The Flight From Contingency 5


23. Not only true descriptions refer to the object of the descriptions, also false descriptions are directed to the object of the descriptions. Insofar descriptions fail to correspond to the object they describe and hence are false, they stand in a relation of a non-conformity between object and description.

Descriptions may or may not coincide with the object they describe: the non-coincidence, however, is not complete: the object of the true and coincident description is also the object of the wrong/false descriptions – otherwise the false descriptions would no longer be descriptions of the object: they would then not be false, but rather descriptions of another object.

For descriptions to be false they must correlate/agree with regard to the (denoting) description ((Angabe)Beschreibung) of the object with the object and hence as well insofar with the true object-description. (That much the false descriptions have to share with the true object-description ...)

A false description of the table in the corner must at least describe the table in the corner and not the chair in the middle -- otherwise the description would no longer be a description of the table in the corner but a description of the chair in the middle. How wrong/false can and may a description of an apple be, to be still a description of the apple?


24. What the descriptions of the object have yet to achieve: the agreement/correspondence with the object, that has already been achieved for the primary, for the denoting description of the object: the agreement/correspondence, the equivalence (“Entsprechung”) with the object in the beyond of discourse.


25. In order for the descriptions of the object to be in question, the denoting description /object/ must be out of question.

In order to discuss what the table in the corner is like (brown or not brown, wooden or not, so or else), we must not dispute that the table is in the corner (nor, that a table is in the corner and not another object). The denoting description /the table in the corner/ is out of discussion.

Of course the denoting description can also be drawn into doubt: but then a change of discourse takes place: e.g. from a discourse about the table in the corner to a discourse about a piece of furniture in the corner.


26. When we describe an object, for example the snow on the mountain, then we might describe it like this: “The snow on the mountain is white.” The sentence “The snow on the mountain is white.” refers to the snow on the mountain.The sentence “The snow on the mountain is white.” at the language-level corresponds to the object on the object-level if the snow on the mountain is white.


27. “The snow is white.”, “The table is brown.”, “The cat is on the mat.”, “Mt. Everest is a mountain in the Himalayas”: Most of the examples used in dualist discourse to demonstrate when and in what there is a correspondence/correlation between description and object are of this kind. They are descriptions, sentences and statements whose truth no halfway-educated person would take into doubt. Choosing other examples, like “Aids is (not) caused by a virus” or “Perchloroethylene is carcinogenic” or “There are (no) quarks” could lead into discussions whether Aids is (not) a viral disease, whether and why perchlorethylene is (not) carcinogenic, whether quarks exist or not.

Such examples complicate the discussion: It may well be that philosophers are not in a position to decide whether this or that opinion about AIDS or perchloroethylene is the true or false one. But if philosophers trust themselves such a decision, then that decision may well turn out to be controversial: The result would be that these philosophers might hold the same theory of truth, but illustrate truth with contrasting examples.


28. It is insinuatedthat the example sentences are true sentences. The snow is white, the table is brown, Mt. Everest is a mountain in the Himalayas and the cat is on the mat. Tarski is not interested, whether the snow is white (he knows that), but in what it means for a sentence to be true, when and under what conditions a sentence is true.

In the rare cases when falsehood and error are thematized, sentences serve as examples whose falsehood is obvious and which no reasonable person would ever advocate.


29. The sentences chosen as examples are not in question: It is precisely not to be discussed, whether these example sentences are true: their truth or falsehood is presupposed, otherwise the discourse-participants would no longer be discussing the problem of truth, but perhaps medical or physical problems.(Even examples of the “snow-is-white” class could be put into question: Master carpenters and self-willed apprentices may well disagree whether a table is round or not – but then these are problems between carpenters and not philosophical problems.)

The examples used by truth-theories are always true to the extent the respective theory allows.


30. On the other hand it should be irrelevant for the dualist truth discussion, whether examples chosen for true sentences, are “really” or merely “supposedly” true.

Sentences are true or false regardless of whether their truth or falsehood is established. The assessment of the truth or falsehood of a sentence has no bearing on its truth or falsehood, otherwise a “dualist” error would not be possible.

The dualist error is based on the description-resistance of the object, on the identity of the object, against the descriptions. This error is often determined argumentatively in this way: “You only believe, that ... is, but in reality it is different.” or: “I was convinced that snow is white, but now it has turned out that snow is not white.”


31. The dualist way of thinking can achieve its goal of avoiding arbitrariness only, if sentences labelled as “true” have a greater chance of being true than sentences labelled as “false”. At least tendentially it should contribute towards only true sentences being declared as “true” and only false sentences being declared “false”.


32. In dualism, when is a description, a sentence, a statement or another language performance true?

A description is true, if the object is already in advance of the description as it is described in the best case, in the case of truth.

The object is already differentiated in advance of the description to the extent or further than it is differentiated by the true description, which is directed to the object of the description.

This presupposition of the object also enables a distinction between an incomplete, or partial and a perhaps complete description of the object. 


33. A determination of truth that can be traced back to Aristotle, reads:“To say of what is that it is, is true and to say of what is that it is not is false....” This truth determination can be illustrated by a standard-example of dualist truth discussion: “To say of the white snow that it is white, is true and to say of the white snow that it is not white, is false.” Another determination would be: “To say of p that p, is true and to say of p that not p, is false.”


