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North American Philosophical Publications

Time, Truth, and Knowledge in Ancient Greek Philosophy


Author(s): Jaakko Hintikka
Source: American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Jan., 1967), pp. 1-14
Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of the North American Philosophical
Publications

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American

Philosophical

Quarterly
i, January
1967

4, Number

Volume

IN

I. TIME, TRUTH, AND KNOWLEDGE


ANCIENT GREEK PHILOSOPHY
HINTIKKA

JAAKKO

this essay I shall discuss a tacit presupposition,


seems to
or a group of presuppositions,
which
and
of Aristotle's
certain doctrines
lurk behind
seems to have been rather widespread
in
which

IN

Greeks.

Greece.

ancient

A generalization
tacit presuppositions
about
self-defeating
the

correct,

such widespread
concerning
has of necessity
something
is
it. If such a generalization
it

presuppositions

were

postulates

and of
shared by the great majority of philosophers
a
was
If
there
within
culture.
so,
ordinary people
these pre?
little occasion for anyone to challenge
to discuss them, or even to bring
suppositions,
them

out

to

the

open.

In

such

not

circumstances,

very much direct evidence is likely to be available


to show the existence of these presuppositions.
This does not go to show that broad generaliza?
tions

more

concerning

or

less

unconscious

ways

more

deal

great

than

attention

professional

to them of late. The


have devoted
philosophers
difficulty Imentioned
perhaps explains part of this
lack

of

concerning

In most

however.

interest,

very difficult

to put forward
the

general

features

it

cases,

is not

suggestions

intriguing
of people's

ways

However,

it

is

usually

much

to me,

nevertheless,

that

closer

study

the most

articulate
and
systematic Greek
serve
a
may
purpose here. Such a
philosophers
is much more
philosopher
likely to make explicit
some of the presuppositions
he shares with his
than
the
of these. He may
countrymen
majority
even have to rely on these presuppositions
in his
A
careful
of
the
arguments.
philosophical
study
of an individual Greek
general presuppositions
philosopher may therefore throw some light on the
of the ancient
implicit conceptual presuppositions
in

general.

are primarily
concerned here with certain
think?
general features of Aristotle's
philosophical
ing. Some of the assumptions he makes appear to
have parallels
in other Greek philosophers,
and
We

hence

occasion

the

whether

question

there

is some?

of all these
thing in the common
background
to which
these assumptions might be
philosophers
related and which might partly explain them. I

of

thinking in different cultures or at different periods


of intellectual history. The speculative philosophy
of history from Hegel
onward bristles with
such
proposals.

seems

It

of

Greeks

of

this or that culture are without


thinking within
interest.
In fact, they seem to be
philosophical
worth

in the back?
thought that they can perceive
ground of the Greek mind with what we actually
know about Greek thinkers or of other facets of the
Greek
civilization.3
Hence
the largely justified
of
about impu?
professional
qualms
philosophers
tations of implicit general presuppositions
to the
have

shall

ward

make

some

suggestions

along

these

lines

to?

the end of the paper.


II

more

to substantiate
it is rather
them. Often
or less implicit
to connect
the more
of history
Weltanschauung which some philosophers

we deal with here


The group of presuppositions
is connected with the notion of time.2 Many
pre?
in this group seem to stem from a
suppositions

difficult
difficult

1These
are illustrated
of genuine
for those fashionable
difficulties
contrasts
evidence
between
the ancient
by the scantiness
and the ancient Hebrew
have recently been effectively
Greek
which
criticized
Weltanschauungen
by James Barr in The Semantics
in inferences
involved
from linguistic
to cultural
Press,
of Biblical Language
(Oxford, Clarendon
1961). The theoretical
problems
in "Concerning
data are also discussed,
to Nonlinguistic
inter alia, by Joseph
Inferences
from Linguistic
Greenberg
Data,"
in Culture, ed. by H. Hoijer
of Chicago
in Psycholinguistics,
ed. by S.
Press,
Language
University
(Chicago,
1956); reprinted
and Winston;
The Philosophical Review,
(New York; Holt, Rinehart
1961) and by Max Black in "Linguistic
Saporta
Relativity,"
inMax Black, Models
vol. 68 (1959), pp. 228-238
andMetaphors
; reprinted
Press,
(Ithaca, Cornell University
1962), pp. 244-257.
2
to the category
of people's
attitudes
of time as an indication
The
of their value orientation
is brought
out
importance
and F. L. Strodtbeck
in Varieties in Value Orientation (Evanston,
clearly by F. R. Kluckhohn
Illinois; Row and Peterson;
1961).
A

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AMERICAN

PHILOSOPHICAL

characteristic
permeates
many
tendency which
different parts of Aristotelian
thought. It is safer to
speak of a tendency here than of an assumption,
for apparently
Aristotle
does not
consciously
of thought
in preference
to
choose
this way
explicitly formulated alternatives. Rather, he takes
of thought as the only natural
this mode
one,
ever becoming
without
quite clear of the alterna?
ever
tives it might
have and certainly without
we
the
If
alternatives.
nevertheless
articulating
want
as an explicit
to formulate
this tendency
we may
the
say that for Aristotle
assumption
sentences
in expressing
used
human
typical
or opinion are not among those Quine
knowledge
calls

sentences

eternal

sentences) but

is to

That

sentences.z

even

(or,

among

those Quine

among
say,

they

are

standing

occasion

calls
not

sentences

to

which we assent or from which we dissent once and


for

all.

are

They

some

of

to which

sentences

scribe or with which

we must

or features

feature

of

we

disagree
the

can

sub?

on the basis
on which

occasion

In particular,
the
(or written).
they are uttered
sentences Aristotle
are
is apt to have in mind
temporally indefinite, they depend on the time of their
utterance.3a They may be said to be relative to the
at which
moment
This
they are propounded.
relation may be implicit, but it may also be made
"
explicit by the occurrence of such token-reflexive"
expressions

as

in the sentence
count

to

also

"tomorrow"

time

is

moment.)
only
when

if we

thought
3W.

the

or

"now"

"at

in question.
such

where

the

moment"

present

(Among

as
expressions
moment
another

or
of

to the present
by reference
specified
In a sense they can be fully understood
know

moment

what

sentence

of as being

in

question

uttered.

this
was

"now"

is,

uttered

If Aristotle

to

asked

awake"

express
and

i.e.,
or
is

had been

an

give

of an

example

have

he might

chosen
is

equally well

by "Socrates
at

we may

these

the

is

like "Socrates

walking"?and

is walking

sentence,

arbitrary

something

or "Socrates

"Socrates

is now

awake"

moment."

present

If Aristotle's
tacit assumption
is expressed in this
the
way,
however, we are already
siding with
moderns against him to some extent. What we have
said

some

to

expresses

already

extent

the

spon?

taneous reaction of almost all modern


logicians
to the sentences of the kind we
and philosophers
are discussing. A modern
logician is likely to avoid
the use (and the mention)
of such sentences as
much as possible.4 They are usually thought of by
or indefinite
him as incomplete
sentences whose
or

"meaning"

"content"

depends

on

the

circum?

or otherwise
in which
they are uttered
propounded. Modern
philosophers
generally prefer
not to deal with
sen?
such temporally
indefinite
stances

as

tences

"Socrates

is

or

awake"

is

"Socrates

walking";
they prefer to discuss and to use instead
sentences obtained from these by somehow speci?
fying the time to which
they refer independently
of the moment
of their utterance. The laws of logic
are formulated with only or mainly
sentences of the
latter

sort

in view,

and

other

are

procedures

some?

times thought of as being somehow fallacious.


