjunctive assertion is correct at
t with respect to this possible future development. Thus, in all cases, the
disjunctive assertion is correct at t with respect to the chosen possible future
38 Introduction
development of the universe at t. Since this possible future development
of the universe at t was arbitrary, the disjunctive assertion is correct at t
with respect to every possible future development of the universe at t. This
constitutes a suf¬cient ground for the disjunctive assertion being true at t.
Since t was an arbitrary time, the disjunctive assertion (an utterance of ˜A
sea-battle will take place tomorrow or it is not the case that a sea-battle will
take place tomorrow™) is always true.

How good is Aristotle™s position on Determinism and Bivalence? In the last
three subsections I showed that the claim that an utterance of ˜A sea-battle
will take place tomorrow™ is sometimes neither true nor false and the claim
that an utterance of ˜A sea-battle will take place tomorrow or it is not the
case that a sea-battle will take place tomorrow™ is always true are reasonable
and reciprocally consistent. These are precisely the claims to which Aristotle
seems committed. Hence the solution Aristotle seems to offer to the prob-
lems raised by Bivalence and Determinism is coherent and reasonable. To
this extent, it is a ˜good™ solution. However, other philosophers solve these
problems differently. Can Aristotle™s apparent solution still be regarded as
˜good™ when it is compared with these alternative solutions?
One of these alternative solutions to the problems raised by Bivalence
and Determinism is based on denying that truth and falsehood hold at
times. This solution wipes out at one blow all the problems raised by
Bivalence and Determinism. But it is not a solution Aristotle could easily
take on board because it requires revising a vast amount of his views on
truth. Moreover, it goes against the way in which truth and falsehood were
ordinarily conceived of in Antiquity: as I said, the idea that the bearers of
truth or falsehood are true or false at times was widespread.
Another alternative solution to the problems raised by Bivalence and
Determinism is to hold that truth and falsehood belong to a class of prop-
erties whose holding of an object at a given time is not simply a matter
of what is going on then. A further member of the class of properties in
question would be the property of belonging to a world where 24 hours
later a sea-battle takes place. It could be de¬ned as the property P such that
for every object x, P holds of x when and only when a sea-battle takes place
24 hours later. Clearly, this property™s holding of a certain object at any given
time is not simply a matter of what is going on then. One could then argue
that even if the state of affairs of this property™s holding of a certain object
is true at a certain time, this does not count as something that is present at
that time and past shortly later, and therefore falls outside the scope of the
principle that the past and the present are necessary. In other words, one
Introduction 39
could argue that even if the state of affairs in question were true at time t
(something in itself already dubious), it would not follow that at every time
t not earlier than t it is necessary that the state of affairs should be true at t.
Applying this strategy to the case of truth, one could block the deterministic
arguments that derive Determinism from Bivalence, and therefore preserve
Bivalence while rejecting Determinism. It is hard to decide whether this
alternative solution is superior to the one Aristotle seems to offer, which
involves rejecting Bivalence. The main limit of the alternative solution is
the dif¬culty of giving a precise characterisation of the class of those prop-
erties whose holding at a given time is not a matter of what is happening
only then; the main limit of Aristotle™s apparent solution is that it involves
giving up an important and intuitively plausible principle of logic.

2 met h odology
Questioning Aristotle. As I said at the beginning of the introduction, this
study has two primary aims: to offer a precise reconstruction of all of Aristo-
tle™s most signi¬cant views on truth and falsehood and to gain a philosophi-
cal understanding of them. Ideally, one should approach a philosopher with
a completely ˜neutral™ attitude, an attitude not ˜biased™ by speci¬c interests,
expectations, or questions. I think, however, that one should honestly admit
from the start that such an ideally neutral approach is impossible, and for-
mulate clearly the nature of one™s approach to the philosopher one is study-
ing. In the case at hand, my approach involves engaging in a philosophical
discussion with Aristotle. I ask him some of the questions about truth which
many modern analytic philosophers are interested in. One question I ask
Aristotle is: ˜What are the bearers of truth or falsehood?™ Another question
is: ˜What are the truth conditions for predicative assertions?™ Sometimes I
ask Aristotle a further question raised by his answer to one of these ques-
tions. One of these further questions is: ˜How can your truth conditions
for predicative assertions deal with what seem predicative assertions with
an “empty” subject or predicate?™
It should be clear how this approach will contribute to achieving one of
this book™s primary aims, the aim of gaining a philosophical understand-
ing of Aristotle™s views on truth: asking Aristotle some of the questions
about truth which many modern analytic philosophers are interested in is
evidently a way to gain a philosophical understanding of Aristotle™s views
on truth. But it is not obvious that this approach should contribute to
the other primary aim of the book, the reconstruction of all of Aristotle™s
most signi¬cant views on truth and falsehood: one can imagine situations
40 Introduction
where by asking a philosopher ˜analytic™ questions about truth one would
completely fail to reconstruct that philosopher™s most signi¬cant views on
the matter. However, as it happens, asking ˜analytic™ questions bears fruit in
Aristotle™s case: it does allow me to reconstruct almost all of his most signif-
icant views on truth and falsehood. Of course, certain aspects of Aristotle™s
theory of truth come more to the fore than others “ but this is unavoidable,
I suspect, with any approach. There turns out to be one, and only one,
gap: Aristotle™s remarks on ˜practical truth™ (in EN 6.2, 1139a 26“31) remain
unexamined (I decided to forgo addressing them because they are relatively
isolated from the rest of his theory).
A good way to understand and appreciate my approach to Aristotle is to
contrast it with alternative approaches. For example, one could approach
Aristotle by looking at the questions he himself asks, or by examining how
his theories grew out of those of his predecessors and developed during his
lifetime. I greatly respect these alternative approaches “ but I realise and
emphasise that they are different from mine.

˜Not Aristotle™s questions!™ The alternative approaches mentioned above high-
light some problems for the approach adopted in this study. A problem
brought to the surface by the ¬rst alternative approach is that by asking
Aristotle questions modern analytic philosophers are interested in, one is
bound to ask him questions he never dreamt of, perhaps even questions
which he lacked the conceptual apparatus to understand or to answer. My
strategy with respect to this problem is to look for (not how Aristotle did
answer these questions, but) what answers to these questions he is commit-
ted to. In pursuing this goal, I apply an empirical methodology: I start from
the relevant passages from Aristotle™s works, and on their basis I reconstruct
the positions he explicitly endorses and those he is committed to. In some
important cases, I address in detail philological issues concerning the read-
ing of the text and I take into account the data available from the main
witnesses (manuscripts or other sources). Thus, my approach to Aristotle
in this study is a combination of a ˜philosophically loaded™ attitude with a
˜historically sensitive™ one.

Apparent tensions in Aristotle™s position. Another problem for the treatment
of Aristotle™s thought adopted in this study is brought to light by the second
alternative approach. Sometimes there appear to be tensions in Aristotle™s
views: some things he says seem to be contradictory, or at least pull in
different directions. How much coherence should one assume in his work?
Introduction 41
My attitude is ˜moderately harmonising™: I ¬nd that my attention is
drawn to the common rather than the differentiating traits, and that I tend
to try to explain the apparent inconsistencies as merely apparent. This, of
course, does not mean that I ignore, or try at all costs to explain away,
every apparent inconsistency in Aristotle™s works. It simply means that I
take an apparent inconsistency to be real, and due either to an error or
a development in Aristotle™s thought, only when it cannot be explained
otherwise. It is impossible that Aristotle, however astute he was, would
never have made a mistake in discussing issues that still today blunt the
sharpest minds, and it is unlikely that he would never have changed his
views over thirty or more years of philosophical research. None the less, it
seems to be sound to assume that a mistake or a development occurred only
when philosophical and philological explanations fail. Part of the reason
for proceeding in this way is that the growth of Aristotle™s thought is very
much disputed among historians.
pa rt i
Bearers of truth or falsehood
c h ap t e r 1

