Another fairly brief chapter but again very rich. Maimon’s aim is to distinguish and clarify various ways in which the word ‘truth’ can be used (the chapter’s title lists these) as well as to reflect on the objectivity of the forms of thought delineated in the Essay, all the time continuing certain broadly Kantian observations whilst entertaining certain criticisms of the Kantian project.
The chapter opens by defining truth not as a property of thoughts but of signs (Zeichen) and expressions (Ausdrücke) in relation to thoughts. Thus the expression ‘a right angled triangle’ is a true concept because through it a triangle can be thought as determinable and being-right-angled can be thought as a determination and the two then ‘taken together’ (zusammengenommen – see Chapter 7), the necessary connection of subject and predicate becoming visible. A false concept is one which “is taken to refer to something (a thought unity) that it cannot refer to” (80). A third possibility exists, of a concept which is neither true nor false, e.g. ‘a black triangle’ where thinking black does not lead automatically to the thought of a triangle; the one can be thought without the other and in fact nothing (or very little) is thought in such an expression. Continue reading
[cross-posted at Abberant Monism]
Early in his Treatise Hume proposes a simple challenge to anyone who would deal his system a fatal blow: come up with an idea that cannot be traced to a corresponding impression. Hume then offers a possible example, namely the case of the missing shade of blue. If we had experienced all shades of blue except for a single shade, and if all these shades were spread out before us except for the missing shade, would we be able to come up with an idea of this shade despite the fact that we had never had the corresponding impression of it? Hume claims we no doubt could and then quickly dismisses the case as exceptional and of little threat to his system. David Pears, Jonathan Bennett, and others believe Hume was mistaken to dismiss the missing shade as an insignificant exceptional case and argue that it does indeed pose a serious challenge to his system. There has been much ink put to paper to address this issue. Then towards the end of the Treatise, in the Appendix, Hume makes another claim concerning simple ideas that has also caused much consternation. After claiming that ‘simple ideas may have a similarity or resemblance to each other,’ he argues that ‘Blue and green are different simple ideas, but are more resembling than blue and scarlet’; moreover, these comparisons can be made without relying upon or ‘having any common circumstance the same.’ (T 637). As simple ideas, blue, green, and scarlet are qualities that are not composites and yet they may and do vary by degree. As Hume puts it, all the degrees in any quality – degrees of blue, intensity of color, etc., ‘are all resembling’ – they all resemble the simple idea blue – ‘and yet the quality, in any individual, is not distinct from the degree.’ (ibid.). In other words, if we think of the missing shade of blue as one of the qualitative degrees of intensity of the simple idea blue, then the missing shade is not distinct from the qualitative simple idea we do possess, and hence the inseparability of degree from quality enables one to come up with the idea of the missing shade. This is why the Laplander, to refer to another of Hume’s examples from the first Enquiry, is unable to come up with the idea of wine – they had not had a single impression of wine and hence no degrees of quality either. Continue reading