It is not my purpose here to take sides for or
the Aristotelian

against

these we have
"yesterday"
or
period

QUARTERLY

with
compare

them

as

assumptions

ones. It is important,

the modern

to see how

differ.

they

contrasted

however,
How

to
a

would

modern
thinker argue for his view that the "con?
tent" or "meaning"
of a temporally
indefinite
sentence
(say, "It is now raining") varies? One
way of doing so might be as follows. Suppose this
sentence

yesterday

on

is uttered

and

two

different

today. Then

the Technology
Press
Word and Object (New York and London;
V. O. Quine,
i96o)> ?9 and ?40.
3a For a
between
of the contrast
and
indefinite
definite
temporally
development
vol. 75 (1966), pp. 75-96
of Chronological
Mind,
Propositions,"
(see especially
Logic
4 Instances
are far too numerous
than a sprinkling
for me to give more
of examples

of M.I.T.,
statements

occasions,

the facts
and John Wiley
see N.

pp. 76-78).
here: Bertrand

Rescher,

say

that make
and
"On

Sons;
the

An Inquiry into
Russell,
Allen
and Unwin,
and Truth
Essays
Meaning
1940), p. 113; A. J. Ayer, Philosophical
(London,
(London, Macmillan,
1954),
The Structure of Appearance
Harvard
Nelson
Goodman,
Mass.;
Press,
pp.
(Cambridge,
186-187;
University
1951), p. 297;
in
Method
and
Sea
ed.
P.
Henle
"The
C. Williams,
Donald
Structure,
Meaning,
by
Fight Tomorrow,"
(New York, Liberal Arts
in the course of the discussion.
p. 287. Further
Press,
examples will be given
especially
1951), pp. 282-306,
of an analytic
over
bend of mind
favor eternal
sentences
list might
give the idea that only fairly recent philosophers
My
as Appendix
A to A. N. Prior's Time and Modality
sentences.
be incorrect,
This
occasion
impression would
(Oxford, Clarendon
tastes go back to the seventeenth
of our logical
shows. In fact, in this respect most
at least.
Press,
century
1957) convincingly
are superior
sentences
sentences
to occasion
is especially
in that it was
of the doctrine
that eternal
An early version
interesting
to Aristotle.
For Aristotle,
the time-relation
in a sentence
is carried by the verb. This doctrine
in conscious
opposition
developed
sentence
at which
or written,
refers to the moment
to the fact that a typical Aristotelian
it is uttered
for it
is closely
related
in a sentence
of as creating
element
and was thought
the judgment
was the verb that carried
the assertoric
expressed
by the
to this view,
it was already held by the authors of the Port-Royal Logic that time-reference
sentence.
In contradistinction
is not
a part of the verb. For them, the temporal
and not created
is, as it were, part of the subject-matter
aspect
logically
speaking
the judgment.
by creating

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TIME,

AND

TRUTH,

IN

KNOWLEDGE

this sentence true or false are different in the two


cases. Yesterday
it referred to yesterday's weather;
today it refers to today's weather. On one day the
sentence is verified or falsified independently
of its
verification or falsification on the other. It may be
on one
day
are
taken
things
sentence
the
in

true

on

false

that

the

cannot

question

to have

satisfactory

these

utterances
the

carry

of
same

the

we

form,

grammatical

between

correspondence

our thought and our language,


and

All

other.
two

the

the sentence in the grammatical


Although
the word is one and the same, its content
is often said, the proposition it expresses on
is not the same.5 Hence
occasions
if we

meaning.
sense of
or, as it
the two
want

and

to show

the logical

between

use

must

really

different form of words on the two occasions.


the points I just made are correct or
Whether
not have accepted
would
them.
not, Aristotle
Aristotle
would
have
the
apparently
accepted
doctrine that the sentence "It is raining" is made
true or false by different sets of facts accordingly
as it is uttered today or yesterday. However,
he
not have been worried
would
about the conse?
quence
true
at

one

and

the

same

time

and

false

at

that
one

sentence
another.

He

be
may
would

have rejected the notion of a proposition and would


have stuck instead to the actual thoughts of the
who

people

uttered

on

sentence

the

the

two

occa?

sions. When
doing so, he would have been willing
to argue that the thought expressed by the sentence
is one and the same. And all
today and yesterday
this he not only would have been willing
to say;
he as much as said so quite explicitly:
same

statement
to be both
true
(logos) seems
that
for example,
the statement
Suppose,
that somebody
is sitting
is true; after he has got up this
statement
will be false. Similarly
with
beliefs.
Suppose
is sitting;
after he has
you believe
truly that somebody
For

the

and

false.

got up you will believe falsely if you hold the same


belief

about

him.

Statements
selves

remain

it is because
comes
body

and

beliefs,

completely
the actual

to belong
is sitting

change
one
time

(Categories

in the actual
and

unchangeable

to them.
remains
false

(Ibid., 4a34~4b2.)

at

5, 4324-29.)6
on the other

that
thing changes
For the statement
the

hand,
in every

them?
way;

the

contrary
that some?

it is because
of a
same;
that it comes
to be true at

thing
another.

Similarly

with

beliefs.

GREEK

ANCIENT

PHILOSOPHY

saw no
show that Aristotle
quotations
two
in
the
combining
difficulty
assumptions which
to a typical modern
thinker are likely to seem
that the truth
viz., the assumption
incompatible,
value of a temporally
indefinite sentence changes
with time, and the assumption
that the sentence in
These

one
express
as Aristotle

nevertheless

may
question
same
content

or

and

or,

proposition

the
it,

puts

one and the same belief or opinion


(doxa) on the
different occasions on which it is uttered or other?
wise propounded.
Aristotle
did not
Apparently
or awkward
find anything
about his
strange
of the two assumptions.
reconciliation
Later, we
shall examine some reasons why he felt this way.
Some comments are in order here. First of all,
of the Categories has sometimes
the authenticity
been
Hence
the relevance
of the
challenged.
passages we just cited is perhaps not beyond doubt.
even if this work
is not by Aristotle
However,
current
it
in the Lyceum
views
himself,
reproduces
at a very early date. Hence
its testimony can be
trusted provided that there are parallel statements
in undisputably
genuine works of Aristotle's. This
is in fact the case. Exactly the same point that was
in the Categories recurs in a slightly briefer
made
form inMetaphysics
it is
IX, 10, 1051hl3 ff. Hence
own view. Many
of the passages
surely Aristotle's
in the sequel constitute
that will be quoted
evi?
to

dence

same

the

effect.

It is also interesting to observe that the view put


forward in the Categories is not due to Aristotle's
to

desire
the

out

rule

recalcitrant
of

contrary, it would have


better
Categories much
the

taken

modern
and

opinions

numerically

this

can

time
the

pleasant

counter-example.

they

the

the

of

truth-value
never

changes.

are the

at
attributes
contrary
and nevertheless
remain
same

(Cat.

The

5,

4a

1
off.).

assume

of a rather

(Substances
attributes

are

contrary

change;

opinions

of
un?

counter-example

out by means

manoeuver.

themselves

On

the changing
truth-values
an
sentences
constituted

ruled

eventually

take

of

opinions

unsatisfactory
entities
that

that

and

doctrine
and of

was

enhance

there is that substances

entities
that
only
moments
different

To

to

system.

sentences

full-fledged

one

his

suited the argument of the


if the author could have

view

For the point made

or

facts

neatness

architectonic

and

the
only
because

sentences

"A Defense
of Common
and Unwin,
e.g., G. E. Moore,
Sense," Philosophical Papers (London, Allen
1959), p. 35.
is taken from J. L. Ackrill,
translation
and "De Interpretationen
Aristotle*s "Categoriae"
Press,
(Oxford, Clarendon
1963).
In quoting
other works of the Aristotelian
use the familiar Oxford
edited by W. D. Ross,
Corpus, I shall normally
translation,
from it will not always be explicitly
In quoting
I shall mostly
indicated.
the translations
follow
in
although
departures
Plato,
the Loeb Classical
Library.
See,
6The

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AMERICAN

the facts they refer to change.)

do this only because


The

the modern

that

fact

PHILOSOPHICAL

view

was

even

not

con?

it
sidered by the author of the Categories although
would have served his purpose perfectly illustrates
the hold of the contrary view of him.
We may also register the fact that the statements
we quoted
from the Categories are completely
A

categorical.

or

sentence

a belief

remains

"com?

the
in every way" although
pletely unchangeable
is
facts it refers to change. Furthermore,
nothing
sentences
and
which
said of beliefs
(opinions)
never

perhaps

their

change

That
such a tendency
is
way.
really existed
uses
the
fact
that
Aristotle
betrayed by
frequently
as
sentences
indefinite
putative
temporally
to his
contrary
examples of syllogistic premisses,
own

For

the author is clearly thinking in terms of temporally


sentences. Because
of the parallelisms
indefinite
the Categories and other parts of the
between
infer that the same
Aristotelian
Corpus, we may
was the case with the Stagirite.
saw no obvious
I conclude,
then, that Aristotle
that a temporally
in the assumption
difficulties
sentence

indefinite

one

expresses

and

the

ing

to

or

sentences
such

to

correspond?

"opinions"

sentences.