States of affairs, thoughts, and sentences



In his commentary on Aristotle™s de Interpretatione Ammonius asks ˜among
which of the things that are in any way one should look for truth and
falsehood™ (17, 29“30). In Aristotle™s works there is no formulation of this
or of an equivalent question. So, there is a case for doubting that Aristotle
ever addressed the problem of what items are bearers of truth or falsehood.
However, even if Aristotle never addressed this problem, it is still worthwhile
considering what the items are which Aristotle does in fact speak of as true
or false. For this result will provide a useful indication for determining what
solution Aristotle would have offered for the problem of what items are
bearers of truth or falsehood, had he addressed it.
Aristotle applies the word ˜true™ (˜ˆlhqžv™) and its cognates to items of
three main kinds: objects (which include states of affairs),1 mental items
(states or acts of believing,2 knowing,3 grasping by means of the intellect,4
perceiving,5 imagining,6 etc.), and linguistic items (sentences7 ).8
1 Cat. 5, 4b 8“10; 10, 12b 5“16; 11, 14a 10“14; 12, 14b 11“22; Int. 9, 19a 15“16; 19a 33; APo. 1.33, 88b 32“3; 89a 2“
3; Ph. 4.12, 222a 3“9; Metaph. 7, 1017a 31“5; 29, 1024b 17“21; 4, 1047b 12“14; 10, 1051a 34“1051b 6;
1051b 18“21; EN 3.5, 1112a 21“3; Rh. 1.1, 1354a 27“8; 7, 1364b 7“10; [Arist.] Divis. Arist. 30, 49, 20“2; 31,
50, 8“10.
2 Cat. 5, 4a 26“8; Int. 14, 23a 38; APo. 1.33, 88b 32“89a 3; 2.19, 100b 5“7; Top. 4.2, 123a 15“19; SE 22, 178b 24“9;
de An. 3.3, 427b 20“1; 428a 3“4; 428 a 19; 428 b 2“9; Metaph. 10, 1051b 13“14; EN 3.4, 1111b 31“4; 4.8,
1124b 6; 6.3, 1139b 15“18; 10, 1142b 11; 7.10, 1151b 3“4; EE 2.10, 1226a 1“4; Protr. fr. 73 Gigon 306b 7; 306b 8;
306b 12; 312a 36 (= Iamb. Protr. 44, 5; 44, 5“6; 44, 9; 59, 13“14).
3 APo. 1.33, 88b 32“89a 3; 2.19, 100b 5“8; de An. 3.3, 428a 3“5; 428a 17“18; EN 6.3, 1139b 15“18; 6, 1141a 3“8;
10, 1142b 10.
4 APo. 1.33, 88b 32“89a 3; 2.19, 100b 5“8; de An. 1.2, 404a 27“31; 3.3, 428a 3“5; 428a 17“18; 6, 430b 26“31; 10,
433a 26; Metaph. E 4, 1027b 27“8; 10, 1051b 22“33; 1052a 1“4; L 9, 1075a 5“10; EN 6.3, 1139b 15“18; 6,
1141a 3“8 (cf. Metaph. 6, 1016b 1“3; I 1, 1052a 29“31; Protr. fr. 73 Gigon 302b 36“8 = Iamb. Protr. 34,
17“18).
5 Top. 2.4, 111a 14“20; de An. 2.6, 418a 11“16; 3.3, 427b 11“14; 428a 3“4; 428a 11; 428b 18“30; 6, 430b 29“30;
Sens. 4, 442b 8“10; Metaph. 5, 1010b 2“3; 1010b 14“26.
6 De An. 3.3, 428a 1“4; 428a 12; 428a 16“18; 428b 10“17. However de An. 3.8, 432a 10“12 seems to presuppose
that episodes of imagining are neither true nor false.
7 Cat. 5, 4a 23“6; 4b 8“10; 12, 14b 14“22; Int. 1, 16a 9“18; 4, 17a 1“5; 9, 19a 33; SE 22, 178b 24“9; Metaph.
10, 1051b 13“14.
8 Aristotle sometimes (APo. 1.32, 88a 19“20; Top. 8.12, 162b 3“22; SE 18, 176b 29“33) applies ˜true™ and
˜false™ to arguments.

45
46 Bearers of truth or falsehood
Section 1 of this chapter focuses on objects, in particular on states of
affairs. I examine two passages from the Metaphysics. The ¬rst, which consti-
tutes the beginning of 29, is the most unequivocal testimony of Aristotle™s
commitment to states of affairs (I devote some arguments to showing that it
is really states of affairs Aristotle is concerned with). The second Metaphysics
passage is the ¬rst part of 10. Aristotle describes states of affairs as being
true or false in the strictest, i.e. most fundamental, sense because their truth
and falsehood is appealed to in explaining the truth and falsehood of items
of other types: an af¬rmative predicative belief or sentence is true (false)
when and only when the state of affairs it concerns is true (false), while a
negative predicative belief or sentence is true (false) when and only when
the state of affairs it concerns is false (true). The role of states of affairs in
Aristotle™s theory of truth, however, is not exhausted by their explaining
the truth and falsehood of predicative beliefs and sentences: they are also
bearers of modal properties and targets of propositional attitudes.
Truth and falsehood of mental items are discussed in section 2 of this
chapter. The main witness here is Metaphysics E 4. Aristotle claims that every
af¬rmative (negative) predicative belief joins (separates) the objects grasped
by its subject and its predicate. This claim can be seen to be consistent with “
in fact, a consequence of “ 10™s characterisation of the truth and falsehood
of predicative beliefs in terms of states of affairs.
Section 3 discusses the linguistic items that are bearers of truth or false-
hood, i.e. sentences. They are not expression-types, but expression-tokens,
i.e. individual utterances.

1 stat es of a ffa i rs
States of affairs in Metaphysics ∆ 29. Metaphysics 29 discusses the uses
of ˜false™. The following excerpt from this chapter is the most unequivocal
testimony of Aristotle™s commitment to states of affairs as bearers of truth
or falsehood:
T 1 One way in which what is false is spoken of is by being a false object. This
can happen, on the one hand, because it is not combined or it is impossible
for it to be composed (the diagonal™s being commensurable and your being
seated are spoken of in this way, for one of these is false always and the
other sometimes, for it is in this sense [sc. in the sense of being false]9 that
these are non-beings), and, on the other hand, in the case of such items that
[. . .] (1024b 17“21)

9 Cf. E 4, 1027b 29; 1027b 31; 10, 1051b 35“1052a 1.
States of affairs, thoughts, and sentences 47
Objects are then called ˜false™ in this way, either because they themselves are
not or [. . .] (1024b 24“5)
In T 1 Aristotle offers two, and only two, examples to clarify of what
kind the items are which he there describes by using ˜object™ and ˜false™.
He names the items which he introduces in these examples by means of
the phrases ˜the diagonal™s being commensurable™ (1024b 19“20) and ˜your
being seated™ (1024b 20). What could the items be which Aristotle in T 1
describes by using ˜object™ and ˜false™, and names by using ˜the diagonal™s
being commensurable™ and ˜your being seated™, if not the state of affairs
of the diagonal™s being commensurable and the state of affairs of your
being seated? Therefore the items which Aristotle in T 1 describes by using
˜object™ and ˜false™ are probably states of affairs. Accordingly, T 1™s main
point is probably to explain what it is for a state of affairs to be false.10

First objection: is T 1 about facts? An objection could be raised. The items
which Aristotle in T 1 describes by using ˜object™ and ˜false™ could be (not
states of affairs, but) facts.11 Accordingly, T 1™s main point would be to
explain what it is (not for a state of affairs, but) for a fact to be false (not to
obtain).
This objection cannot be ruled out with complete assurance. It is, how-
ever, unlikely “ for two reasons.
(i) If the objection were correct, Aristotle would be doing something
bizarre: he would be beginning his discussion of the uses of ˜false™ by saying
that it applies to certain items whose very nature requires that it should not
apply to them “ for facts, by their very nature, are true (obtain). To draw an
analogy, it would be like beginning a discussion of the uses of the negative
expression ˜non-quadrilateral™ (which in the analogy corresponds to ˜false™)
by saying that it applies to squares (which in the analogy correspond to
facts “ for the very nature of squares requires that ˜non-quadrilateral™ should
not apply to them).
(ii) One of the items introduced by Aristotle in T 1 to explain what
the items are which he there describes by using ˜object™ and ˜false™ is ˜the

10 Cf. Alex. Aphr. in Metaph. 431, 15“432, 4; Lask (1912), 319“20; Wilpert (1940), 7; de Rijk (1952), 29;
Hope (1952), 120; Kirwan (1971/93), 178“9, 199“200; Harvey (1975), 108; Graeser (1978), 449; (1981),
85, 87“8; Schmitz (1985), 115“16; de Rijk (1987), 38; Simons (1988), 112; Sadun Bordoni (1994), 74;
Weidemann (1994/2002), 138; de Rijk (1996), 119; Whitaker (1996), 30; Wolff (1999), 49, 61; Modrak
(2001), 57.
11 I use ˜fact™ in a Russellian sense: every fact, by its very nature, is true (obtains) (cf. Neale (2001),
83“6). Aristotle sometimes seems to use ˜object™ (˜prŽgma™) to denote facts: see n. 4 of chapter 4
and the portion of the main text it pertains to.
48 Bearers of truth or falsehood
diagonal™s being commensurable™ (1024b 19“20). But the diagonal™s being
commensurable is not a fact.