34. Now what object does the sentence “The snow is white.” describe? The snow? or the white snow? The determination “To say of the white snow that it is white is true and...” suggests that the sentence “The snow is white.” describes the white snow. But it is not epistemically relevant to describe the white snow as white snow; whereas it is epistemically relevant to describe the snow as white snow. 


35. When I am asked, what I am talking about, I must be able to indicate/denote what I am talking about. And this denoting talk ( Angabe-Rede ), (or denoting description ( Angabe-Beschreibung ), by means of which I denote/present what I am talking about, is a “that-prerequisite” of the object, which is and must be put out of question, so that I can continue to talk ( further ) about the object at all. It is of course possible to question the denoting description any time – but such a questioning leads to a change of discourse. I will then no longer talk about snow but perhaps about cotton wool, cocaine etc. 

Even if I myself do not question the object I am talking about, because and insofar I talk about it, another may do so: But this other then does not participate in the discourse about the snow --- he conducts a different discourse, perhaps about powdered sugar or a mysterious white substance, etc. 


36. For an epistemically relevant description of the snow it must not be predetermined at the time of the description whether the snow is white or not. Although the sentence “The snow is white.” may state/establish that the snow is white, this statement/establishment does not yet make the sentence a true sentence and the snow not white.

The snow is white or not white, independent of what is asserted or stated about it. Only when I know that snow is white, I can denote the object of the description -- the snow – by means of the description “The snow is white”. Or? I can be mistaken. But objects are denoted/specified with the help of descriptions held by the describer. With what else should he denote/indicate the object? With the help of descriptions, he does  not hold? 


37. (Variant 1) The sentence “The snow is white.” is a description of the snow. In the truth case, this sentence is a cognition/knowledge exceeding the cognition/knowledge that preceded the description of the snow (and had to precede, in order to be able to denote the object for the description). The sentence “The snow is white.” is thus a knowledge/cognition  from now on which surpasses the knowledge/cognition  so far /snow/. The sentence is a creative/constructive cognition. 


38. (Variant 2) In contrast the sentence “The snow is white.” then, when it describes the white snow, is a mere repetition of a cognition  so far, a cognition already made.  That  the snow is white is already known at the time of the description of the snow as white.

The cognition  so far  the white snow/ stands in a relation of 1: “1”, of p: “p” to the cognition  from now on , which is expressed in the description “The snow is white.”. Nothing is said over and above what we already know. The sentence “The snow is white.” is, if anything, a receptive/realized cognition and does not bring any gain in knowledge.The goal of seeking truth, knowledge and agreement is always already achieved through descriptions that merely repeat the denotation of the object  prior to the description. And the examples in dualist discussions of truth are often of this kind. 


39. In the second variant it was already known before the description of the object, how the object is (“in reality”). In the first variant only after the description of the object can it be stated/denoted how the object was even before the description. This denotation  (Angabe) is only possible with the help of the description of the object. A procedure which thus establishes a correlation/an equivalence/( eine “Entsprechung” ) between description and object is circular, whereas the truth determination in the second variant is tautological.In the first variant initially the claim to truth is made for a sentence and then redeemed by this sentence; in the second variant, true sentences are tagged as true. 


40. In the practice of cognition and description we find sentences of the first and of the second variant. A situation in which the second variant dominates is the discourse in a traditional teaching and learning situation. 

The teacher’s presentations belong to the second variant. He takes it for granted that his descriptions don’t need to be tested and judged for truth: they are true, albeit including an error-caveat, otherwise he would not teach them.

The teacher teaches the students what he himself once learned. He knows in advance what he is talking about. For the teacher teaching the students is about passing on knowledge he acquired (before teaching).

For the students it is about making learning or cognitive progress, acquiring a knowledge which surpasses the knowledge they already have. This further knowledge is knowledge the teacher has ahead of them. 


41. If the teacher asks the student to describe Napoleon, then for the student the object of the description to be made is Napoleon. The student may now describe Napoleon like this: “Napoleon is the victor of Austerlitz.”

The teacher judges the match/agreement between the object and the student’s description of the object based on whether the student’s description matches the object  via his knowledge. For the student  Napoleon is the object of the description “Napoleon is the victor of Austerlitz.” But for the teacher  Napoleon, the victor of Austerlitz (and loser of the battle of Waterloo etc. etc .) is the object the student describes.

The student description “Napoleon is the victor of of Austerlitz.” is true because it correlates to the object given to the student by the teacher.

The description “Napoleon is the victor of Austerlitz.” is a description  from now on for the student, and it is a description so far for the teacher.

Next: The Flight From Contingency 6


Josef Mitterer is an Austrian philosopher.

The Flight From Contigency 1 here

The Flight From Contingency 2 here

The Flight From Contingency 3 here

The Flight From Contingency 4 here

On Interpretation here

On Interpretation 2 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 1 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 2 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 3 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 4 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 5 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 6 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 7 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 8 here

The Beyond of Philosophy here

The Beyond of Philosophy 10 here