Ill
fact that Aristotle
The
temporally
preferred
indefinite sentences is not belied by the fact that in
his syllogistic theory, and in his theory of scientific
method which was built on his syllogistic theory,
Aristotle
says in so many words that a
frequently
in all the different
general premiss has to take
individuals
they

exist

of
now

a
or

certain
at

sort,
some

other

no

matter
moment

whether
of

time.

is about all
instance, "All men are mortal"
had
men, present, past, or future.7 That Aristotle
to stress this feature of the syllogistic premisses
was a ten?
may
equally well indicate that there
and
his
audience
perhaps even in
dency among
these premisses in a different
himself to understand
For

one

least

he

passage

was
nothing
be truly asserted

when
could

nothing
existed

I, 8, 98906-7).
are
senses
two

(Met.
there

But
primary
the one

when

evidently
that then
"the

expression

has
something
mean
the primary

it may

hand
the

the

of

in which

when

taining
moment

out,
separated
of the substance

On

changed."
"when"

of the process
completion
it is true to say "it has

of

con?

change

(the
. . .

changed")

(P^.VI,5,236a7-9).9

same

thought or opinion on the different occasions of its


utterance. My main suggestion is that he tended to
indefinite sentences as paradigms
take temporally
sentences. This led him, among
of all informative
other things, to define some of his key notions so
as to be applicable only or primarily to temporally
indefinite

at

In

explanations.

indicates explicitly that his example is of this sort.8


A study of Aristotle's
usage also tends to support
our view of his notion of truth. He often speaks of
what was or will be or would be true to say at some
time. The following are cases in point:
particular

Hence

truth-values.

QUARTERLY

also

Notice
habitually

qualifies
one

contradiction:
true

be

care with
which
Aristotle
his statements
of the law of

the

false

and

same

the

and

the same

at

sentence
he

time,

cannot

says.10

Locutions
of this sort are by no means
infallible
evidence.
Such
locutions
could conceivably
be
used by a philosopher who is not subscribing to the
I have imputed to Aristotle.
In con?
assumptions
on the
nection with his explicit pronouncements
relation of truth to time, however,
constitute
they
useful

evidence.

circumstantial

Their

frequency

shows how deeply ingrained the ways


were which we have found in Aristotle.
are

There

which

certain

in Aristotle's

passages

seem to call for a different

may

tion.

Some

tion

to temporally

seem

passages

sometimes

to

conclusive,

nantly

in our direction. When

sentence

future

however,

includes

Aristotle
some

containing

time-reference.

is not

in addi?

sentences

sentences

definite

works

interpreta?
that

suggest

indefinite

considered

kind of more

means

of thinking

but

The

evidence

points

predomi?

says that a

Aristotle
he

time-reference,

normally

past, or

simply that its verb is in the present,


tense.11

Such

sentence

normally

implies

7
and 8, 75021-36.
Analytica Posteriora I, 4, 73a28-2g,
Analytica Priora I, 15, 34^17-18;
8At An. Pr.
a syllogistic
is not necessarily
conclusion
which
considers
Aristotle
true, but is true "so long as"
I, 10, 3ob37~38
at all the different
are true. These
thus cannot refer to individuals
the
times, for if they did,
existing
premisses
premisses
(ews)
uses the terms "sleeping"
occurs at 3108-10,
where Aristotle
could not change. An equally
their truth-value
revealing
example
are as clear-cut
as one might wish of terms which
to an
to a syllogism. These
in a counter-example
and "waking"
apply
examples
own admonitions
as to how syllogistic
to be con?
Aristotle's
at a time only. Hence
individual
ought
premisses
they contradict
strued.
9 Similar
are found, e.g., in Met.,
statements
IV, 7,
10
6, ionbi5-i8;
23-32;
IV, 3, ioo5big-20,
E.g., Met.
11 See De Int.
if.
De An. Ill, 6, 430330
3, i6b6-i8;

Met,
V, 30, 1025314-15,
ioi2a27~28,
Physics,
De Int. 10, 2oai6-i8.
Top. II, 7, 113322-23;

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VI,

8, 239328-29.

AND

TRUTH,

TIME,

IN

KNOWLEDGE

to the moment
at which
it is uttered.
reference
There are also passages in which Aristotle
has in
mind some kind of closer specification of the time
to which a sentence refers. But a second look at
these passages shows that he is thinking of a speci?
fication (of the time of the occurrence of an event)
in terms of "the measurable
stretch of time from
now

to

onwards

. . . from

or

that,

on

that

to now"

For instance, in Parva


(Phys. IV, 13, 222a24~28).
dis?
Natur alia (De Memoria
2) 452030 if. Aristotle
cusses the difference
between
"exact" and "in?
estimate
in connection
exact"
of time
with
memory.12 One of his examples is "the day before
is a specification
which
of time in
yesterday,"
relation to the present day. In fact, the context
makes it quite clear that what Aristotle
is thinking
of in this whole passage are exact and inexact
specifications of the length of time which separates
event from the present moment
the remembered
e.g.,

(cf.,

we

Hence

ff.).

45208

of a temporally

instance

an

have

again

indefinite

time-reference.

IV
The same predilection
for temporally
indefinite
sentences
is found in other ancient philosophers,
although not always in as explicit a form as in
Aristotle. Virtually
all the examples
of singular
were
sentences which
as
used by the Stoics
are
us
to
seem
and
which
to
be
examples
preserved
indefinite.13 What
is more
temporally
important,
such temporally
indefinite sentences are put for?
ward by the Stoics as examples of sentences which
are

a
express
complete
assertoric
lekta or in short
to

taken

complete
Stoics

are

in many

which

"propositions"
postulate
tences.14

as

modern

many
of

eternal

axiomata

differ

tions in that they are temporally


same
one

way
does

as occasion
not

yet

sentences.
express

axiomata

reminiscent

respects

meanings

However,

lekton.

By

complete

These
of

the

of

the

philosophers
assertoric
from

proposi?

indefinite
saying

sen?

in the

"writes,"
are
we

lekton,

GREEK

ANCIENT

PHILOSOPHY

told by the Stoics, because "we want to know who


a sentence
like "Dion is
[writes]." Nevertheless,
a
to
is
said
lekton, in
express
walking"
complete
room
it
the
that
of
fact
leaves
the ana?
for
spite
is
is it that Dion
"When
logous question:
walking?"15
From
this it followed
that the Stoics
spoke
in
of
the
of a sentence
truth-value
changes
freely
and also (more properly)
of
in the truth-value
lekta. As is brought out very clearly by William
a lekton could change
and Martha
its
Kneale,
truth-value and even cease to exist.16 In his list of
the different senses of a?rjd'fjs in the Stoics, Benson
Mates
the use of this notion
in
distinguishes
connection with propositions
(Sense I) from its
use in connection with sentences that can change
their

truth-value

as Mates

or,

sitional functions with


The distinction
does
In

however.

some

fact,

calls

them,

propo

a time-variable
(Sense II).17
not seem to be motivated,
own

of Mates's

of

examples

I are easily seen to involve sentences


(or
with
truth-values. Cases in point
lekta)
changing
are found in Diogenes
Vitae VII,
66,
Laertios,
the temporally
sentence "It is
where
indefinite
Sense

day"

occurs

as

an

as well

example,

as

in

Sextus

the Logicians

II, 10-13.18 The


Against
Empiricus,
latter passage is not unambiguous
by itself; how?
ever, its import is brought out when Sextus later
returns to the same topic (op. cit. 85, 88-89), using
as an example
the same temporally
indefinite
as

sentence

One

Diogenes.

is also reminded

controversies

here of the famous


the

concerning

conditions

Stoic
of

the

validity of implications.19 This whole controversy


is couched
in terms of sentences
(or lekta) with
changing

truth-values.

For

instance,

Diodorus

Cronus held that "if p, then #" is true if and only if


q is true whenever
p is true.20 If p and q were
definite
this would reduce to
sentences,
temporally
our own truth-table definition of material
implica?
tion. However,
the Diodorean
is known
doctrine
to have been directed
against Philo's definition

121 am indebted
to Professor John W. Lenz for
to this passage.
calling my attention
13
Stoic Logic (Berkely and Los Angeles,
as vol. 26 of the University
Cf., e.g., Benson Mates,
of
1961, originally
published
California
Publications
in Philosophy)
a full discussion
which
contains
of the Stoic
of
of a number
logic and translations
sources. The closest approximations
to genuine
from this type of example
that I am aware of are found
in Cicero
exceptions
(De Fato, ix, 19, and xiii, 30).
14
For examples
of this sort, see, e.g., Mates,
op. cit., pp. 96, 113, 118, 121, 123, etc.
15 See
Vitae VII,
Diogenes
Laertios,
63; Mates,
op. cit., p. 16.
16William
and Martha
The Development
Kneale,
Press,
of Logic (Oxford, Clarendon
153-155.
1962), pp. 144-146,
17
Mates,
op. cit., p. 132.
18
See the Loeb Classical
edition of Sextus, vol. 2, pp. 244-247.
Library
19 See
and Kneale,
;Kneale
Mates,
op. cit., pp. 42-51
op. cit., pp. 128-138.
20
theMathematicians,
112 ff.
See, e.g., Sextus Empiricus,
Against
VIII,

