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I was impressed by "On Truth and Falsity in their Extramoral Sense" when I was 17. Looking at it again, I see why: that was my first encounter with the paradox of analysis--i.e. the tradeoff between informativeness and truth in analysis. (If you define A in terms of B, this will be informative, but will probably not seem to account completely for A's A-ness, to put it generically.) I first encountered it under that name in John Wisdom, I believe, much later. Not that I'm surprised to turn up more consistency in revisiting my own past.....

But I'll let the eloquent, ornery German speak for himself. Page numbers from one of those Cambridge chronologically organized collections.

"[Underlined by my young self] If [man] does not mean to content himself with truth in the shape of tautology, that is, with empty husks, he will always obtain illusions instead of truth" (90).

"Every idea originates through equating the unequal. As certainly as no one leaf is exactly similar to any other, so certain is it that the idea 'leaf' has been formed through an arbitrary omission of these individual differences, through a forgetting of the differentiating qualities...." (95)


And I can't leave out this delightedly excoriating passage:

"What therefore is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthropomorphisms: in short a sum of human relations which became poetically and rhetorically intensified, metamorphosed, adorned, and after long usage seem to a nation fixed, canonic and binding; truths are illusions of which one has forgotten that they are illusions; worn-out metaphors which have become powerless to affect the senses; coins with their images effaced and now no longer of account as coins but merely as metal" (92).


The essay's rather haphazard according to my standards these days, but I dearly miss this sort of writing in philosophy. And I wish I could take my 17 year-old self and say, "Hey! That's the paradox of analysis you're interested in! Go Alta-Vista that!"

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apolliana

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