Second objection: is T 1 about composite things? Another objection could
be raised. The items which Aristotle in T 1 describes by using ˜object™
and ˜false™ could be (not states of affairs, but) composite things: material
substances, which are composed of form and matter (e.g. Socrates), or
incidental compounds, which are composed of a universal and some item
of which it holds (e.g. Socrates seated). Accordingly, T 1™s main point would
be to explain (not what it is for a state of affairs to be false, but) what it is
for a composite thing not to exist.12
This objection also cannot be ruled out with con¬dence. I have two
main reasons for disagreeing with it.
(i) The items Aristotle introduces in T 1 to explain what the items are
which he there describes by using ˜object™ and ˜false™ obviously are not mate-
rial substances. Moreover, they are probably not incidental compounds “
for they are not designated in the way that is typical of incidental com-
pounds. The proper designation of an incidental compound is a noun-
phrase obtained by subtracting the copula from a predicative assertoric
sentence-type.13 Thus, had Aristotle intended to introduce incidental com-
pounds, he would probably have used ˜the commensurable diagonal™ (the
noun-phrase obtained by subtracting the copula from the predicative asser-
toric sentence-type ˜The diagonal is commensurable™) and ˜you seated™ (the
noun-phrase obtained by subtracting the copula from the predicative asser-
toric sentence-type ˜You are seated™), not ˜the diagonal™s being commensu-
rable™ (1024b 19“20) and ˜your being seated™ (1024b 20).
(ii) One of the items Aristotle introduces in T 1 to explain what the items
are which he there describes by using ˜object™ and ˜false™ is ˜the diagonal™s
being commensurable™ (1024b 19“20). If (as the objection we are now con-
sidering assumes) T 1™s main point were to explain what it is for a composite
thing not to exist, then Aristotle would be committed to the view that some
item (the diagonal™s being commensurable) never exists, and he would be
presupposing that ˜object™ should apply to an item (the diagonal™s being
commensurable) he is committed to regarding as never existing. But:
(ii.i) Aristotle seems to think that all items are existent items.14 Therefore
one should resist an interpretation of our passage whereby Aristotle turns
out to be committed to the view that some item never exists.
12 Cf. Keeler (1932), 244; Matthen (1983), 125“6; Duminil/Jaulin (1991), 289“90; Ketchum (1998),
322“3; B¨ck (2000), 84; Thorp (2001), 10.
a
13 14 Cf. the subsection to which n. 24 of chapter 5 is appended.
Cf. Matthen (1983), 125.
States of affairs, thoughts, and sentences 49
(ii.ii) The word ˜object™ suggests existence. Therefore one should resist an
interpretation of our passage whereby Aristotle turns out to be presupposing
that ˜object™ should apply to an item he is committed to regarding as never
existing. Objection: ˜Some philosophers have claimed that there are objects
that never exist.™ Answer: ˜Let me grant, for the sake of argument, that
Aristotle believes both that there are objects that never exist, and that the
diagonal™s being commensurable is one of the objects that are there but
never exist. I am not sure what it exactly is that one is believing when one
believes that the diagonal™s being commensurable is one of the objects that
are there. Whatever it is that one is thereby believing, however, it is enough
to commit one to the view that the diagonal™s being commensurable is a
state of affairs.™

Falsehood and lack of combination. With regard to each of the items which
in T 1 he describes by using ˜object™ and ˜false™, Aristotle claims that it is
false ˜because it is not combined or it is impossible for it to be composed™
(1024b 18“19). Since these items are probably states of affairs, Aristotle is
probably committing himself to the claim that a state of affairs is false just
in case it is not combined or it is impossible for it to be combined. But
now, if for a state of affairs it is impossible to be combined, then that state
of affairs is not combined. Hence Aristotle is probably committing himself
to the claim that a state of affairs is false just in case it is not combined.

Only ˜af¬rmative™ states of affairs. T 1 suggests that the only states of affairs
recognised by Aristotle are ˜af¬rmative™ states of affairs.15 For, suppose that
among the states of affairs recognised by Aristotle there were ˜negative™
states of affairs (e.g. your not walking or the diagonal™s not being incom-
mensurable). Then, in explaining what it is for a state of affairs to be false,
Aristotle would probably say something which at least suggests that, on the
one hand, some states of affairs (i.e. ˜af¬rmative™ states of affairs) are false
just in case they are not combined, and, on the other hand, other states
of affairs (i.e. ˜negative™ states of affairs) are false just in case they are not
divided. But Aristotle says nothing of this sort. He only says that an object,
i.e. a state of affairs, is false ˜because it is not combined or it is impossible
for it to be composed™ (1024b 18“19). Therefore the only states of affairs
recognised by Aristotle are probably ˜af¬rmative™ states of affairs.
If Aristotle recognises only ˜af¬rmative™ states of affairs, this aspect of his
theory is remarkable in three ways. (i) It makes the theory ontologically

15 Cf. de Rijk (1987), 46.
50 Bearers of truth or falsehood
economical (because it does not postulate ˜negative™ states of affairs).
(ii) It suggests an explanation of Aristotle™s somewhat obscure claim that
af¬rmations are ˜prior™ to denials16 (the reason why Aristotle makes this
claim might be that he thinks that there are only ˜af¬rmative™ states of
affairs, and that they ˜correspond™ more closely to af¬rmations than to
denials).17 (iii) It bars the theory from the most natural explanation of sen-
tences about propositional attitudes which employs states of affairs (e.g.
if the theory rules out the ˜negative™ state of affairs of the diagonal™s not
being incommensurable, then it cannot explain ˜Socrates believes that the
diagonal is not incommensurable™ as saying that the relation of believing
obtains between Socrates and the diagonal™s not being incommensurable).
It is however worth observing that in the Categories18 Aristotle seems to
postulate ˜negative™ as well as ˜af¬rmative™ states of affairs.19 The conception
of states of affairs he seems to present in the Categories differs in this respect
from the one he seems to endorse in the Metaphysics. Given that the Cate-
gories are probably an early work, I shall assume that Aristotle™s conception
of states of affairs (as well as of other related ontological matters) underwent
a development between the Categories and the Metaphysics.

The beginning of Metaphysics ˜ 10: objects which ˜are™ in the sense of being
true or ˜are not™ in the sense of being false. In the preceding subsections
I discussed an excerpt from Metaphysics 29 that constitutes the most
unequivocal witness of Aristotle™s commitment to states of affairs as bearers
of truth or falsehood. In this and in the remaining subsections of section 1
I go on to discuss another passage, at the beginning of Metaphysics 10,
which provides further information about Aristotle™s views on the role of
states of affairs in his theory of truth and falsehood. It will soon be apparent
that this passage contains a rather complex theory.
Metaphysics 10 contains Aristotle™s most extensive discussion of truth
and falsehood. The chapter divides into three parts: the ¬rst (1051a 34“
1051b 17) is about the truth and falsehood that concern composite items,
the second (1051b 17“1052a 4) is about the truth and falsehood that concern
non-composite items, and the third (1052a 4“11) is about the relationship
between falsehood and time.
Here is the beginning of the ¬rst part of 10:

16 Int. 5, 17a 8“9; APo. 1.25, 86b 33“6; Cael. 2.3, 286a 25“6 (where, however, Aristotle speaks of positive
and privative general terms or concepts, not of af¬rmative and negative assertions).
17 18 10, 12b 6“15, cf. 13a 37“13b 1.
Cf. Hennigfeld (1994), 91.
19 Cf. Lask (1912), 297; Ackrill (1963), 110; de Rijk (1987), 34, 55; Simons (1988), 104; Gaskin (1998),
44“5. For a different interpretation of 12b 6“15 see Oehler (1984), 270.
States of affairs, thoughts, and sentences 51
T 2 Given that what ˜is™ and what ˜is not™ are spoken of,20 in some cases with refer-
ence to the ¬gures of predication, in others with reference to the potentiality
or the actuality of these or to their opposites,21 and in others by being in the
strictest sense true or false,22 and this [sc. to be in the strictest sense true or
false], in the case of objects, is to be combined or to be divided,23 so that he
who thinks of what is divided that it is divided and of what is combined that
it is combined is right, while he who is in a state contrary to that of the objects
is wrong,24 when is it that what is called true25 or false ˜is™ or ˜is not™? For it
must be investigated what it is that we call this. For it is not because we truly
think that you are white that you are white, but it is because of your being
white that we who say this are right. (1051a 34“1051b 9)
At the beginning of T 2 Aristotle says: ˜What “is” and what “is not” are
spoken of [. . .] by being in the strictest sense true or false™ (1051a 34“1051b 2).
He adds: ˜This, in the case of objects, is to be combined or to be divided™
(1051b 2“3). The singular pronoun ˜this™ at the beginning of the second of
these two sentences probably refers to the property, or properties, of being in
the strictest sense true or false.26 Thus, a plausible paraphrase of the second
sentence is that according to which it says that in the case of objects, being
in the strictest sense true is being combined and being in the strictest sense
false is being divided. If this paraphrase is correct, then at least part of what
Aristotle is saying at the beginning of T 2 is, on the one hand, that for an
object ˜to be™ in the sense of being true is to be combined, and, on the other,
that for an object ˜not to be™ in the sense of being false is to be divided.
That this is indeed at least part of what he is saying is con¬rmed by three
remarks he makes shortly later in 10: at 1051b 11“13 he says that ˜“to be”