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which
is
definition.
that/? and
Mates
terms

of

AMERICAN

PHILOSOPHICAL

truth-table
essentially
just our own
is clearly presupposing
Hence Diodorus
q are temporally indefinite sentences.
in
the Diodorean
definition
explains
a

over

quantification

time-variable.21

This is justified and illuminating, provided that we


realize that there is no trace whatever
of such a
treatment
in the Stoics themselves.22

V
the most
interesting
things about the
we
are
with
is
that it helps us
assumption
dealing
some of the most
to understand
characteristic
features of the Greek
Since these
epistemology.
features are found not only in Aristotle but also in
other Greek philosophers,
the existence of
many
we
are
this connection
that
suggests
really dealing
with a common tendency of many Greek thinkers.
The most important feature I have in mind
is
the widespread
Greek doctrine
that we can have
genuine knowledge only of what is eternal or at the
least forever
This
doctrine
very
changeless.23
becomes very natural if we consider it as the out?
come of two tendencies:
(i) A tendency to think of
indefinite sentences as typical vehicles
temporally
to think of
of communication;
(2) A tendency
some
terms
sort
in
of
of
direct
knowledge
acquaint?
ance with the objects of knowledge,
e.g., in terms
them.
of seeing or of witnessing
One

of

I cannot

here

the

document

second

tendency

as

there is something here


fully as it deserves. That
is already shown by the
worth being documented
facts of the Greek language. One of the common
Greek ways to claim that I know was to use the
verb otSa which
literally taken amounts to saying
If we are to
that I have seen the thing in question.
believe Bruno Snell, this was not a mere piece of
etymology but a fact the speakers of the language
were aware of. According
to him, "in the Greek
language we can frequently discern that the verb
elbivai

means,

observation."24

to

know

The

on
same

the

basis

applies

of

own

one's

also

to

the

QUARTERLY

word

important

verbs,
observations

Similar

, especially

yiyvuoK

to other

and

too,

as

out

pointed
have
been

made

in Homer,
by Snell.25
W.
often.

sums up his patient examination


of
G. Runciman
the relevant aspects of Plato's Theaetetus as follows :
"The general
left by the Theaetetus is
impression
as a
to think of knowledge
that Plato continued
or
sort of mental
This
impres?
seeing
touching."26
sion is not changed by Runciman's
scrutiny of the
Plato says that all statements
Sophist: "Although
are
are either true or false and that all judgments
not
he
does
statements,
thereby
merely unspoken
. . . commit himself to any modification
of what we
have seen to be his earlier position on the nature
and objects of knowledge."27
For our purposes
that
it is especially
relevant
a marked

was

there

highest

forms

analogous

to

to

tendency

of

conceive

as being

of knowledge

as

observation

immediate

the

somehow
distin?

In short, the highest


guished from mere hearsay.
form of knowledge was thought of as being com?
In the introduc?
parable to that of an eyewitness.
tion to his edition of Plato's Meno, R. S. Bluck says
that "the inferiority of op67j Sofa to ?morqfjLrj as
a state of awareness of the a priori is analogous
to
information
about
the inferiority of second-hand
to the certainty of one who has
empirical matters
learnt

from

It

experience."28

personal

is

also

to note
that the kind of universal
knowledge which Plato ascribes to the soul in his
is explained
of recollection
famous doctrine
by
or not is not at issue
Plato (whether metaphorically
:
here) as being due to earlier personal experience
instructive

as being
been
and having
immortal,
then,
seen all things
that
times, and having
again many
or in the world
has
in this world
whether
below,

The

soul,

born
exist,

of

knowledge

them

all.

(Meno

81

c.)

out by Snell,
there is a striking
pointed
in Homer.29 When
this
of
of
way
thinking
example
to help him, he
he appeals to his omniscient Muses
As

does

not

quence

represent

of

their

superhuman

omniscience

intelligence

as

conse?

or of more

21
Mates,
op. cit., p. 45.
22
Cf. P. T. Geach's
review of Mates
in The Philosophical
Review, vol. 64 (1955), pp. 143-145.
23This
and is found in other ancient
is one of the most
of both Plato and Aristotle,
philo?
tendency
striking characteristics
Its role and background
in ancient Greek
studied, however.
thought does not seem to have been systematically
sophers as well.
24 Bruno
vol.
f?r den Begriff des Wissens
in der vorplatonischen
Philologische Untersuchungen,
Snell, "Ausdr?cke
Philosophie,"
29 (Berlin,
1924), p. 25.
25Bruno
Harvard
Press,
Snell, The Discovery of theMind
Mass.;
1953), p. 13.
University
(Cambridge,
26
Plato's Later Epistemology
W. G. Runciman,
Press,
University
1962), p. 52.
Cambridge
England;
(Cambridge,
27
Ibid., p. 121 ; cf. p. 125.
28R. S. Bluck
Press,
University
1961), p. 33.
England;
(ed.), Plato's Meno
(Cambridge,
Cambridge
29
p. 136.
Snell, The Discovery
of theMind
(op. cit.), ch. 7, especially

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humans

Tell
For

the events

into the laws that govern

insight
the

me

Muses

now,
are

you

own

In Homer's

possess.

that

are

you

goddesses,

than

words,

in the palace

dwell

of

Olympus?
and know

at hand

all
But we

hear

were

Who

only a rumour
the captains
and

and

know

lords

IN

KNOWLEDGE

AND

TRUTH,

TIME,

of

things,

the

As Snell puts it, "the goddesses are superior


man for the simple reason that they are always
and know
hand, and have seen everything,
now.

. . ." In

their

fact,

seen

having

it was

for

to
at
it
the

almost a prerequisite
for their knowing
it.
more
than
this
old
testimony is
significant
Perhaps
the fact that almost exactly
the same view
is
echoed by Plato and Aristotle:

Greeks

You

both

see,

and

their
cf.

Taylor;
Empedocles

that

with,

the gods perceive,


the
within
nothing

that
everything,
or
sense
knowledge

of

compass
outside

to begin

admit,
hear

cognizance
Aristotle,
fr. 129).

901

d;

tr. A.

state

present

present

Now what

to speak exactly
and not
from what
follows. We
plain
even
know
is not
capable
capable

things
when

they

scientific

our

within

sphere

of

perception.

But what about things which are not under our


present observation? Take, for instance, the piece
of putative knowledge
expressed by the sentence
"There

is snow

somebody who
On

mountain.
claims

to

on Mount

Olympus"

is not within
what

know

conditions

what

this

as uttered

by

the sight of the famous


is a man
sentence

right
asserts?

who
The

had, if I am right, a tendency to take this


as being
to the question:
question
equivalent
When does his claim, "I have seen it," amount to a
Greeks

conclusive

evidence

that

the

things

are

now

as

he

says they are ? The obvious answer is :Only if the


never changes. Only
on this
thing in question
condition does it follow from his earlier observa?
tion that things are still as they were at the time of
the observation.
If the purported
object of his

or

exist

mere

follow
all

suppose

of

being
we

of being
otherwise
have
outside
passed

they

eternal.

we
(imaTf^fXTj)is, if

scientific knowledge

are

VI

moment

the

whether

present

concerning
two
tenden?

knowledge

Hence,

moment).

unchangeable

E.

What happens now if this idea of genuine knowl?


is applied to the
edge as an eyewitness's knowledge
kind of knowledge
that can be expressed by means
of temporally indefinite sentences ?One case seems
to be clear: We know the things which are at the

to

of affairs.

This is in fact the way in which Aristotle argues


in the full
for his doctrine that we have knowledge
sense of the word only of what is eternal or forever

and

1454^2-6,

amount

it" assertion

for the
it very natural
made
cies I mentioned
Greeks to adopt the view that there can be genuine
is unchangeable
only of what
(and
knowledge
at the
is being perceived
perhaps also of what

falls

[therefore?]

