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© Cambridge University Press 2011 Appendix A Propositions
© Cambridge University Press 2011 Proposition Proposition = a statement that can be asserted or denied (said to be true or false).
© Cambridge University Press 2011 Analytic propositions An analytic proposition is one that is true by definition. There are two main types of analytic proposition: –A definitional truth defines a word, e.g. ‘All bachelors are unmarried men’. –Truths of reason go through a process of reasoning to justify a conclusion, e.g. in logic or mathematics.
© Cambridge University Press 2011 Empirical propositions A proposition whose truth or falsity is based on perception, e.g. ‘Pandas eat bamboo’. Most knowledge in natural sciences, social sciences and history is empirical.
© Cambridge University Press 2011 Value-judgements A judgement that contains a value word, e.g. good, bad, right, wrong, beautiful, etc.
© Cambridge University Press 2011 Metaphysical propositions Statements that are neither analytic, empirical nor a value-judgement, and that concern the nature of ultimate reality. Examples include statements about God, time, death, rebirth and the meaning of life.
© Cambridge University Press 2011 Complications The distinction between the four types of proposition is not always clear. –Factual and verbal disputes –The nominal fallacy –Facts and values –Empirical propositions and metaphysics
© Cambridge University Press 2011 Factual and verbal disputes What looks like a factual dispute may rest on the interpretation of a word or phrase, e.g. ‘too fast’, ‘murder’, ‘manslaughter’. While you can settle a factual dispute by looking at the evidence, you can only resolve a verbal dispute by convincing others to accept your definition of the disputed word.
© Cambridge University Press 2011 The nominal fallacy We sometimes assume we have explained something just because we have used a ‘posh’ or technical term to describe it, e.g. ‘Sleeping pills put people to sleep because they have dormative powers.’ But ‘dormative powers’ just means the ability to put people to sleep, so this actually means that ‘sleeping pills put people to sleep because they have the power to put people to sleep’.
© Cambridge University Press 2011 Facts and values Some words can be used factually (empirically) or as value-judgements, e.g. ‘liar’, ‘gossip’, ‘patient’. Many words have positive and negative connotations and this also blurs the dividing line between facts and values. Empirical facts may be relevant to the justification of value-judgements, e.g. Bill can swim 100 metres (empirical), so Bill is a good swimmer (value- judgement).
© Cambridge University Press 2011 Empirical propositions and metaphysics Some empirical facts may be relevant to the justification of metaphysics, e.g. the order of the universe must justify the existence of God. If an empirical fact is pushed hard enough, it collapses into a metaphysical one, e.g. ‘I know that my keys are on the table.’ → ‘But how can you be sure you are not dreaming?’ All beliefs ultimately rely on metaphysical beliefs (core intuitions, Chapter 6) about reality.
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