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Tarski, Peirce, and Truth- Correspondences in Law Can Semiotics Describe Truth in Legal Discourse? Paul R. Van Fleet.

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Presentation on theme: "Tarski, Peirce, and Truth- Correspondences in Law Can Semiotics Describe Truth in Legal Discourse? Paul R. Van Fleet."— Presentation transcript:

1 Tarski, Peirce, and Truth- Correspondences in Law Can Semiotics Describe Truth in Legal Discourse? Paul R. Van Fleet

2 The Divide Western Meaning is MADE Abrahamic Religions The World is a Sum of Parts Logical Analysis Are you eating the menu? Eastern Meaning ARISES Hinduism, Buddhism The World is an Inseparable Whole Direct Experience What are you eating?

3 The Bridge – Semiotics! Semiotics aims to identify meaning, but as a unified whole – it is a tool to describe the infinite relations between objects and interpretants by using signs This way, we know that the dinner we eat is not confined to the menu and we can use that menu to choose what we eat!

4 Signs and Symbols Throughout the presentation, keep in mind this necessary relation: ALL SYMBOLS ARE SIGNS, BUT NOT ALL SIGNS ARE SYMBOLS This is important because analytic traditions use symbols as the building blocks of logical analysis. Semiotics, however, uses the sign as the building block of semiotic analysis.

5 Correspondence Theory of Truth The world is all that is the case. – L. Wittgenstein The main thesis – If a proposition corresponds to reality (or what is), then the proposition is true. The problem – What is reality? What is a fact?

6 Das Wahre and Das Falsche Gottlob Frege Any function (or sign) with a value of either das Wahre (the true) or das Falsche (the false) exists as a proposition. Evaluating these truth functions requires a comparison to the state of affairs. – a correspondence theory of truth!

7 Alfred Tarski ( ) The Big Four of Logic – Aristotle, Gödel, Frege, and Tarski Professor at University of Warsaw MathematicianLogicianConvention-T

8 Convention-T The Prerequisites Propositional language –Language used to express a proposition If propositional language is used to evaluate that propositions truth, the system ultimately collapses on its own self-referential nature The solution - Meta-language!

9 Why Meta-Language is Necessary The statement within a rectangle on this slide is false. Let c be an abbreviation for the statement within a rectangle on this slide. Then, consider c, then only view this slide (the only available set of information). c becomes identical with the statement c is false. BUT, c is false if and only if c is false. Therefore, c is true if and only if c is false. If propositions are considered on the same level of analysis, i.e. primary analysis, then this contradiction occurs and the system fails.

10 How Meta-Language Works If we have a secondary language to evaluate the primary proposition, then the previous contradiction does not occur. So, meta-language is the language by which we evaluate the truth of primary propositions. This insight is crucial to Tarskis seminal contribution to an analytic definition of truth – Convention T

11 Convention T For some x: T(x) if and only if φ (x). Let x = the statement in propositional language, T = the proposition- language truth function of that statement, and φ = the meta- language truth function For some x, x is true in the propositional language if and only if x is true in the meta-language that evaluates the propositional language. Convention-T is most useful when the meta-language is defined by the same syntax and value sets that the propositional language contains. The meta-language confirms the truth or falsity of the propositional language by using ones existing knowledge on the subject.

12 Convention T and Legal Discourse In Tarskis theory, the set by which the meta- language is defined is conceptual. In legal discourse, the set by which the meta- language is defined is institutional. This means that the legal profession determines truth and falsity according to legal truth – the law must assume that every fact presented to it is either true or false, regardless of whether this may actually be determined.

13 Legal Correspondence Theory (Criminal Law) P1 – A statute defines a situation as a crime. P2 – Some event occurs. P3 - Certain facts of this event are analagous to the situation the statute defines. C – A crime occurs. Here, we see that law defines its OWN truth!