(The Laws X,
Poetics
15,

in the
it may have changed
changes,
knowledge
the
interval between his seeing it and his making
statement. If the snow sometimes melts from Mount
then the fact that I have seen the snow
Olympus,
there does not go to show that there is snow there
now. Only if the snow never melts does the "I have
seen

nothing?
the Danaans.30

PHILOSOPHY

GREEK

ANCIENT

not.

is

similarities,
that what

we

of
otherwise;
do not know,

our

observation,
of
the object
it is
Therefore

Therefore

is of necessity.
knowledge
. . .
Ethics VI,
(Nichomachean

3, U39b20-23.)

to notice Aristotle's
It is worthwhile
locution
"We all suppose." It shows that Aristotle
thought
that what he was saying was not a peculiarity of his
but

rather

the Greeks.

among

commonplace

A concurrent reason why itwas easy for Aristotle


to accept the doctrine
(and for the other Greeks)
that there can be knowledge
is
only of what
same
on
the
is
that
his
view
eternally
implicit
sentences
same

like
opinion

"Socrates
every

sits"
time

they

express
are

one
asserted.

and

the
It

is

natural to say that an opinion of this sort cannot


amount to real knowledge
if it is sometimes false.
as it
For "false knowledge"
struck the Greeks,
strikes

us

today,

as

a misnomer.31

Hence

opinions

sen?
to temporally
indefinite
correspond
can constitute knowledge
if
they are
only
always true, i.e., only if they pertain to facts which
never change. And
if opinions
of this kind are
as
one
of
then
may be inclined to
thought
typical,
that we can have knowledge
say generally
only of
is indestructible
what
and unchangeable.32
which
tences

30
of the Catalogue of Ships.
Homer,
Iliad, beginning
31
it seemed a misnomer
That
to Plato may be gathered
from Gorgias 454d, from Republic 476e, and from Theatetus
152c and
186e. Gf. also Parmenides,
fr. 2 (Diels), lines 7-8.
32This
is to all intents and purposes
the point of Aristotle's
in the Categories 7, 7D27-30:
remarks
"Destruction
of the knowable
. . .For if there is not a knowable
carries knowledge
to destruction.
there is not knowledge?there
will no longer be anything
to be of...
for knowledge
."

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AMERICAN

PHILOSOPHICAL

QUARTERLY

If we

that for Aristotle what


is
keep in mind
con?
is
and
that
him
for
what
always necessary
tingent sometimes will fail to be,33 we can see that
in
this point
is made
essentially
by Aristotle
Posterior Analytics I, 33, 88b3i~34:
. . . that which
also

knowledge

In many
of Aristotle's,
both
pronouncements
these reasons appear
intertwined.
The following
seems to be especially worth quoting :
For

there

this reason,
also,
demonstration
about
because

they

matter

have

are

they
which

both

capable
reason
all
If

destructible.
truths

the

and

is neither

individual

then

of not

and

of

instances

too

and

demonstration
it

is opinion
otherwise
than

definition

nor

deals

with

it is, clearly
demonstration

can

there

viduals.
For perishing
things are obscure...
our perception;
and
passed from
though
remain
in the soul unchanged,
there will
either

or

definition

my

I03gb27-i040a5;

This
7^33
obviously

demonstration

indi?

when
the
no

(Met.

they have
formulae
longer

VII,

be
15,

one

of

few lines earlier, Aristotle


that Plato
alleges
the Heraclitean
"that
all
doctrine
accepted
sensible things are ever in a state of flux and that
there is no knowledge
about
them." Whether

reasons

why,

for Aristotle,

unnoticed."

VII
Similar

considerations

seem

to have

been

opera?

our modern

From

are

and Time
interested

are

in Plato's
we

of view,

point

similar

not,

found

be

may

puzzled and surprised by the facility with which


connects
in the Theaetetus the view
Plato
that
is
the
and
of
doctrine
"Knowledge
perception"
that all things are constantly changing.34
Cratylus
is introduced at 152 d, and it is
This connection
use of in the argument; witness
made
frequently
such passages as the following:
things are forever
whatsoever
question
If all

to any
every answer
correct
(Theaetetus

in motion,
is

equally

183 a).
should?how

Why

constant

could?the

and

universal change postulated by Cratylus make true


statements
impossible? Clearly only if the state?
ments in question primarily pertain to the moment
of time
and to other moments
of their utterance,

value

may

as

remain
things
of a sentence
with
serve

perhaps

so

puzzling.36
moment
be

A
truer

to

constant.35
a

sentence
than

explain

strange

finds

Runciman
at

cannot

another

truth

changing
Plato's

of truth which

of degrees

doctrine

true

any

sentence,

given
it
but

may be truer than another in the sense of being


true more often than the latter is. Thus the different
degrees of truth are in effect different degrees of
in the objects
these truths are
unchangeability
about. This connection
is explicitly made by Plato
in the Philebus (58 a-59 c).
If my
of De Interpretatione 9 is
interpretation
there in fact uses the expression
correct, Aristotle

too. In fact, Aristotle


attributes
in Plato,
:
to
same
Plato
of
the
mode
argument
exactly
Universality
the one we

or

correct

of doctrines

juxtapositions
writing.

tive

33 See
my paper, "Necessity,
34 For reasons other
than

are

attributions

in so far
only
The
notion

of
there could not be any genuine
knowledge
In
sensible particulars,
but only of uni versais.
De Anima III, 3, 428b8-o, we similarly read: "But
the fact
true opinion
false when
only becomes
changes

these

italics).

the

(Met. I, 6, 98704-8).

changing

may be compared with An. Post. I, 6,


if., where a similar point is made. Here we
have

that

held

applied not to

to entities
but
of another
kind?for
things
that the common
could not be a
definition
reason,
as they were
of any
sensible
definition
thing,
always

be

neither

sensible

about

but

teaching,

this

so

is opinion,

[Socrates']

[of a universal definition]

sensible

cannot
thus,
vary
can be
that which

definition

that

for
are

necessary
and if, just
and sometimes

process,

as knowledge
cannot be sometimes knowledge
varies
thus
ignorance, but the state which
but

being;
them

is of

demonstration
is a scientific

definition

substances,
is such
that

nature

whose

of being
individual

nor

definition

sensible

his

accepted

the problem

are

there
are

is necessary
cannot
but
be otherwise;
true and
which,
real,
though
propositions
of being
otherwise.
it is not
Obviously
capable
. . .
that is concerned
these.
with

Plato

in Aristotle,"
in which

/xaAAov

aA^^s

Another

meaning

"true

more

often."Z7

form of the same idea is that an opinion

Ajatus vol. 20 (1957), pp. 65-90.


Plato may have had for connecting

Plato*s Theory of Knowledge


Norman
1962), pp. 78-80.
(London, Methuen,
Gulley,
35
that if all things were at rest, "the same things will always be true and false,"
too, assumes
Aristotle,
will be false"
in motion,
if all things were
{Met. IV, 8, ioi2b24~28).
"nothing will be true and everything
36
Runciman,
op. cit., pp. 124-125.
37 See
of Future Contingents
Discussion
Sea Fight: Aristotle's
and Future
"The Once
Jaakko Hintikka,
p. 486.
especially
IX," The Philosophical Review, vol. 73 (1964), pp. 461-492,

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the
and

two doctrines,
that,

in De

see

conversely,

Interpretatione

TIME,

AND

TRUTH,

IN

KNOWLEDGE

it is. Thus
(doxa) is the better the more permanent
in the Meno
a certain
of
Socrates
says
(89 c)
opinion :
only a moment
and hereafter,

not

but
Yes,
but now

also

knowledge.38

From this point of view we can also appreciate


the firm connection which
there was in Plato's
on one hand,
mind
the distinction
between,
between
and true belief and, on the
knowledge
other hand,
the distinction
Forms and
between
sensible particulars:

Forms

we

that

as

kinds,

If intelligence
then
these

cannot

perceive
in themselves;
but

exist
certainly
in no way
belief
things we perceive
taken

is this.

then,
different

differs

from

and

true

things?
think
of?
only
true
if, as some hold,
then
all
intelligence,
but

senses must
the bodily
through
certain
51 d).
reality
(Timaeus

the most

be

VIII
In

general,
between

contradictory
On one hand,
to the idea
whether
they
On the other
idea that we
never

we

can
two

see

that

apparently

there

is a close

different

and

con?
even

of Plato and Aristotle.


preoccupations
a
deal of attention
great
they paid
that "Knowledge
is perception,"
in the last analysis accepted it or not.
hand, they were attracted by the
can have knowledge
only of what
can

We

changes.

Our

now

see

that

these

use

and

two
the

preoccupations
same
coin.

are

really

two

A reference
to our quotation
from Homer
the appeal of the
perhaps helps us to appreciate
idea that "Knowledge
is perception"
to the Greeks.
38Cf.

