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Aristotle METAPHYSICA Book 5 Part 29

The false

1. 'The false' means: -

2. (1) that which is false as a thing, and that (a) because it is not put together or cannot be put together, e.g. 'that the diagonal of a square is commensurate with the side' or 'that you are sitting'; for one of these is false always, and the other sometimes; it is in these two senses that they are non-existent. (b) There are things which exist, but whose nature it is to appear either not to be such as they are or to be things that do not exist, e.g. a sketch or a dream; for these are something, but are not the things the appearance of which they produce in us. We call things false in this way, then, - either because they themselves do not exist, or because the appearance which results from them is that of something that does not exist.

3. (2) A false account is the account of non-existent objects, in so far as it is false. Hence every account is false when applied to something other than that of which it is true; e.g. the account of a circle is false when applied to a triangle. In a sense there is one account of each thing, i.e. the account of its essence, but in a sense there are many, since the thing itself and the thing itself with an attribute are in a sense the same, e.g. Socrates and musical Socrates (a false account is not the account of anything, except in a qualified sense). Hence Antisthenes was too simple-minded when he claimed that nothing could be described except by the account proper to it, - one predicate to one subject; from which the conclusion used to be drawn that there could be no contradiction, and almost that there could be no error. But it is possible to describe each thing not only by the account of itself, but also by that of something else. This may be done altogether falsely indeed, but there is also a way in which it may be done truly; e.g. eight may be described as a double number by the use of the definition of two.

4. These things, then, are called false in these senses, but (3) a false man is one who is ready at and fond of such accounts, not for any other reason but for their own sake, and one who is good at impressing such accounts on other people, just as we say things are which produce a false appearance. This is why the proof in the Hippias that the same man is false and true is misleading. For it assumes that he is false who can deceive (i.e. the man who knows and is wise); and further that he who is willingly bad is better. This is a false result of induction - for a man who limps willingly is better than one who does so unwillingly - by 'limping' Plato means 'mimicking a limp', for if the man were lame willingly, he would presumably be worse in this case as in the corresponding case of moral character.


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