Here Aristotle distinguishes three (groups of ) senses of ˜to be™ or ˜being™: cf. Metaph. L 2, 1069b 26“8;
20
N 2, 1089a 26“8. Elsewhere he distinguishes four: see Metaph. 7, 1017a 7“1017b 9 (with Liske (1988),
148“50); E 2, 1026a 33“1026b 2 (cf. 4, 1027b 17“19). Other passages introduce different classi¬cations:
see Metaph. Z 1, 1028a 10“14; 1, 1045b 32“4.
21 The words ˜their opposites™ mean ˜the opposites of the potentiality or the actuality of the ¬gures
of predication™ (˜tˆnant©a™ at 1051b 1 must be construed with ˜kat‡™ at 1051a 35, and is therefore
coordinate with ˜d…namin £ –n”rgeian™ at 1051a 35“1051b 1). They allude either to the lack of potentiality
and the lack of actuality (cf. 15, 1021a 25“6; Rolfes (1904/28), ii 239; Tricot (1966), ii 521“2) or to
the potentiality and the actuality of not being a certain substance (e.g. a man), the potentiality and
the actuality of not being of a certain quality (e.g. white), etc. (cf. 8, 1050b 8“34; n. 59 of chapter 2;
Oehler (1962/85), 175).
22 23 For the reading here see appendix 2.
For the reading and the translation here see appendix 1.
24 No English verb-phrase renders adequately ˜ˆlhqe…ein™: some occurrences of ˜ˆlhqe…ein™ require ˜to
be right™, others ˜to speak truly™. Similarly, no English verb-phrase renders adequately ˜ye…desqai™:
some occurrences of ˜ye…desqai™ require ˜to be wrong™, others ˜to speak falsely™. Unlike their coun-
terparts in Latin and other European languages, ˜ˆlhqe…ein™ and ˜ye…desqai™ are common not only
in philosophical but also in non-philosophical contexts (cf. Cavini (1993a), 86).
Here (1051b 5) I read ˜t¼ ˆlhq•v™ with Ab (the reading printed by most modern editions).
25
26 I do not attempt a full justi¬cation of this claim because it would take too much space (other
interpretations are possible).
52 Bearers of truth or falsehood
is to be combined and one, while “not to be” is not to be combined but
many™; at 1051b 19“20 he says that certain items are such as ˜“to be” when
they are combined and “not to be” if they are divided™; at 1051b 33“5 he says
that an item of a certain kind ˜is true if it is composed, while it is false if it
is not composed™.27

The beginning of ˜ 10 is about states of affairs. Both in T 1 and in T 2 Aristotle
speaks of certain items with regard to which he uses the expression ˜object™.
About each of the items with regard to which in T 1 he uses ˜object™,
Aristotle there says that it is false just in case ˜it is not combined or it is
impossible for it to be composed™ (1024b 18“19). About each of the items
with regard to which in T 2 he uses ˜object™, Aristotle there says that for
it ˜not to be™ in the sense of being false is to be divided (see 1051a 34“
1051b 3). But the items with regard to which Aristotle in T 1 uses ˜object™
are probably states of affairs.28 It can then be plausibly inferred that the
items with regard to which Aristotle in T 2 uses ˜object™ also are states of
affairs.29

An alternative to the standard interpretation. The interpretation of T 2
defended in the preceding subsections differs from one that is very
widespread among commentators,30 so widespread that it deserves the title
˜the standard interpretation™. The standard interpretation of T 2 depends
on translating 1051b 2“3 as follows: ˜[. . .] and this [sc. being in the strictest
sense true or false, or “ as most commentators assume “ being true or false]
depends, insofar as objects are concerned, on being combined or being
divided [. . .]™.31 The standard interpretation then assumes that the items
denoted by T 2™s occurrences of ˜object™ are (not states of affairs, but) indi-
viduals and universals which are thought of. The standard interpretation
¬nally assumes that T 2™s main claim is, on the one hand, that an af¬rma-
tive predicative belief is true (false) when and only when the individuals
or universals which are thought of are reciprocally combined (divided),
and, on the other hand, that a negative predicative belief is true (false)
when and only when the individuals or universals which are thought of are

27 28 Cf. the subsection to which n. 10 above is appended.
Cf. Thorp (2001), 3.
29 Cf. Lewinsohn (1911), 201“2; de Rijk (1952), 11“12; Sepich (1953), 107; Lugarini (1955), 105“6; Tugend-
hat (1966a), 255; Kirwan (1971/93), 178; Wolf (1979), 99; Graeser (1983a), 44; Matthen (1983), 126;
Schmitz (1985), 117; de Rijk (1987), 35“6, 45“7; Whitaker (1996), 30, 31; Szaif (1998), 519“20; Crivelli
(1999), 54; Wolff (1999), 56; de Rijk (2002), i 130.
30 For example, Maurus (1668), iv 479“80; Brentano (1889), 7, 18“19; Lukasiewicz (1910a), 19; Ross
(1923), 26; (1924), ii 275; Burnyeat et al. (1984), 154, 156; Mignucci (1994), 147“9; (1996a), 415“17;
Galluzzo (1997/98), 50“1; B¨ck (2000), 83; Berti (2000), 7“8.
a
31 This translation presupposes reading [c] of appendix 2.
States of affairs, thoughts, and sentences 53
reciprocally divided (combined). On the standard interpretation states of
affairs do not come into the picture.
Now, the standard interpretation cannot be ruled out with absolute
con¬dence. However, I do believe that the interpretation defended in the
preceding subsections is more plausible. At any rate, note that my favoured
interpretation in a way encapsulates the standard interpretation. For, as we
shall soon see,32 my favoured interpretation entails the thesis which the
standard interpretation regards as T 2™s main claim, i.e. the thesis that, on
the one hand, an af¬rmative predicative belief is true (false) when and only
when the individuals or universals which are thought of are reciprocally
combined (divided), and, on the other hand, a negative predicative belief
is true (false) when and only when the individuals or universals which are
thought of are reciprocally divided (combined).

States of affairs as composite items. Shortly after T 2 (eight lines later) Aristotle
says:
T 333 But then, with regard to non-composite items, what are ˜to be™ or ˜not to be™
and truth and falsehood? For they are not composite, so as ˜to be™ when they
are combined and ˜not to be™ if they are divided, as the log™s being white34
and the diagonal™s being incommensurable, nor will truth and falsehood hold
still in the same sense as in the case of those. Or, just as truth in the case of
these is not the same, so also ˜being™ [. . .] (1051b 17“23)
In T 3 Aristotle contrasts certain items which he regards as composite
with others which he regards as non-composite. He offers two examples of
those items which he regards as composite: ˜the log™s being white and the
diagonal™s being incommensurable™ (1051b 20“1). They seem to be states of
affairs: the state of affairs of the log™s being white and the state of affairs
of the diagonal™s being incommensurable. Thus, Aristotle can be plausibly
credited with the view that states of affairs are composite items.35
Of what items is a state of affairs composed? Of what nature is the
composition whereby a state of affairs is composed of other items? Aristotle
does not say. However, his examples suggest a plausible hypothesis about
how he would answer these two questions. For, given that the state of affairs
of the diagonal™s being incommensurable is a composite item, if one asks
what items it is composed of, the intuitive answer is that it is composed of

32 Cf. [6] and [7] below.
33 1051b 9“17, the passage between T 2 and T 3, will be discussed later as T 6.
Here (1051b 20) the witnesses and the earlier editions read ˜t¼ leuk¼n x…lon™ (cf. Gohlke (1961),
34
287; Halper (1989), 289). I adopt the emendation ˜t¼ leuk¼n <t¼> x…lon™, originally proposed by
Bywater (1913), 110 and printed by Ross, Tredennick, and Jaeger.
35 Cf. Wolf (1979), 99“100; Graeser (1981), 87“8.
54 Bearers of truth or falsehood
the diagonal (a universal) and incommensurable (another universal). Again,
given that the state of affairs of the diagonal™s being incommensurable is a
composite item, if one asks of what nature the composition is whereby it
is composed of other items, the intuitive answer is that this composition
is somehow associated with predication. These considerations about the
state of affairs of the diagonal™s being incommensurable, mentioned by
Aristotle as an example, suggest a plausible hypothesis about how Aristotle
would answer the two general questions about states of affairs asked at
the beginning of this paragraph: Aristotle would probably say, ¬rst, that
the items of which a state of affairs is composed are certain individuals
and universals which are ˜involved in™ the state of affairs, and, second, that
the composition whereby a state of affairs is composed of these items is
somehow associated with predication.