Parmenides

I35b-c

and Cratylus

apparent

Runciman's

One

two

as

The

also

may

put

into

an

appro?

use

of

an

eyewitness's

knowledge

as an example of real knowledge without jumping


to the conclusion
to
that we could according
Plato have genuine knowledge
of sensible reality.
reason why Plato could use the
The underlying
is closely connected with the
example he mentions
fascination which
the idea that "Knowledge
is
course
had
for
him.
Of
Plato
ended
up
perception"
the
rejecting this idea, but not before conceiving
to percep?
in analogy
highest form of knowledge
to
tion, as a kind of "mental seeing or touching,"

sentences.
one

observations

an argument
which
Plato's
priate
perspective
commentators
have
found puzzling
and even
In Theaetetus 201 a-c Plato lets Socrates
mistaken.
can be
the suggestion
that knowledge
disprove
as true opinion
a
defined
contrast
by drawing
between
the correct opinion of a jury which
is
the
verdict
and
the
the
of
giving
right
knowledge
event which
is possessed by an eyewitness. This
may seem puzzling because the objects of which an
to a crime has knowledge
are not the
eyewitness
kinds of things of which we can according
to
Plato's
doctrines
have
(or Aristotle's)
explicit
immutable
genuine
knowledge;
they are not
to Plato
Forms of which alone we can according
in the full sense of the word.
have knowledge
Now the idea that an eyewitness's knowledge
is a
case
was
seen
to
of
be
knowledge
paradigm
genuine
one of the motives
that led to the doctrine that we
can have knowledge
in the full sense of the word
of
what
is
eternal.
This suffices to explain
only

wants

of

IX

types of knowledge were both assigned a privi?


leged position by the Greek tendencies to conceive
as a kind of immediate
of knowledge
awareness
and to think in terms of temporally
indefinite
sides

PHILOSOPHY

If even the superiority of the divine knowledge was


essentially based on the greater share of perceptual
that the gods possess, what more could
evidence
there possibly be to knowledge
than perception ?

Plato's

nection

GREEK

it seem correct,
ago must
if it is to be at all sound.

In the Republic (see 430 a) belief or opinion is in


the same spirit compared to "a dye, a dye designed
to be as 'fast' as possible." The importance of the
of the Forms for Plato also becomes
immutability
from
this point of view. One of the
intelligible
most
roles
of the Forms was just to
important
immutable objects of knowledge
provide absolutely
secure the possibility
and
of genuine
thereby

own verdict,
My
are
two
belief

ANCIENT

expression.

could put the point


to establish

as follows What
:

in Theaetetus

201

a-c

Plato

is a distinc?

tion between knowledge


and true belief. For this
to show that genuine
it
suffices
for
him
purpose
to
is
true
related
belief
in the same way
knowledge
an

eyewitness's

"knowledge"

is

related

to

the last two being


by hearsay,
"knowledge"
obviously different from one another. Cornford's
view that we are here given only an "analogous
contrast" has much more to recommend
itself than

43gd~440c.

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10

AMERICAN

PHILOSOPHICAL

it has recently been given credit for.39 It is true that


Plato does speak of knowledge when he discusses
the example, but he seems to restrict the scope of
the

so many

in

example

to

words

one can know only by having


other

"matters

seen them and in no

The idea of "changing


truth" which we have
found in Greek philosophers has to be distinguished
from the modern
idea of the historical relativity of
truth. A historical
relativist is apt to argue for an
absence of any absolute
criteria of truth, which
of obtaining
truths that
results in an impossibility
are not liable to be given up when the criteria are
an ancient
What
like
changed.
philosopher
Aristotle
had in mind
is almost exactly the oppo?
in our
site. He was not concerned with changes
in the objects our
criteria of truth, but changes
was

He

about.

not

with

concerned

changes in the opinions we have about reality, but


with changes in the reality itself. Aristotle did not
of truth is usually very
think that the discovery
the
difficult;
difficulty was, rather, that all the truths
concerning
things had to be discovered
changing
it were)

(as

over

all

at

again

each

moment.

new

cases

in

wise

XI
Our

observations

Aristotelian
sitions

the

notion

of

results

from

the

concerning

which

naturally

presuppositions
into a new
themselves

these

put

way
such

can

We

in which

The

and

also

interpretation
is

alternative

sentences
"conjunctive"

in

that

why

without
to

In

he

or
this

is not

the

same
far

only

to understand
could

sense,

present-tense
better

perhaps
a sentence

will

mean that things are always in the way the sentence


in the
states them to be. A number of passages
a
sense
seem
out
to
such
rule
Aristotelian
Corpus

statement

present

"tenseless"

of

statements

at

are

explicit

to

claims

assume

thus automatically

they

so

restrictions

to represent

taken

(as
the
In

time.

(without

or explicit

moment)
or

moment

other

any

specifications

to knowledge,

sense.

"conjunctive"

The features of Aristotle's


thinking which we
have noted are related inmore than one way to his
doc?
and psychological
other logical, semantical,
trines. The
indefinite
idea that a temporally
sentence

may

one

express

same

the

and

opinion

or belief when uttered at different moments


of time
that
is encouraged
Aristotle's
idea
"spoken
by
in the soul" (De
sounds are symbols of affections
9,

It

i6a3~4).

is obvious

the

that

"It

sentence,

true
is raining," as uttered by me today, is made
or false by a set of facts different from those that
"It is
verified or falsified my utterance yesterday,

ances

it is very

But

raining."

the

state

is

refers

sentence,

to

of mind"

by
expressed
is raining."
"It

are

was
which

to be

raining
this

entirely

toward my

the
by
which
to

referred

some

in

that

say

or attitude

expressed
The
facts

same.

"It

seems

is

to

natural

of mind

that
the

utterance

express
a

assume

if a present-tense

present-tense

temporal
the

at

statement
as

"state

any compunctions.

understand

"tenseless"

sense.

this

was willing

Aristotle

sentences

different

now

see

even

For

environment

so far spoken almost as if a temporally


indefinite
for Aristotle
sentence in the present tense would
at which it is
to the moment
normally refer merely
uttered.

the

passages

to refer exclusively
to the moment
appears
it can embody real knowledge
which it ismade,
we saw) only if itwould have been true to make

sense

presuppo?
We
have

perspective.

other

sense

expect.

Int.

knowledge

in

However,

point.

is clearly
presupposed
(see for
instance, Topics V, 3, 13^5-18).
The connection between the notions of time and
knowledge which we have pointed out enable us to
see that the difference between
the two senses was
than we might
other?
smaller for Aristotle
much

are

De Interpretatione 3, i6b6-i8
and io?
altogether.
as
as
Anima
1-18
De
well
III, 6, 43oa3o ff. are
19hl
tenseless

which

way."

truths

QUARTERLY

two

today

yesterday."
utterance

different

present-tense
yesterday's
For
the former
instance,

utter?

yesterday's
by
But

the
the

appears

to

from

that

utterance,
a

involves

the
thought about a temporal difference between
time the sentence refers to and the time of the
utterance

of

supposes

no

whereas

the

sentence,
awareness

of

such

the
a

latter

pre?

difference.40

the idea that spoken words are symbols for


the idea that one
thoughts encourages
unspoken

Hence

39F. M.

cf. Runciman,
and Kegan
Plato*s Theory of Knowledge
op.
Paul,
Cornford,
(London, Routledge
1935), PP- 141-142;
to observe
I quoted
from Aristotle's
It may be instructive
that in the passage
Categories in n. 32 above he commits
cit., pp. 37-38.
seems to me to commit here. Saying
an inconsistency
of the knowable
that the "destruction
similar to the one Plato
somewhat
we cannot have
to destruction"
for of things destructible
is from an Aristotelian
carries knowledge
point of view a solecism,
is here episteme) in the first place.
scientific
knowledge
(Aristotle's word
genuine
40This
is here reminded
of Russell's
comments
in De Memoria',
One
is borne out by Aristotle's
see, e.g., 449^24-30.
para?
"
terms . . ." (op. cit., p. 113).
statement
that
doxical
'present' and 'past' are primarily psychological

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IN

KNOWLEDGE

AND

TRUTH,

TIME,

indefinite form of words


the same temporally
one
same
and
the
belief or opinion at the
expresses
different times when it is uttered.
and

XII
It is tempting to express this point by saying that
a principle of individuation
Aristotle presupposed
for propositions
different from ours. This way of
putting my point turns out to need qualifications,
but it is nevertheless useful for many purposes. For
we

instance,

now

can

see

that

one

of my

earlier

The
has to be qualified.
typical
explanations
were
sentences
said to
considered
by Aristotle
contain, explicitly or implicitly, a token-reflexive
like

expression
token-reflexive
The

same

"at

on different
were

moment."

present

modern
a

such

sentences

the

in a sense

in question

our

from

proposition

different

or

"now"

the sentences

This makes

of

point

sentence

expresses

occasions. However,
not

view.

the very

for Aristotle

token-reflexive

in this sense, for the belief or opinion they express


at different times was for him one and the same.
Notice also that a defender of our modern view
cannot argue that Aristotle
handles
temporally
sentences
because
indefinite
they
incorrectly
or thought
express a different meaning
(Frege's
Der Gedanke) in different contexts. Aristotle's
pro?
cedure implies that we have to individuate thoughts
or opinions expressed by temporally indefinite sen?
tences

in the

same

way

as

these

sentences

themselves.

