The Importance of Being Erroneous

Australasian Philosophical Review 3 (2):155-166 (2019)
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ABSTRACT In this commentary, I draw parallels between the sophists’ and the Socratic account of meaning that McCabe reconstructs from the Euthydemus and views on logic and language found in the works of classical authors of analytic philosophy. I argue that the ingredients of the sophist’s account of truth, which McCabe describes as ‘chopped logos’, correspond to widely held philosophical theses concerning meaning. It shares three of its four ingredients with the direct reference theory of the meanings of proper names. The sophists need a notion of meaning applicable to sayings, not names: they require a notion of truth. This is provided by the remaining ingredient, which is a version of the principle that meanings are truth conditions. The Euthydemus demonstrates dramatically that the combination of the four ingredients is unpalatable. Building on McCabe's point that chopped logos does not get the conditions of failure of sayings right, I conclude that, as the sophists have no notion of falsity of sayings, they have neither a notion of truth nor of meaning.
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