Abstract detail

Title Contradiction and Signification: Early 20th Century Challenges to Aristotle’s Account of the Principle of Non-Contradiction

Aristotle’s defense of the Principle of Non-Contradiction (PNC) constitutes a crucial moment in the history of Western philosophy. For more than 2,000 years, Aristotle’s doctrine of non-contradiction as the first and indubitable principle of Being remained virtually unchallenged. Nearly universal in its acceptance, it has been part of the very fabric of virtually all European philosophic thought until the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. It was not until the work of G.W.F. Hegel and Karl Marx in the19th century and subsequently, at the onset of the 20th century, in the work of philosophers like Nicolas A. Vasil’év, Alexius Meinong, Jan Łukasiewicz and Edward Conze, that the universal validity of the PNC was questioned and, ultimately, rejected. In this paper, Aristotle’s main argument for the universal validity of the PNC, his “negative demonstration” (1006a 15 ff.), is re-examined with respect to the challenges brought to bear on his account by the above mentioned philosophers. I will present arguments in favor of what has been labeled the transcendental interpretation of Aristotle’s account, which holds that Aristotle’s argument in defense of the PNC is successful if and only if one accepts Aristotle’s semantic theory of signification.

Primary author
Holger Heine