(2) By the law of excluded middle, either ‘A is B’ or ‘A is not B’ must be true. Hence either ‘the present King of France is bald’ or ‘the present King of France is not bald’ must be true. Yet if we enumerated the things that are bald, and then the things that are not bald, we should not find the present King of France in either list. Hegelians, who love a synthesis, will probably conclude that he wears a wig.” Russell (B.), “On Denoting” In: Mind, New Series, Vol. 14, No. 56 (Oct., 1905), p. 485.

Doctor B. ain’t liking Hegel’s dissing on formal logic and the dialectical logic on the meta level!

  1. Guymax says:

    Well, being pedantic and unjhumorous for a moment, Russell never did quite understand the LEM. Where A and B are both false, as here, they are not a contradiction and the LEM would not apply.

    • Philosiful says:

      That’s ok, not everyone can become a comedian like Russell.

      But, I don’t understand your remark. Russell doesn’t say anything about ‘A’ or ‘B’. He talks about the relation between them. Like he says, either ‘A = B’ or ‘A =/= B’. One of them must be true. And when you refer to the specific example Russell gives, you’re right! But isn’t that exactly the issue that Russell is addressing in this article?

  2. Guymax says:

    Sorry if that was cryptic. I was saying that there is no King of France, and so here A and B are false and the LEM would not apply. I was defending the honour of Hegel and Aristotle.

    • Philosiful says:

      I understand. But the problem according to Russell is that once the question is “Is the king of France bald?” you will have to reply that the question itself is non-sensical. Russell wants to do better than that. So I don’t think that merely saying that neither A nor B is true won’t do the trick here.

  3. Guymax says:

    But if A and B are false they would not form a true contradictory pair, and to apply the laws of thought to them would be to make a big mistake. It’s a mistake that Russell made over and over again.

    Russell observed that our sentences invariably begin with the unspoken words, ‘There is an x such that..’ If we preface his statements about the King of France with these words then the situation becomes more clear.

    Russell was a very muddled thinker on this. It destroyed his chances of making progress in metaphysics since it leads him to see contradictions that don’t exist. The two King of France statements would be a good example.

    I don’t think Hegel would have resorted to the idea that King of France wears a wig, I think he would have pointed out that the LEM only applies to a true contradiction as defined by Aristotle.

    It is precisely this observation that allowed Spencer Brown to solve Russell’s paradox where Russell could not.

    Not arguing with you really, just wish people would be more sceptical of Russell. He did not solve any problems.

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