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Dela Cruz Alexis Dy
Philo 195
Prof. Lee

The Challenge of False Proposition: Revisited

To refer to a true proposition in a crude sense, is for it to have a correlation to the
material world
. For example, the statement John is in the classroom would be a true
proposition if there was indeed an existing John in the classroom, and it would be made false if it
is verified otherwise. Following from this definition, we may regard false proposition, as that
which does not mirror a reality in the world. Going back to our sample proposition, if there was
no John in the classroom it would be the case that the proposition is false. This explanation
seems satisfying at first glance, then again a dilemma surfaces; as what was raised by Garver and
Lee on chapter 2. If false propositions are false because there are no existing reality that
correlates to them, why is it that we are still able to understand the meaning behind them (Garver
& Lee, 1994:16)? If there is no John in the classroom, why is it that we are still able to come up
with a corresponding meaning, such as the informant lying or is ignorant of the fact that there is
no John in the classroom? From what I understand from the challenge of false proposition is it
brings about the necessity to come up with criteria of truth and meaning because the challenge
seems to imply that false proposition could also elicit the characteristic of having meaning.

What I mean by this is the mateiial woilu as opposeu to the intellectual woilu.

Hence, to not blur the line between true and false propositions, it is necessary to distinguish truth
from meaning.
Although it was not discussed in class, there are notable philosophers who made a
response to false propositions, which can be reviewed in chapter 2. I would be enumerating these
and evaluate if they were effective in addressing the problem. The first one to address false
propositions is Cratylus
, through a dialogue written by Plato. Cratylus argues that there is no
such thing as false propositions. He inferred this argument from the definition of a name as that
which points to its object; hence, a name without an object
is meaningless for it is not a name at
all (Garver & Lee, 1994:16). However, I find this account a little bit unsatisfying for one: there
are names that does not have objects such as nothing, hollow and so on
. Moreover, I can
name nonexistent objects in my imaginations such as a Cyclops guarding my bathroom. If false
propositions are just meaningless utterance, then why is it that I can form a picture in my mind of
a nonexistent object and very much understand what it meant? Nonetheless, it can be argued that
I can form a picture of such nonexistent object because there is a cultural reference to such a
thing. This enables us to form an image in our mind making the name true for it corresponds to
something. Another example would be a unicorn, although there is no such thing, we have a
reference of a horse and a horn in our minds which makes it possible for us to imagine a unicorn.
Yet again, this line of thoughts does not settle our problem in regard to the criteria of truth and
meaning because this explanation is interchanging meaning and true propositions. We have
already established that meaning is not what separates true from false propositions and that false
propositions must be different from a meaningless proposition because having meaning is not

I woulu like to claiify that I am not implying that Ciatylus puiposely auuiess the pioblem of false
pioposition because it is a pioblem that has yet to be iaiseu uuiing his time. Bis view howevei has a ielation
iegaiuing the mattei.
A point of iefeience
Whethei it is a name oi not is foi anothei uiscussion.

entirely an unfamiliar realm to false propositions. Therefore, we can say that this account on
false proposition lacks the characteristic to solve the challenge of false propositions.
Another philosopher by the name of Leibniz tried to clear the problem with a different
approach. He attempted to come up with a universal language by embodying all human
concepts into scientific symbols, which it would perfectly represent (Garver & Lee, 1994:17).
Through this, if it were to be successful, we would be able to segregate true from false
proposition by the process of calculation. I am not quite sure, unfortunately, how he would
attempt to materialize this project for there are too many human concepts, varying from culture
to culture, to be able to embody in one language. Moreover, there are concepts, which even in
the ordinary language is yet to be defined or are still debatable. Even if we suppose that all
concepts are clear, it would take centuries to gather all human concepts and put a symbol to it;
for even one language took a lot of time to evolve (and is still evolving) to what it is today. Then
again, to have such an ideal language must be a very comfortable place to live in (although it
would rid philosophers of their jobs) for it would minimize conflicts; however, being able to
materialize such language is beyond me.
Garver and Lee also mentioned the correspondence theory of truth that also has a
distinction of false propositions, that which lacks coherence or involves contradiction among the
sentences themselves (Garver & Lee, 1994:17). This however faces the same problem as the
others for it brings us back into making truth and meaning interchangeable.
In Tractatus, Wittgenstein tried to settle the problem by proposing a metaphysical
dualism namely facts (what ueteimines tiuth anu falsity of a pioposition) anu objects (The
'substance' of the woilu ueteimines meaning). Bence, if a well-foimeu sentence cannot be
compiehenueu it only implies that a poition of that sentence has not been assigneu a

meaning, oi a coiielate 'object' (Garver & Lee, 1994:18). In other words, what separates truth
from meaning is that truth can be empirically verified whereas meaning is a transcendental
question. However, the later Wittgenstein move into another perspective which is the naturalist
view; wherein, rather than transcendental, meaning is part of the natural world and is known
through rules. The two content of the world therefore, are facts, that which determines the
truth-value of a proposition, and rules, that which determines the meaning. This solution seems
to be the most promising, for it gives a clearer distinction between truth and meaning. Then
again, we will find facts and rules problematic in themselves. The problem with facts is that it
brings us to a circular reasoning; or rather it is hard to reason out why we call a fact, fact. The
problem with rule on the other hand, is stated in Wittgensteins Paradox wherein an action
cannot be determined by a rule, for any action can be aligned in accordance to the rule. This
problem can be associated with the theorem of analytic geometry in which there is an infinite
number of formulas for every shape. As to which, if there is a rule for every phonological
string then, then no set of sounds can be distinctively rule governed (Garver & Lee, 1994:19-
20). However, if all phonological string can be morphed to fit in the rule, then even those that are
not sensible can be aligned with it. In other words, rules cannot distinguish sense from nonsense.
To cover up this loophole the distinction between relevant and irrelevant rules were introduced;
wherein the relevant rules are those that are honored and practiced imbibed by human customs
and culture (Garver & Lee, 1994:20). If that is the case, would that not make meaning, merely a
matter of culture? It seems that, thats what was implied but I have yet to answer that question.
Although I agree to the proposition that meaning and truth are two different concepts,
they are not entirely separate from each other. I believe that meaning is a necessary characteristic
found in both true and false propositions and that meaninglessness is a completely different

realm. It is the case since, to be able to segregate true propositions from what is not, there must
be an extent of understanding towards the proposition. If I was able to label the proposition
John is in the classroom as a true or false proposition there must be a degree of understanding
present when I was making the judgment, what I meant by this is that I was able to understand
what are the implications and expected scenarios for the proposition John is in the classroom
to be true or false. Understanding is possible, only because there is an intended meaning behind
the proposition. What I am implying in this account is that meaninglessness is not a characteristic
of a proposition. When I say John is in the classroom is a true proposition, I am saying so
because there is a corresponding reality to it, if I say John is not in the classroom is a true
proposition that is also because that there is a corresponding reality to it which is the absence of a
john in the classroom. As to what are true propositions, I am satisfied with the definition that it is
that which mirrors a reality in the world and false propositions are that which does not; and
having no corresponding reality to it does not follow meaninglessness.

uaivei, Newton anu Seung-Chong Lee. Beiiiua & Wittgenstein. Philauephia 19122: Temple
0niveisity, 1994.