The various ways a falsehood is spoken of

The various ways a falsehood is spoken of


Falsehood is spoken of in one sense as a thing which is false, and that in two ways: either because it is not or cannot be formed (in language), as when we say that the diagonal is commensurable or that you are sitting (in these the former is always false, the latter sometimes), or, secondly, as things which exist, but are such by nature as to seem either not to be such as they are or to be things that are not, such as a sketch or a dream. For these things do have some nature, but not the sort of nature their impression creates. Thus, then, things are called false, either because they themselves do not exist or because the impression derived from them does not exist.

The statement of things

Again, a false statement is the statement of things that are not, in so far as it is false (for the statement of things that are not is not false unconditionally, but that of things that are not qua false is so; for it is because there states of what does not hold that it does hold that the statement is false). This is why each statement is false when it holds of something other than that of which it is true, e.g. the definition of a circle is false of a triangle.

Now each thing has, in one way, one statement, i.e. the statement of its essence (its definition), in another, many, since what is by itself and what is affected are in a way the same thing, e.g. Socrates and musical Socrates. On the other hand, a false statement is not a strictly statement of anything. This is why Antisthenes was naïve when he claimed that nothing can be said except by its peculiar statement, namely a single statement for a single subject; whence it followed that there is no contradiction, nor even practically a false statement. In addition, it is possible for one to state each thing not only by its statement but also by another’s; quite falsely indeed, yet it is possible in a way truly, as eight is double, by the use of the statement of two.

These things, then, are called false thus, while a liar man is one who is prone to and prefer such statements, not for any other reason but for their own sake, and one who produce such statements to other people, just as we call false things those which produce a false impression. This is why in the Platonic dialogue “Hippias” the argument is misleading, since the same man is both a liar and a truthful. For it takes incorrectly the man who is capable of falsity (i.e. this is the man who knows and is prudent); furthermore, that he who is willingly bad is better. That falsehood is taken by induction (he who limps willingly is superior to one who does so unwillingly, meaning by limping pretending), since if he were willingly lame, he would probably be worse — just as in the moral case (the one who is willingly bad is worse), so also with this case.

Bibliography: Aristotle Metaphysics (1024b.17)
Translation – text editing: George Kotsalis