14 An Example - Theft A person is guilty of theft if he unlawfully takes, or exercises unlawful control over, movable property of another with intent to deprive him thereof Pa.C.S. § So lets break this down into analytic- legal language…

15 18 Pa.C.S. § 3921 Broken Down Let x symbolizes some movable property, Let U symbolizes unlawful taking, Let E symbolizes an exercise of unlawful control, Let D stand for the intent to deprive, Let T stand for a theft. x: (U(x) v E(x)) ^ I(x) T(x). x: (U(x) v E(x)) ^ I(x) T(x). Each of the functions must be evaluated for truth in order to find a theft! What tools do we have to evaluate truth?

16 Truth Tables A truth table is an analytic tool to determine the truth or falsity of not only symbols, but relations between those symbols. First consider the proposition X. Consider the proposition X and Y. X, Y TF TTF FFF XTFNot-XFT

17 The Fatal Flaw Analytic-legal traditions assume that every symbol must be true or false, regardless of whether that truth is actually determinable. The law is actually not concerned with actual truth, but is more concerned with assigning truth. The analytic-legal tradition cannot create room for new concepts – it can only attempt to define those by classifying them into the existing set. If a set is too limited to introduce new concepts, however, it fails to do what it is supposed to do – describe our world.

18 Semiotic-Legal Truth Analysis Instead of the limited analytic tradition, where a sign/symbol must be true or false, the semiotic tradition allows for the indeterminacy of truth to play into truth analysis. This concept requires an acceptance of firstness, the initial condition where the mode of being which consists in its subjects being positively such as it is regardless of aught else. (Peirce)

19 Husserl and the Einstellungänderung Einstellungänderung = attitude change One may have an infinite number of attitudes towards a particular stimulus. Attitude changes towards that stimulus create new meaning, and since that attitude may change in an infinite number of ways, infinite meaning may result.

20 Peirce and Firstness Peirce uses a similar idea in his conception of firstness. Peirce makes it absolutely clear that firstness exists only in a theoretical concept, because as long as things do not act upon one another, there is no sense or meaning in saying that they have any being. Firstness is the awareness of attitude change, which expresses itself as feeling

21 Difficulties in Firstness In contrast to logical analysis, which is mechanical and rigid with no real conception of firstness (as a result of verification consisting of a set), Peirces conception of the process of feeling and firstness is necessarily whole, with the expectation of rupture –However, with the whole of firstness being continually ruptured, which means that the whole must necessarily change! Peirce must yoke the mercurial nature of firstness to objects for some consistency, without diminishing the importance; thus arises secondness and thirdness. –Remember, we want to have some idea of what were eating!

22 How can Firstness be Expressed in Truth? The concept of firstness plays into truth-analysis by allowing logical symbols to be analyzed as semiotic signs. Signs must acknowledge that truth or falsity may be expressed as a quality of a sign, but signs must also be able to designate truth as indeterminate. –This is because the sign must remain true to the concept of firstness as an infinite whole. We must then introduce a NEW truth-value.

23 The L-Value The L-value indicates indeterminate truth, or a unknown. So to explain the right table, when X is true, not- X is false, and vice-versa. However, if the truth of X is unknown, or L, then the truth of not-X must also be unknown. XTFL Not-XFTL

24 An Expanded Relation Consider the relation X and Y. X,Y TFL TTFL FFFF LLFL

25 Another Relation Consider X or Y. X, Y TFL TTTT FTFL LTLL

26 What the L-value Does The L-value, because it signifies an unknown truth-value, must allow for an equal chance of the sign-quality true- false – which means that the sign can be BOTH true or false, consistent with the infinite quality of firstness. An example: –Consider an individual who has only seen the colors red and blue, and has no other experience with color. –This individual now is presented with a color that is equal parts red and blue. –If he is constrained to determining whether it is true that the color is red, or that it is true that the color is blue, as he would be by an analytic set, then purple cannot arise as an independent sign. The subject must make a choice – red or blue. –If the individual is semiotically guided, then his conception of purple may exist (because he can assign the L value in his truth-conception), and he can evaluate the statement It is true that this shade is red (or blue) in accord with reality.

27 Why the L-value is Important Analytic-legal analysis assumes a 1:1 ratio. –The sign must have ONE definition that is present in the set, and correspond to ONE way that the world actually is. The L-value allows for flexibility, on the other hand, and acknowledges infinite attitude changes – a :1: ratio. –The sign may have INFINITE definitions, before being tied to one object through semiosis. –The attitude change in firstness then returns the sign to the previous infinite potential.