˜10 on the truth and falsehood of states of affairs. Two plausible results have
been established with regard to 10: (i) the word ˜object™ denotes states
of affairs (although it may denote other items besides); (ii) states of affairs
are compounds, and they are composed of further objects (individuals or
universals). Therefore when, at the beginning of T 2, he says that ˜what “is”
and what “is not” are spoken of [. . .] by being in the strictest sense true or
false™ (1051a 34“1051b 2), and he adds that to be in the strictest sense true or
false, ˜in the case of objects, is to be combined or to be divided™ (1051b 2“3),
one claim Aristotle is avowing is probably the following:
[1] For a state of affairs ˜to be™ in the sense of being true is to be combined.
For a state of affairs ˜not to be™ in the sense of being false is to be
divided. For a state of affairs to be combined (divided) is for the objects
(individuals or universals) of which it is composed to be reciprocally
combined (divided).

˜10 on the truth and falsehood of af¬rmative and negative predicative beliefs.
In T 2 Aristotle speaks not only of true and false objects, but also of a
thinker™s being right and being wrong (see 1051b 3“5). What is Aristotle™s
view about the relationship between the truth or falsehood of objects, on
the one hand, and a thinker™s being right or wrong, on the other?
Aristotle says:

What ˜is™ and what ˜is not™ are spoken of [. . .] by being in the strictest sense true
or false, and this, in the case of objects, is to be combined or to be divided, so that
he who thinks of what is divided that it is divided and of what is combined that
it is combined is right, while he who is in a state contrary to that of the objects is
wrong. (1051a 34“1051b 5)
States of affairs, thoughts, and sentences 55
Since he is probably applying ˜object™ to states of affairs, among the claims
which Aristotle is making there are probably the following:
[2] In an af¬rmative predicative belief 36 a state of affairs is thought to be
combined. The belief is true (false) when and only when this state of
affairs is in fact combined (divided).
[3] In a negative predicative belief a state of affairs is thought to be divided.
The belief is true (false) when and only when this state of affairs is in
fact divided (combined).37
Moreover, Aristotle seems to aver [2] and [3] as a consequence of what he
says at the beginning of T 2: note the expression ˜so that™ at 1051b 3. The
premisses which it is most natural to supply in order to derive [2] and [3]
as consequences of [1] are the following:
[4] In an af¬rmative predicative belief a state of affairs is thought ˜to be™ in
the sense of being true. The belief is true (false) when and only when
this state of affairs in fact ˜is™ in the sense of being true (˜is not™ in the
sense of being false).
[5] In a negative predicative belief a state of affairs is thought ˜not to be™ in
the sense of being false. The belief is true (false) when and only when
this state of affairs in fact ˜is not™ in the sense of being false (˜is™ in the
sense of being true).38

Combination and division of objects. Part of what [1] says is that for a state of
affairs to be combined (divided) is for the objects (individuals or universals)
of which it is composed to be reciprocally combined (divided). Therefore,
since Aristotle probably endorses [1], [2], and [3], he probably endorses also
the following:
[6] In an af¬rmative predicative belief an item p is thought to be combined
with an item s. p and s are objects (individuals or universals) which are
being thought of. The af¬rmative predicative belief is true (false) when
and only when p is in fact combined with (divided from) s.
[7] In a negative predicative belief an item p is thought to be divided from
an item s. p and s are objects (individuals or universals) which are being
36 For mental af¬rmations and denials see Int. 14, 24b 1“2 (with Barnes (1993), 49“50); de An. 3.7,
431a 14“16; Metaph. 7, 1012a 2“3; EN 6.2, 1139a 21; 3, 1139b 15“18; 10, 1142b 13“14.
37 Cf. de Rijk (1952), 12; Tugendhat (1966a), 255; Kirwan (1971/93), 178; Wolf (1979), 100; Matthen
(1983), 126; de Rijk (1987), 35“6, 45“7.
38 Cf. Joachim (1948), 193“4; Grayeff (1974), 206; de Rijk (1996), 132; Whitaker (1996), 30; Szaif (1998),
519“20; Crivelli (1999), 54.
56 Bearers of truth or falsehood
thought of. The negative predicative belief is true (false) when and only
when p is in fact divided from (combined with) s.39
In chapter 3 we shall see that for certain existential beliefs which do not
exhibit a predicative structure, Aristotle proposes a theory of truth and
falsehood closely parallel to that presented in [1]“[7].
The primacy of the truth of states of affairs. T 2 consists of three clauses. The
¬rst (1051a 34“1051b 6) is a long sentence of the form ˜Given that . . .™ whose
brief apodosis (1051b 5“6) is interrogative. The second clause (1051b 6) and
the third (1051b 6“9) are sentences beginning with a ˜for™. Thus, T 2™s second
clause probably justi¬es the question asked in the ¬rst clause™s apodosis, and
the third clause probably justi¬es the claim made in the second. Since the
second clause and the interrogative apodosis of the ¬rst are obscure, the
most promising approach to the goal of understanding all three clauses is
to move backwards from the third: ˜For it is not because we truly think that
you are white that you are white, but it is because of your being white that
we who say this are right™ (1051b 6“9). How is this third clause linked to
the preceding characterisation of true and false predicative beliefs in terms
of the ˜being™ in the sense of being true and the ˜not being™ in the sense
of being false of states of affairs? A plausible answer can be obtained by
considering two other passages that make similar claims.40
The ¬rst passage is from Categories 5:
T 4 It is because the object is or is not that the sentence also is said to be true or
false, not because it is able itself to receive contraries. (4b 8“10)
T 4 (which will be discussed again below as part of T 45) can be variously
interpreted. On one of its possible interpretations, ˜object™ means ˜state of
affairs™. If this is correct, then T 4 is saying that it is because the state of
affairs ˜is™ in the sense of being true or ˜is not™ in the sense of being false
that a predicative assertion is true or false. If this is what T 4 says, then it
makes a claim very close to that made by the third clause of T 2, but in a
form which mentions states of affairs.
The second passage is from de Interpretatione 9:
T 5 [. . .] sentences are true in the same way as the objects [. . .] (19a 33)
T 5 also is ambivalent. However, on one of its possible interpretations, it
says that the truth of a sentence ˜follows™ (i.e. depends on, and in its modal
characteristics resembles) that of the corresponding state of affairs.41
39 Cf. the references listed in n. 30 above.
40 Cf. Oehler (1962/85), 176“7; Nuchelmans (1973), 34; Hafemann (1998), 91.
41 Aristotle formulates more or less the same view also elsewhere (Cat. 5, 4a 34“4b 2; 4b 6“13; 12, 14b 11“22;
Int. 9, 18b 38“9).
States of affairs, thoughts, and sentences 57
If the suggested interpretations of T 4 and T 5 are correct, some link
emerges between the third clause of T 2 and the preceding characterisation
of true and false predicative beliefs in terms of the ˜being™ in the sense of
being true and the ˜not being™ in the sense of being false of states of affairs:
when T 2™s third clause says that ˜it is not because we truly think that you
are white that you are white, but it is because of your being white that we
who say this are right™ (1051b 6“9), it means that it is not because we truly
think (or say) that you are white that the state of affairs of your being white
˜is™ in the sense of being true, but it is because the state of affairs of your
being white ˜is™ in the sense of being true that we who think (or say) that
you are white are right. If this exegesis is correct, Aristotle is treating ˜You
are white™ as logically equivalent to ˜The state of affairs of your being white
“is” in the sense of being true™.
If this interpretation of T 2™s third clause is correct, Aristotle is perhaps
hinting that the truth and the falsehood of states of affairs are more fun-
damental than those of predicative beliefs and assertions because they are
mentioned in the de¬nitions of the truth and the falsehood of predicative
beliefs and assertions (cf. [4] and [5] above). This might be the reason why
Aristotle speaks of states of affairs as some of the items that ˜are™ or ˜are not™
˜by being in the strictest sense true or false™ (1051b 1“2). Aristotle thus seems
to have a precisely articulated map of the senses of ˜true™ and ˜false™.42

T 2™s plan of inquiry. We can now return to interpreting the ¬rst and the
second clause of T 2. The interrogative apodosis of T 2™s long ¬rst clause
is:
[a] When is it that what is called true or false ˜is™ or ˜is not™?
The second clause of T 2 is:
[b] For it must be investigated what it is that we call this.
On one possible reading of [b], Aristotle means that it must be investigated
what the items are which we call this, i.e. what the items are which we call
true or false (cf. ˜called true or false™ in [a]). The reason why this problem