XIII
we
It may be suspected that the peculiarities
are connected
have discussed
with
the general
attitudes the Greeks had toward time. It has been
that the Greeks "lived in the present
suggested
moment"
other

to
cultures.41

the Aristotelian

extent
than
the members
larger
seem
to see
It might
tempting

way

of handling

the relations

the concepts of time and truth a reflection of the


so
were
same attitude.
It is as if philosophers
that they tended
absorbed in the present moment
a
to think in terms of sentences that contained
to the present moment
and which
reference
therefore dealt primarily with the present state of
to find direct
affairs. It is not easy, however,
evidence for (or against) this suggestion.
are

There

calendars

other

general

of

features

to

such

an

extent

the

that

year

times and that the thir?


might begin at different
that periodically
had to be added to
teenth month
the year was added at different times.42 Combined
it is
with a general neglect of public timekeeping,
some?
no wonder
that the failure of chronology
to a public scandal, as shown by
times amounted
in
the
Clouds. Because of these failures
Aristophanes
there simply was no handy way for
of chronology,
the Greeks to take the course modern philosophers
generally assume to be the only satisfactory one,
to the indefinite
to replace all references
viz.,
in a

"now"

sentence

by

to some

references

chronol?

at which
the
of the moment
ogy independent
sentence is uttered. What
there have
point would
the sentence "It is raining in
been in replacing
a
sentence in which the day in
Athens
today" by
question
of the

form

a reference
to a calendar
is specified
by
a
"On
of such-and
such-and-such
day

such a year

of

perhaps
city ? A

in

have

of

case

in any

scene relevant to our sub?


the Greek intellectual
or
not
was a direct connection
there
Whether
ject.
toward time
the general Greek attitude
between
this
of handling
and their philosophers'
ways
not
were
is
the
the
fact
Greeks
there
that
notion,
less
very successful with their timekeeping?much
not to
successful than some earlier civilizations,
cities could have
speak of the Romans. Different
different

is

II

PHILOSOPHY

GREEK

ANCIENT

badly

it is raining

even

the

reference

been

as

useful

if the day and

in Athens"

were
year
to the moment
in general

different

in

of utterance
as

reference

another
must
to a

kept calendar.43

41
i (New York,
statements
in The Decline of theWest, vol.
of Oswald
Cf., e.g., the hyperbolic
1926), p. 131. "Clas?
Spengler's
sical man's
in the instant."
contained
relationless,
existence?Euclidean,
point-like?was
wholly
42 See A
A. R. Hall,
and T. I. Williams
of Technology, vol. 3, ed. by C. Singer, E. J. Holmyard,
History
(Oxford, Clarendon
Press,
P- 569
1954-1958)?
48The connection
between
the problems
of time-measurement
than modern
and the logic of tenses cuts deeper
philosophers
sometimes
realize. As Y. Bar-Hillel
vol. 63 (1954), pp. 359-379?
Mind,
points out in his useful paper, "Indexical
Expressions,"
ones
sentences
not
the problem
of converting
into
definite
is
without
its presuppositions.
To express "The
indefinite
temporally
sun is now shining"
comes
in temporally
time it is (at the place I am talking about). What
definite
terms, I must know what
of setting up a useful frame of temporal
is primarily
the practical
references.
But when
up in the ancient Greek world
difficulty
we

even difficulties
are of the well
statements made
at spatially
start cropping
distant points,
in principle
consider
up. These
to build up a tense-logic
to more
known
relativistic
If we want
which
than one world-line
it we,
variety.
applies
(as is necessary
for example,
want
to study quantified
is compatible
and which
with physical
the usual
tense-logic)
reality, we cannot accept
a linear structure
with
but must
has the structure
instead have one which
of Lewis'
this point,
simple
tense-logic
S4. On
see my paper "The Modes
of Modality,"
Acta Philosophica Fennica, vol. 16 (1963), pp. 65-81,
p. 76.
especially

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12

It

is difficult

to see

not
a

calendar

systematic

PHILOSOPHICAL

AMERICAN

in this neglect

of a

lack

of

symptom

general

It is
of interest in timekeeping and in chronology.
some
not
to
find
impossible
perhaps
independent
evidence

of

the

same

attitude.

For

instance,

Her?

mann Fr?nkel's
study of the early Greek ideas of
time has led him to state bluntly that in the Iliad
no interest
"There
is virtually
in chronology,
nor
in relative
neither
in absolute
chronology
one."44 He does not find much more
interest in
later writers, either. This squares rather well with
the early Greek ways
of expressing
temporal
em?
relations
that Eric Havelock
has recently
were
out
events
in
He
located
that
phasized.
points
time not with reference to any absolute chronology
but rather by reference to each other: "The basic
grammatical
symbolise
expression which would
the link of event to event would
be simply the
'and

phrase

next'."45

XIV

was

more

or

important

at

to

easier

least

This
is the fact that in some obvious
document.
sense
elusive
the Greek culture was largely
though
based on the spoken and not on the written word. In
literature this oral character of the
philosophical
is shown, for example,
Greek
by the
thought
importance

of

as

dialogue

a method

of

presenting

of the
ideas. One
is also reminded
philosophical
of
in
the
of
oral
argumenta?
origins
logic
technique
tion. Every reader of Aristotle's
Topics knows to
what

extraordinary

extent

this
in question are actually uttered. Now
words
situation supplies what ismissing from a temporally
sentence
indefinite
itself; it enables us to know
the
of time actually is to which
what the moment
A
eliminates
word
refers.
"now"
logician
spoken
sen?
indefinite
of temporally
the indefiniteness
as
to
the
it
tences by projecting
were,
himself,
audience of someone actually uttering the sentence

he

was

concerned

with

the tricks and pitfalls of verbal exchange.


on the spoken word
it
From
this emphasis
follows that the reasons for replacing
temporally
ones
definite
sentences by temporally
indefinite
some
were
to
have
which modern
philosophers
in
is primary
extent absent.
If the spoken word
relation to the written word, one is apt to think of
from
and discuss logical and semantical matters
the
the vantage point of some situation in which

In a written

in question.

text

as

words

such

"now"

are indeterminate
in
and "at the present moment"
as a
a sense in which
they are not indeterminate
the
culture
part of actual
speech. In a written
sentences
indefinite
of
by
temporally
replacement
than in an oral
definite ones is more
important
the extent that it might appear to its
culture?to
as

philosophers

the

course.

"correct"

only

The primacy of the spoken word in relation to


an' explanatory
is not merely
the written word
as an explicit
a
occurs
it
of
historian;
hypothesis
Plato's
doctrine both in Plato and in Aristotle.
rejection

It seems to me, however,


that there is another
in
related
Aristotle's
feature
background
closely
which

QUARTERLY

the written

of

as a mere

word

to one's

aid

and as being dead and helpless as com?


memory
and
is well-known
the spoken word
with
pared
need not be elaborated here.46 Aristotle
expresses
terms but equally
in different
himself
clearly;
to him "written marks are symbols of
according
spoken
in turn

same

sounds"

in

the

symbols

of

"affections

as

way
in

the

the

were

latter

soul."47

the same feature


Eric Havelock
has emphasized
of Plato as I am now stressing
in the background
in

the

common

of

background

the

of

philosophers

of this
the Socratic
school.48 The use he makes
however. Havelock
from mine,
idea is different
as an expression of a
considers Plato's philosophy
from

transition
ceptual

culture

reliance

on

poetic
based

oral
on

to

tradition

written

records.

con?
This

is appealing,
but even if the uses Have
approach
it does not
are
it
of
makes
lock
fully justified
traces of a
that many
the possibility
exclude
in Plato's
reliance on the spoken word persisted
and Aristotle's
thinking. If I am right, the heavy
medium

temporally

of knowledge

indefinite

and

sentences

of opinion

as

is such a

trace.49

44Hermann

C. H. Beck,
2d ed. (Munich,
Denkens,
i960), p. 2. Cf. Eric Havelock,
Fr?nkel,
Wege und Formen fr?hgriechischen
notes 22 and 27.
Harvard
Press,
University
1963), pp. 192-193,
Mass.;
Preface toPlato
(Cambridge,
45
Havelock,
ibid., p. 180.
46
de
is given
in Paul Friedlander,
A full documentation
Platon, vol. 1 (3d ed., Berlin, Walter
Cf., e.g., Phaedrus 275d-276a.
116-121.
ch.
&
pp.
5,
Co.,
especially
Gruyter
1964),
47De
1, i6a4~6.
Interpretation
48
Havelock,
op. cit., passim.
49 In
is an arch-conservative
at hand, pace Havelock,
Plato
matter
go further and say that in the particular
fact, I would
relies entirely on the spoken word. The references
in his logical semantical
doctrines
who
given in n. 46 above show how deeply
Plato
felt about
this matter.