28 Can Semiotic Truth Analysis Adequately Describe Legal Discourse? In short, no – not because of any fault in the semiotic process, but because the institutional structure of legal discourse will not allow interpretations that it does not finitely determine.

29 18 Pa.C.S. § 3921 A person is guilty of theft if he unlawfully takes, or exercises unlawful control over, movable property of another with intent to deprive him thereof. – –Some elements here are relatively easy to define as true or false within a set Movable property (referring to an object) – –Others are more difficult Unlawfully takes? Control? (referring to a state) – –Others virtually cannot be Intent?? (a feeling) Can we really see into a persons soul and determine intent? Intent relies on much more than legal reasoning - it relies on surrounding relations.

30 18 Pa.C.S. § 3921 (cont.) In legal discourse, when theft occurs, there must be unlawfully takes AND movable property AND intent to deprive. –Keep in mind that this is a closed set. In semiotic discourse, theft is unlawfully takes- movable property-intent to deprive… –The ellipsis is important because those individual elements are linked to an entire web of relations. –Acknowledging the entire web of relations necessarily relegates theft to the L-value, which legal discourse cannot tolerate.

31 FEC v. Citizens United In general discourse, a corporation may be thought of as an entity that exists apart from its shareholders and also as property that is held in trust for the shareholders. –Semiotically, a corporation is entity-property in the general discourse. However, the majority in the Supreme Court eviscerated the property-relation from the sign corporation, and declared that it was true that a corporation was an entity, only self-referentially examining those legal facts that supported the entity conception of a corporation.

32 FEC v. Citizens United (cont.) The sign corporation is no longer a :1 ratio sign whose truth is indicated by the potentiality of the L-value. Corporation is now merely a 1:1 ratio symbol of the entity, classified as true or false. In this way, analytic-legal discourse has made a Procrustean bed, forcing the definition to conform to legal precepts.

33 Why the Law Must Squelch the L- Value. The legal institution paints itself as an arbiter of truth, rendering decisions that are absolute and measured in order to maintain its power over the public. The order that law imposes upon the social structure breaks down in the face of the unknown. Legal discourse must necessarily transmute general signs into legal symbols for the sake of maintaining power over the populace.

34 Consequences Jacques Lacan –Psychoanalyst –Psychiatrist –Linguist The Master Discourse Master signifier = judge (or lawyer? or E.J. Cyran?)

35 Master Discourse A dynamic where a master signifier, who is a dominating party, imposes a version of events upon a secondary signifier such that the secondary signifiers version of events becomes the master signifiers version of events –The master dominates the slave, who must abide by the masters definition or be subjected to the lash –Sound familiar?

36 The Law as a Master Discourse If a perpetrator attempts to put forth a conception of his crime that is different than that of the legal community, his version will not be accepted and he will be punished. Judges (and juries), who are the real master-signifiers, create symbols using analytic-legal discourse to decide cases brought before them and punish those whose actions do not conform to the rules of the legal institution. Lawyers, the pseudo-master-signifiers, also use analytic- legal reasoning to compel the judge or jury to accept their interpretation as the singular interpretation, guilty or not-guilty.

37 One Example of How Law is a Master Discourse In general discourse the idea of theft can take on a number of connotations. –Theft could simply be someone taking something that is yours even though you have no claim to it, it could be someone who simply wins something by chance, and so forth. However, once the event called theft in the general discourse is subjected to the legal process, like through the Pennsylvania statute above, the meaning of theft is condensed into only one interpretation. –The theft that at one time held several meanings now only has one for the purposes of general discourse. –Think about law school bantering.

38 The Hope As long as the interpreter recognizes the law as wielding institutional, not actual, power over signs and that the law is forced to conform to its own axioms, the interpreter is free to recognize legality as an interpretant of a sign and its related object. Even though the law cannot allow itself to recognize interpretants outside of its institutional boundaries, the individual can. Perhaps the individuals actions must conform to legal standards to avoid punishment, but the mind does not.


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