42 Cf. Brentano (1862), 30“3; (1889), 5“6; Linke (1965), 307; Seidl (1989/91), ii 491. If the hypothesis
advanced in the main text is correct, an awkward feature of Metaphysics 29 can be explained. In
29 Aristotle takes ˜false™ (˜ye“dov™) to apply to items of three kinds: objects (1024b 17“26), l»goi
(1024b 26“1025a 1), and human beings (1025a 1“13). He mentions neither beliefs nor assertions (the
l»goi of 1024b 26“1025a 1 are probably not assertions, but de¬nientia of de¬nitions or descriptions,
cf. Kirwan (1971/93), 178 and Vigo (1997), 14). This omission is puzzling because in many other
passages he applies ˜false™ to beliefs and assertions (cf. nn. 2 and 7 above). The omission might be
due to the fact that ˜true™ and ˜false™ as applied to beliefs and assertions are de¬nable in terms of their
application to states of affairs (cf. Modrak (2001), 58).
58 Bearers of truth or falsehood
must be investigated is given in T 2™s third clause. As we have seen, the
third clause says that the truth and the falsehood of states of affairs are
more fundamental than those of beliefs and assertions. For this reason we
must be clear about what the items are which we call true or false, i.e.
distinguish clearly the kinds of items which are true or false.43
As for [a], on its most plausible interpretation Aristotle is asking the
question which he could also have formulated by means of the words ˜At
what times is it the case that what is said to be true or false “is” in the sense
of being true or “is not” in the sense of being false?™44 This interpretation
¬ts well with the emphasis that the sequel of 10 puts on time, but is hard
to square with [b]. A connection with [b] might be established by assuming
that Aristotle is already hinting that the behaviour of beliefs and assertions
with regard to truth, falsehood, and time depends on the behaviour of states
of affairs with regard to ˜being™ in the sense of being true, ˜not being™ in
the sense of being false, and time. More precisely, in [a] Aristotle might be
asking at what times a state of affairs ˜is™ in the sense of being true or ˜is
not™ in the sense of being false because he is assuming that the answer to
this question will determine that to the question of when it is that a belief
or an assertion is true or false. Then, in [b] he might be pointing out that
although ˜true™ and ˜false™ apply to states of affairs, beliefs, and assertions,
one must not confuse states of affairs with beliefs or assertions.

States of affairs and time. Here is the continuation of T 2 in 10:
T 6 So, if some objects45 are always combined and it is impossible for them to
be divided, and others are always divided and it is impossible for them to be
combined, while others admit the contrary states, ˜to be™ is to be combined
and one, while ˜not to be™ is not to be combined but many. Therefore,46 with
regard to those objects which admit the contrary states,47 the same belief and
the same sentence comes to be false and true, and it is possible to be right
at one time and wrong at another, but, with regard to those objects which
cannot be otherwise, it [sc. the same belief and the same sentence] does not

Different translations of T 2™s second clause (˜to“to g‡r skept”on t© l”gomen™, 1051b 6) are
43
possible: ˜We must consider what we mean by these terms™ (cf. Rolfes (1904/28), ii 239; Ross (1908),
ad loc.; Tredennick (1933), i 469; Hope (1952), 197; Warrington (1956), 243; Seidl (1989/91), ii 133);
˜Concerning this matter we must examine what our position is™ (cf. Apostle (1966), 158).
44 Cf. Bonitz (1842), 35“6; Maier (1896/1936), i 18“19; de Rijk (1952), 8; Oehler (1962/85), 179“80;
Grayeff (1974), 207.
˜Objects™ (˜t‡ pr†gmata™) is supplied from 1051b 5.
45

At 1051b 11“13 the text I translate is ˜[. . .] –nd”cetai tˆnant©a, t¼ m•n e²na© [. . .] ˆll‡ ple©w e²nai.
46
perª m•n o”n [. . .]™. This is the reading handed down by the main manuscripts, presupposed by
William of Moerbeke™s translation, and, apart from minor variations in punctuation, printed by
most editions.
I take ˜–ndec»mena™ (1051b 13) as short for ˜–ndec»mena tˆnant©a™ (cf. 1051b 11).
47
States of affairs, thoughts, and sentences 59
come to be true at one time and false at another, but the same are always true
and48 false. (1051b 9“17)
In T 6 Aristotle says that for an object ˜“to be” is to be combined and
one, while “not to be” is not to be combined but many™ (1051b 11“13). He is
probably repeating a point he already made at the beginning of T 2, where,
as we saw, at least part of what he was saying was, on the one hand, that
for an object ˜to be™ in the sense of being true is to be combined, and, on
the other, that for an object ˜not to be™ in the sense of being false is to be
divided.49 I previously argued that the items with regard to which Aristotle
in T 2 uses the expression ˜object™ at least include states of affairs,50 and that
what Aristotle meant at the beginning of T 2 was that for a state of affairs
˜to be™ in the sense of being true (˜not to be™ in the sense of being false) is
to be combined (divided).51 Therefore this is probably what he means in
T 6 at 1051b 11“13.52
According to the interpretation of T 2 presented in the last two subsec-
tions, in that passage Aristotle says that since the truth or falsehood of a
state of affairs is the cause of the truth or falsehood of those sentences or
beliefs which posit that state of affairs to be true or false, we must investigate
the behaviour of beliefs and sentences with regard to truth, falsehood, and
time as dependent on the behaviour of states of affairs with regard to ˜being™
in the sense of being true, ˜not being™ in the sense of being false, and time.
In T 6, which immediately follows T 2, Aristotle carries out at least part
of this programme. His analysis moves simultaneously on different levels,
depending on the kind of item which is said to be true or false (states of
affairs, on the one hand, and beliefs and sentences on the other).53
For a state of affairs ˜to be™ in the sense of being true (˜not to be™ in the
sense of being false) is to be combined (divided). Therefore: states of affairs
that are always combined always ˜are™ in the sense of being true; states of

48 Here (1051b 17) Aristotle seems to use ˜and™ (˜ka©™) with the value of ˜or™ (˜¢™): cf. Bonitz (1848/49), ii
410.
49 Cf. the paragraph to which n. 26 above is appended.
50 51 Cf. [1] on p. 54 above.
Cf. the subsection to which n. 29 above is appended.
52 Cf. [Alex. Aphr.] in Metaph. 598, 23“7; Wilpert (1940), 9. Different (but less plausible) interpretations
of Aristotle™s remark that ˜“to be” is to be combined and one, while “not to be” is not to be combined
but many™ (1051b 11“13) are possible: (i) an af¬rmative belief (or sentence) is true (false) when and
only when the objects thought (or spoken) of are combined (divided); (ii) for a belief (or a sentence)
to exist is for there to be a composition of the objects thought (or spoken) of, i.e. the composition of
which those things are ingredients by being thought (or spoken) of in the same belief (or sentence);
(iii) for x to be F is for F to be combined with x (e.g. for you to be white is for white to be combined
with you), while for x not to be F is for F to be divided from x (e.g. for you not to be dark is for dark
to be divided from you) (cf. Aquinas in Metaph. 1900 Cathala/Spiazzi; Oehler (1962/85), 180“1).
53 Cf. [Alex. Aphr.] in Metaph. 598, 10“41; de Rijk (1952), 8“9; Volkmann-Schluck (1979), 265“7; Wolf
(1979), 100.
60 Bearers of truth or falsehood
affairs that are always divided always ˜are not™ in the sense of being false; and
states of affairs that at one time are combined and at another are divided,
at one time ˜are™ in the sense of being true and at another ˜are not™ in the
sense of being false. Moreover, an af¬rmative belief (or sentence) ˜is true™
when and only when the state of affairs it posits ˜to be™ in the sense of being
true in fact ˜is™ in the sense of being true; and a negative belief (or sentence)
˜is true™ when and only when the state of affairs it posits ˜not to be™ in the
sense of being false in fact ˜is not™ in the sense of being false. Therefore:
in the case of states of affairs that always ˜are™ in the sense of being true or
always ˜are not™ in the sense of being false, the same belief (or sentence) is
either always true or always false; in the case of states of affairs which at
one time ˜are™ in the sense of being true and at another ˜are not™ in the sense
of being false, the same belief (or sentence) is true at one time and false at
another.

