Keith Hossack: The Absence of Falsity
Why does the Law of Excluded Middle hold? A metaphysics of primitive truth and falsity does not say, but the metaphysics of properties, relations and states of affairs can offer an explanation. We may suppose that the concept of negation has as its referent a real entity, namely the negation relation, which obtains between a thing and a property if the thing lacks the property. Because negation is a something and not a nothing, it can be a constituent of states of affairs, and hence there can be ‘negative facts’. This explains the difference between the predicables and the impredicables: x is a property if for every y, there exists either the state of affairs whose constituents are x and y, or the state of affairs whose constituents are negation, x and y. The former state of affairs makes true the proposition that y instantiates x, while the latter makes true the proposition that y does not instantiate x. Since one or the other must exist, the Law of Excluded Middle follows.
Anneli Jefferson: False beliefs with a purpose
Both pre-theoretically and on many philosophical accounts of belief, representing the world accurately is taken to be the purpose of belief. However, the literature on psychological biases shows that our beliefs about the world and ourselves are often systematically skewed. One example for this is the optimism bias, the tendency to think that we are better than average, that we are less likely to experience negative life events than others and more likely to experience positive ones.
In this context, two important questions arise: are optimistically biased beliefs actually false and if, so, is this a problem or is it in fact a desirable and useful feature of our thinking? There are a number of methodological and epistemological problems in establishing the falsity of specific cases of optimistically biased belief: For example, when 70% of the population take themselves to be better than average drivers, 20 percent must be wrong. However, it is less easy to establish which individuals have made an error. Similarly, there are cases where it is hard to assess whether people’s assessments of risks, and failure to respond to evidence that suggests a high risk of bad things happening to them, is a case of mistaken thinking or whether they have information unavailable to the outside observer.
There is however sufficient evidence to be able to say that frequently, people’s views are unrealistically positive and they are mistaken when they assess their own abilities and prospects. What is more, psychologists argue that unrealistic optimism is a desirable feature of human thinking. It has been argued that optimistically biased thinking is an evolutionary adaptation which has survived because it encourages risk taking, and where potential payoffs are high and risks low, taking risks is a good thing. Furthermore, it is frequently pointed out that unrealistic optimism is absent in depressive individuals, therefore, so the thinking goes, it is at the very least part of healthy human cognition. There is a perception that the optimism bias is beneficial in moderation, because it helps us persevere in our projects and makes us feel better about ourselves. If we were to take this psychological reasoning on board and incorporate it into a philosophical account of the purpose of belief, we would have to conclude that truth on its own is not the primary goal of belief. Rather, beliefs are representations that help us navigate the world, and frequently, it is truth that is most relevant to this purpose, but there are specific instances where falsity serves human needs and purposes better.
MM McCabe: First chop your logos... Socrates and the Sophists on language, logic and moral development
The sophistic brothers of Plato’s Euthydemus, Euthydemus and Dionysodorus, put forward an account of speaking or saying which denies the possibility of falsehood, and of disagreement. In so doing, they invite their companions to take a view of logos (speech/word/language/reason?) which is episodic: ‘chopped logos’. I show how this view is to be contrasted with Socrates’ interest in the different aspects of various verbs (‘learning’ and ‘speaking’ in particular), and argue that Socrates suggests a complex normativity for speaking and saying. This gives Socrates a rich account of truth-telling, which allows for the possibility of falsehood, and which illuminates the Platonic connection between virtue and knowledge in striking ways.
Tuomas E. Tahko: Falsity and Primitive Incompatibility
What makes things false? What are negative facts? A classic and natural way to account for this problem is in terms of incompatibility: a negative fact is made true by any fact which makes true another proposition that is incompatible with the corresponding positive fact that is denied by the negative one. The first defence of the view is usually credited to Demos (1917), but the view was quickly dismissed by Russell (1919), and by many others more recently. Contemporary literature often approaches the problem in terms of truthmaker theory, but the competing views emerging from this literature - totality facts, absences, and primitive negative facts - certainly have their problems. Some novel attempts to defend incompatibilism have also been made. In this paper I will re-evaluate the incompatibilist option and attempt to clarify what primitive incompatibility amounts to.
Demos, R. (1917) 'A Discussion of a Certain Type of Negative Proposition',
Mind 26.102, pp. 188-96.
Russell, B. (1919) The Philosophy of Logical Atomism, Lecture 3, The
Monist 29.1, pp. 32-63.