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It

some

in

that

remarkable

is also

IN

KNOWLEDGE

AND

TRUTH,

TIME,

word

unacknowl?

edged sense the spoken word was for Plato and


even logically prior to the thoughts
it
Aristotle
nature
the
of
Plato
expresses.
thinking
explained
carried on by
by calling it "the inward dialogue
the mind with itself without
spoken sound."50 This
was not merely a metaphor,
for Plato felt free to
out
in terms of
and
considerations
carry
arguments
sentences

spoken

then

and

to

the

transfer

results

so

as to apply to the corresponding


thoughts as well.
This is in fact the strategy of Plato's interesting and
important discussion at the end of the Sophist.
Aristotle does not formulate the logical primacy
of the spoken word as compared with thinking as
an explicit doctrine. However,
he sometimes does
exactly the same as Plato, that is to say, he too
his

bases

sometimes

we

of what

views

can

say

of

can be said of their


thoughts on what
people's
above
from
the
The
words.
passages
quoted
5 are

Categories

cases

instructive

in point.51

It may

be observed that the word which Aristotle uses in


was
translated
and which
these passages
by
Ackrill
spoken

as

viz.,
''statement,"
sentences.
and

words

logos,

often

refers

to

that both
It is perhaps not irrelevant to mention
occa?
Aeschylus
(Agamemnon 1. 276) and Homer
as
to
referred
"wingless"
sionally
people's thoughts
or

words.

unspoken

XV

This
words

primacy

of concepts

applying

in

to

sentences

and

relation

to spoken

concepts

refer?

the idea
ring to thinking must have encouraged
that one and the same temporally
indefinite sen?
tence

belief)
sions.
but a
himself
whether
becomes

expresses

one

and

the

same

thought

(opinion,

even when
it is uttered on different occa?
If a thought is, logically speaking, nothing
statement addressed by the "speaker"
to
without
the question
sounds,
spoken
a

statement

tantamount

specifies
to the

complete
thought
the
whether
question

to add something
to this statement
speaker
when he tacitly addresses it to himself in order to
make
it fully understood
by the "hearer." The
obvious answer is that no expansion
is needed as
same
with
occasions
when
the
form of
compared
has

50 See Theaetetus
igoa and Sophist 263e.
51
Categories 5, 4a24~2g,
4a34~b2.
52
Ackrill,
op. cit., pp. 113-114.
53
Cornford,
op. cit., p. 113.
54
and M. Kneale,
W. Kneale
op. cit., p.

GREEK

ANCIENT

PHILOSOPHY

to someone

is addressed

13

for

else,

surely

a man

his own words


if they are explicit
understands
them. Hence
the
enough for others to understand
identity of a spoken sentence (form of
grammatical
words) easily becomes a criterion of the identity of
the

corresponding

too.

thoughts,

Thus

transi?

tion from the spoken word to thoughts it expresses


does not seem to necessitate
any changes in the
of
individuation
involved.
principle
The conceptual primacy of the spoken word over
thinking is related to the absence of a full-fledged
notion of a proposition
among the Greeks. By and
matters were dis?
and
semantical
large, logical
cussed by Greek philosophers
in terms of actual
utterances
rather than in terms of the thoughts or
It is true that in the opening
beliefs expressed.
of De Interpretatione which we discussed
paragraph
seems to be the
the order of relative importance
Aristotle
there
that
says
spoken sounds
opposite:
are symbols of affections
of the soul. However,
seems to have rather limited purposes in
Aristotle
in this passage. As Ackrill points out, what
mind
to the "affections
the reference
in the soul" is
to
intended
is
elucidate
the fact that
primarily
are different
written
and
sounds
spoken
although
in different languages, what the words express may
as Aristotle
be "the same for all men,"
himself
As
Ackrill
also
"the
notion
that
says.52
points out,
utterances are symbols of affections in the soul does
not have a decisive
influence on the rest of De
other Greek
Interpretationen Like
philosophers,
Aristotle
thought of logical and semantical matters
largely in terms of the spoken language.
to Plato by F. M.
The same point is applied
Cornford:53

Logicians

. . .

"proposition"
cannot
believe

maintain
might
. . . which
has
it. With

that we

that

false

I
meaning,
though
are not concerned,
but

with

and
statements
judgments
made
and believed
actually
by some
never
Plato
discusses
"propositions"
only

is a

there

that
rational
that

can

be

being.
no
one

propounds.

Similar remarks can be made of the Stoic con?


cepts of a lekton and of an axioma, closely though
our notion of a proposition
in
they approximate
many

other

respects.

Thus

follows:54

156.

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Mrs.

Kneale

writes

as

a previously
to insist

As

has
passage
quoted
that an axioma which

wished
as

or false must

true

only

be

somehow

in one

described;...
lekta exist

Sextus

place

when

PHILOSOPHICAL

AMERICAN

14

they

are

assumes

no

one

comes

He

propounds.

to the contention
If there is anything
that the
to a larger extent
Greeks "lived in the present"
than the members
of some other tradition,
the
justification
(and perhaps also the import) of this
suggestion has to be spelled out in terms of such

to

in De. Int. 9, i8b36. It is no acci?


envisaging
that this passage is, if I am right,
dent, however,
came
in which
Aristotle
the passage
exactly
one

to

closest

statements

considering

which

refer

to

unique singular event and which therefore need an


The
other similar cases
chronology.55
objective
of unasserted proposi?
that there are in Aristotle
are

tions

less

much

as mere

able

fa?ons

and
clear,
de parler.

probably

explain?

Physics we find a neat meta?


of
the semantical idea we have
physical projection
to the latter,
the belief
discussed.
According
the word
containing
by a sentence
expressed
In the Aristotelian

remains

"now"

one

ordinarily

and

same.

the

In

the Physics, Aristotle


argues that the "now" is in
the actual sense of the word always the same. It is
it
and makes
the time together"
"holds
what
continuous.
(See Physics IV, 13, 222a 1o ff., and
11,

seems

There

2igbio-22oa4.)

to be

an

concrete

the

becomes
moments
moment

content

of

Far

more
or

interest?

not

actually

University

token-reflexive
uttered

"now"

for
referred

Aristotle,
to the

"now"

for
same

are

that

known

about

the

of

being

a manifestation

perhaps

rather

to the

counter-example

thought,

this pursuit
of

an

this

attempt

temporal?

of the eternal

very

is

temporality?

to compensate

for

it.

was
and Aristotle's
ideal of knowledge
of eternal
truths just because
the
knowledge
vehicles by means of which truths were thought of
tended to make all
by them as being expressed
other kinds of truths ephemeral.
In a sense I am
the view of R. G.
thus led to agreement with
that "the Greek pursuit of the eternal
Collingwood

at the different
at the
utterable

the case that the word

those

Plato's

"now"-statement

known

from

ity of Greek

in question.

It is thus literally
was

to the world
relevant
of time by becoming

as

facts

with
the concepts of
ways of Greek philosophers
or not the facts we have
time and truth. Whether
any
pointed out go very far toward establishing
in any case they show us
broad generalizations,
how the different facets of the Greek way of think?
ing are related to each other. The suggestion that
the Greeks were immersed in the present moment
more deeply than we are easily provokes a reply
which
of the Greek
points to the preoccupation
the
and
with
eternal
the
immutable.
philosophers
that this preoccupation
We have seen, however,
is
with
connected
the reliance
of these
closely
on temporally
sentences.
indefinite
philosophers

of
ing analogy between the way different moments
in turn identified
time are actualized by becoming
with the eternally identical "now," and the way in
which

in the

XVI

close

very

is postulated

that

that

or meant.

expressed

it would not be
As far as Aristotle
is concerned,
strictly true to say he never considers propositions
that

"now"

Physics.

it is so

when

clearly

actual

identical

the Stoics
shown,
is to be described

present

QUARTERLY

was

as

eager

themselves

each
forever

as

had

it was,

precisely

an unusually

because

vivid

the Greeks

sense

of

the

temporal."56

ofHelsinki

and

Received November

Stanford University

55
Sea Fight,"
and Future
"The Once
Hintikka,
56
The Idea ofHistory
R. G. Collingwood,
(Oxford,

especially
Clarendon

pp.

465-466.
Press,
1946), p. 22.

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