States of affairs and modality. In T 6 Aristotle also uses some modal notions
to describe the temporal characteristics of states of affairs: a state of affairs
which is always combined is one for which it is impossible to be divided
(see 1051b 9“10); a state of affairs which is always divided is one for which
it is impossible to be combined (see 1051b 10); and a state of affairs which is
sometimes combined and sometimes divided is one for which it is possible to
be in the two contrary conditions (see 1051b 10“11). Given that according to
Aristotle for a state of affairs ˜to be™ (˜not to be™) is to be combined (divided),
these remarks suggest that Aristotle endorses a ˜statistical™ account of the
modalities of states of affairs: a state of affairs that always ˜is™ is one for
which it is impossible ˜not to be™; a state of affairs that always ˜is not™ is one
for which it is impossible ˜to be™; and a state of affairs that sometimes ˜is™
and sometimes ˜is not™ is one for which it is possible ˜to be™ as well as ˜not
to be™.54
Since Aristotle probably endorses a ˜statistical™ account of the modali-
ties of states of affairs, he probably avers also a ˜statistical™ account of the
modalities of beliefs and sentences: a belief (or sentence) which is always
true will be one for which it is impossible to be false; a belief (or sentence)
which is always false will be one for which it is impossible to be true; and

54 For the statistical account of modalities see Top. 2.6, 112b 1“20; Ph. 2.5, 196b 10“21; GC 2.9, 335a 33“
335b 4; 11, 337b 33“338a 3; PA 1.1, 639b 23“4; Metaph. E 2, 1026b 27“30; 10, 1051b 9“17; K 8, 1064b 30“
1065a 6; EN 6.3, 1139b 22“4. Many commentators take Aristotle to endorse the statistical account
of modalities, but there is disagreement on whether it is his only, or most basic, account (see e.g.
Trundle (1981), 52“4). I shall later argue that Aristotle endorses a re¬ned version of the statistical
account of modalities (cf. the subsection to which n. 38 of chapter 7 pertains).
States of affairs, thoughts, and sentences 61
a belief (or sentence) which is true at one time and false at another will
be one for which it is possible to be both true and false. Since the truth
and falsehood of beliefs and sentences are consequences of those of the
corresponding states of affairs (˜It is not because we truly think that you are
white that you are white, but it is because of your being white that we who
say this are right™, 1051b 6“9), the modal properties of beliefs and sentences
are also likely to be consequences of those of the corresponding states of
affairs.55 This is part of what Aristotle claims in T 5 (on the interpretation
of it suggested above): ˜Sentences are true in the same way as the objects.™

Three roles for states of affairs. The texts examined so far make it plausible to
distinguish three roles played by states of affairs in Aristotle™s philosophy:
¬rst, they are bearers of truth or falsehood (for they are true or false); second,
they are bearers of modal properties (for they are necessary, contingent,
possible, or impossible); third, they are objects of propositional attitudes
(for they are the objects of af¬rmative and negative predicative beliefs).
With regard to the third role, i.e. that of objects of propositional atti-
tudes, Aristotle™s view that there are only ˜af¬rmative™ states of affairs has a
peculiar consequence: that propositional attitudes should come in pairs of
contraries. For given that there is nothing like being ˜positively™ related to
a ˜negative™ state of affairs (because there are no ˜negative™ states of affairs),
the job that would have been performed by being ˜positively™ related to a
˜negative™ state of affairs must be taken over by being ˜negatively™ related to
an ˜af¬rmative™ state of affairs: hence the need for pairs of contrary (˜posi-
tive™ and ˜negative™) propositional attitudes. In this respect it is interesting
that Aristotle on several occasions56 draws a parallel between mental af¬r-
mations and denials, on the one hand, and pursuing and avoiding on the
other: what he has in mind might be that pursuing and avoiding are con-
trary (˜positive™ and ˜negative™) propositional attitudes to states of affairs all
of which are ˜af¬rmative™. One can also see how in Metaphysics 3 Aristo-
tle can argue that nobody could believe a contradiction because ˜beliefs in
contradictories are contrary™ (1005b 28“9), i.e. because someone believing
a contradiction would be in contrary states at the same time. If the the-
ory I am attributing to Aristotle is correct, to believe a contradiction is to
believe (mentally af¬rm) and disbelieve (mentally deny) the same state of
affairs, and believing a certain state of affairs is contrary to disbelieving that
same state of affairs.57 Thus, although states of affairs within Aristotle™s

55 Cf. Liske (1995), 358; Vigo (1997), 22“5.
56 De An. 3.7, 431a 8“17; EN 6.2, 1139a 21“2. 57 I owe this point to Robin Smith.
62 Bearers of truth or falsehood
philosophy play essentially the same three roles which some modern
philosophers attribute to propositions (i.e. being bearers of truth or false-
hood, being bearers of modal properties, and being objects of propositional
attitudes), they also turn out to be importantly different from propositions
in the way they play these roles: for, while there are no ˜negative™ states of
affairs, there are, of course, ˜negative™ propositions.

2 t h oug hts
True and false thoughts in Metaphysics E 4. In this section I am concerned
with Aristotle™s views on true and false thoughts. I shall be commenting
on Metaphysics E 4, which constitutes Aristotle™s most thorough exposition
of his views on true and false thoughts. E 4 is an extremely compressed
chapter on which much has been written. I shall endeavour to show that
(contrary to appearances and to what many commentators believe) E 4 is
coherent with 10, and that the two chapters present different parts or
aspects of one and the same theory of truth and falsehood.

The context. Let me ¬rst of all say something about E 4™s context. In E 1
Aristotle announces that he is investigating ˜the principles and the causes
of beings [. . .] qua beings™ (1025b 3“4). At the beginning of E 2 (1026a 33“
1026b 2) he distinguishes four (groups of ) senses of ˜to be™ or ˜being™: the
incidental sense, the veridical sense (whereby ˜being™ expresses truth), the
senses corresponding to the categories, and the senses corresponding to
potentiality and actuality.58 He wants to show that the incidental and the
veridical sense can be left aside because they are parasitical. He turns imme-
diately to establishing this result: the rest of E 2 and E 3 discuss what ˜is™
in the incidental sense, while E 4 addresses what ˜is™ in the sense of being
true. Here is E 4:
T 7 Let us then leave aside what ˜is™ incidentally: for we have suf¬ciently deter-
mined its nature. As for what ˜is™ in the sense of being true and what ˜is not™
in the sense of being false, since they depend on59 composition and division
(and together they are concerned with the apportionment of a contradictory
pair: for truth has the af¬rmation in the case of what is combined and the
58 Cf. n. 20 above.
I read ˜par‡ s…nqesin™ (1027b 19) with the main manuscripts, ps.-Alexander (in Metaph. 456, 31;
59
457, 20“1; 22; 25“6; 27; 38“9; 458, 4“5), Ross, and Tredennick. Asclepius (in Metaph. 373, 32) and
more recent MSS have ˜perª s…nqesin™, the reading printed by Bekker, Schwegler, Bonitz, Christ,
and Jaeger. The idea, expressed here, that truth and falsehood depend on composition and division
is picked up later by the remark that ˜the cause [. . .] of the latter [sc. of what ˜is™ in the sense of being
true] is an affection of thought™ (1027b 34“1028a 1).
States of affairs, thoughts, and sentences 63
denial in the case of what is divided, while falsehood has the contradictory
of this apportionment “ how thinking together or separately come about,
it is another question,60 but I use ˜together™ and ˜separately™ in such a way
that what comes to be is not something continuous but a single thing), for
falsehood and truth are not in objects,61 as if the good were true and the bad
were immediately false,62 but in thought, and with regard to simple items
and the ˜what it is™™s they are not even in thought “ then63 what needs to be
considered about what ˜is™ and ˜is not™ in this sense must be investigated later,
but since the connection and the division are in thought, not in objects, and
what ˜is™ in this sense is a different thing that ˜is™ from the things that ˜are™ in
the strict sense (because thought joins or subtracts64 either the ˜what it is™ or
that it is such-and-such or that it is so much or something else, whatever it
may be),65 we must leave aside what ˜is™ in the incidental sense as well as what
˜is™ in the sense of being true: for the cause of the former is indeterminate,
while that of the latter is an affection of thought, and both are concerned with
the remaining genera of being and do not reveal an outside nature of being.
Given that things are so, let these be left aside, and let us consider the causes
and the principles of being itself, qua being. (1027b 17“1028a 4)


E 4™s promise and its ful¬lment in 10. In Metaphysics E 4 (= T 7) Aristotle
says that ˜falsehood and truth are not in objects [. . .] but in thought™
(1027b 25“7). Thus in E 4 Aristotle regards truth and falsehood as properties
of thoughts. At 1027b 28“9 he promises to discuss later certain questions66
˜about what “is” and “is not” in this sense™, i.e. about what ˜is™ in the sense
60 Cf. de An. 1.3, 407a 6“10; 3.6, 430a 26“430b 6.
61 At 1027b 19“26 my punctuation differs from those of the editions I consulted.
62 Cf. EN 3.4, 1111b 33“4. Aristotle, however, does think that truth is linked to goodness and falsehood
to badness. For truth is a success (a true belief achieved its goal), falsehood a failure (a false belief
missed its goal): see EN 6.2, 1139a 27“9, cf. de An. 3.7, 431b 10“12; Metaph. a 1, 993b 19“21; EN 3.4,
1111b 33“4; 1112a 5“7; 4.13, 1127a 28“30; 6.2, 1139b 12“13; 10, 1142b 8“11; MM 1.34, 1196b 35“6; EE 2.4,
1221b 29“30; Rh. 1.1, 1355a 21“2; 1355a 37; Protr. fr. 73 Gigon 305b 25“306a 2 (= Iamb. Protr. 42, 5“23);
Aquinas in Metaph. 1230; 1234; 1239 Cathala/Spiazzi; R´gis (1935), 67; Tugendhat (1966a), 259“60;
e
Pritzl (1993), 242; Negro (1996/97), 341; Wlodarczyk (2000), 186“7; Modrak (2001), 57. Plato (Tht.
194c1“3) also thinks that truth is a goal. For ˜good™ applied to items in the categorial scheme see Top.
1.15, 107a 3“12; EN 1.4, 1096a 25“34 (with Ackrill (1972), 207“11); EE 1.8, 1217b 25“1218a 1.
63 The apodosis of the long ˜since™“˜then™ period begins here (cf. [Alex. Aphr.] in Metaph. 457, 36“458,
1; Bonitz (1842), 33; (1848/49), ii 293“4; (1862/67), 188; Jaeger (1912), 23; Ross (1924), i 365). For
˜o”n™ at the beginning of an apodosis see Bonitz (1870), 540b 12“25. For a long parenthetical passage
separating protasis from apodosis see Int. 9, 19a 7“22.
At 1027b 33 I opt for the reading ˜ˆjaire± ¡ di†noia™, attested unanimously by the main manuscripts
64
and printed by Ross. Bonitz, D¨ bner, Christ, and Jaeger read ˜diaire± ¡ di†noia™ with William of
u
Moerbeke and ps.-Alexander (in Metaph. 458, 8“9).
Here (1027b 32) I read ˜£ e­ ti Šllo™ with E, J, William of Moerbeke, and most editions (cf. E 2,
65
1026a 37). Ab , Brandis, and Ross read ˜¢ ti Šllo™.
66 There is no inconsistency in Aristotle™s programme if he announces, on the one hand, that he will
discuss later certain speci¬c but important questions concerning ˜being™ in the sense of being true
and ˜not being™ in the sense of being false and, on the other, that he will leave aside the systematic
64 Bearers of truth or falsehood
of being true and what ˜is not™ in the sense of being false.67 He seems to
ful¬l this promise in Metaphysics 10. Hence 10, and in particular its
beginning (1051a 34“1051b 9 = T 2), probably expands on E 4.

The alleged clash of E 4 and ˜10: (i) the truth of thoughts concerning simple
items. Some commentators68 think that E 4 clashes with 10 and de Anima
3.6. For in E 4 Aristotle says that ˜with regard to simple items and the “what
it is”™s they [sc. truth and falsehood] are not even in thought™ (1027b 27“
10 (1051b 17“1052a 4 =
8). On the other hand, in the central part of
T 23) Aristotle commits himself to the claim that thoughts and linguistic
expressions concerning non-composite items are true (and cannot be false).
Moreover, in the ¬nal part of de Anima 3.6 (430b 26“31 < T 24) he claims
that the ˜intellect [. . .] which is of the “what it is” according to the “what
it was to be” is true, and it is not something about something™.
However, the clash is merely apparent. For in E 4 Aristotle can be under-
stood as saying that truth and falsehood are not both present in thoughts
concerning simple items, the ground for this being that thoughts concern-
ing simple items are only true and cannot be false “ precisely the contention
of 10 and de Anima 3.6.69

and exhaustive study of ˜being™ in the sense of being true (cf. Leszl (1975), 216). Alternatively, the
appearance of an inconsistency in Aristotle™s programme might be dissolved by assuming (with [Alex.
Aphr.] in Metaph. 458, 10“15, and against Jaeger (1912), 23“4) that Aristotle is merely announcing
that he is provisionally leaving aside ˜being™ in the sense of being true. If there is no inconsistency in
Aristotle™s programme, then the main support for the hypothesis, advanced by Jaeger (1912), 24“5
(cf. Jaeger (1923), 212; Ross (1924), i.xxx; Gohlke (1961), 197, 451), that lines 1027b 25“9 were inserted
by Aristotle himself in a later edition of the Metaphysics is demolished.
I take ˜what “is” and “is not” in this sense™ (˜t¼ oÌtwv ¿n kaª mŸ Àn™, 1027b 29) to mean ˜what “is” in
67
the sense of being true and what “is not” in the sense of being false™ (cf. [Alex. Aphr.] in Metaph. 457,
36“458, 1; Aquinas in Metaph. 1233 Cathala/Spiazzi; Bonitz (1848/49), ii 294; Ross (1924), ii 365; de
Rijk (1952), 8). This interpretation is corroborated by the circumstance that shortly later the phrase
˜what “is” in this sense™ (˜t¼ oÌtwv Àn™, 1027b 31) surely means ˜what “is” in the sense of being true™.
Some commentators (e.g. Schwegler (1847/48), iv 32; Christ (1906), 131; Gohlke (1961), 197; Oehler
(1962/85), 171; Luther (1966), 180; Tricot (1966), i 344; Halper (1989), 217) instead take ˜what “is” and
“is not” in this sense™ (1027b 29) to mean ˜what “is” in the sense of being true which is appropriate
to simple items and essences and what “is not” in the sense of being false which is appropriate to
simple items and essences™. Accordingly, they think that the questions Aristotle promises to discuss
concern only the ˜being™ in the sense of being true and the ˜not being™ in the sense of being false of
non-composite items.
68 Ammon. in Int. 27, 27“28, 1; [Phlp.] in de An. 544, 21“545, 5 Hayduck; Brentano (1862), 33“4;
Ross (1924), ii 275“6; Wilpert (1940), 10, 13“14; Brandt (1965), 18“19; Hamlyn (1968/93), 142; Reale
(1968/93), i 100; Sorabji (1982), 297; (1983), 140; Montanari (1984/88), ii 67“8; Vigo (1997), 34.
69 Cf. Ross (1924), i 365; Heidegger (1925/26), 129, 135“6; Harvey (1978), 220; Pritzl (1998), 187“8. Other
commentators (Ascl. in Metaph. 374, 7“8; Bonitz (1848/49), ii 293“4; Jaeger (1912), 23; (1923), 212;
de Rijk (1952), 16, 24; Luther (1966), 180; Sillitti (1966), 320“1; Seidl (1971), 181; Volkmann-Schluck
(1979), 262; Pritzl (1984), 144; de Rijk (1987), 51; Berti (1990), 113; Fiorentino (2001), 282; Modrak
(2001), 65) favour a different reconciliation of E 4 with 10: when in E 4 Aristotle says that ˜with
regard to simple items and the “what it is”™s they [sc. truth and falsehood] are not even in thought
States of affairs, thoughts, and sentences 65
The alleged clash of E 4 and ˜10: (ii) truth and falsehood holding of thoughts
and objects. According to some commentators,70 E 4™s remark ˜Falsehood
and truth are not in objects [. . .] but in thought™ (1027b 25“7) clashes with
10™s remark ˜Being in the strictest sense true or false [. . .], in the case
of objects, is to be combined or to be divided™ (1051b 1“3). For E 4™s remark
seems to commit Aristotle to
[a] Truth and falsehood do not hold of objects,
while 10™s remark seems to commit him to
[b] Truth and falsehood hold of objects
(here and in the rest of this subsection I use ˜object™ to mean ˜object whose
nature is neither mental nor linguistic™).
However, the clash could be merely apparent. For it could be the case
that 10™s remark commits Aristotle not to [b], but to
[c] ˜Being in the strictest sense true™ and ˜being in the strictest sense false™
hold of objects,
where ˜being in the strictest sense true™ is a property which not only is
distinct from truth but does not even entail it, and, similarly, ˜being in the
strictest sense false™ is a property which not only is distinct from falsehood
but does not even entail it. The reconciliation I am suggesting does have
some plausibility. For 10™s remark is ostensibly about ˜being in the strictest
sense true™ and ˜being in the strictest sense false™, which can be plausibly
taken to be the properties signi¬ed by ˜true™ and ˜false™ when they are used in
some exceptionally strict sense, while E 4™s remark is ostensibly about truth
and falsehood, which can be plausibly taken to be the properties signi¬ed
by ˜true™ and ˜false™ when they are used in their ordinary sense. Aristotle™s
position could then be the following: ˜being in the strictest sense true™ and
˜being in the strictest sense false™ (the properties signi¬ed by ˜true™ and ˜false™

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