Bill, Not really. I think they're both saying basically the same thing.
Do you see Branden's 1963 article as disagreeing with Peikoff's exposition in OPAR, about anything that matters in the present discussion?
I wrote, "...if a statement lacks cognitive content, then it is neither true nor false, which means that Branden, as well as Peikoff, would subscribe to the notion that an arbitrary statement is neither true nor false." Bob Campbell replied,
Branden didn't *say* that arbitrary statements are neither true nor false; Peikoff did. But if you take "it is as if nothing had been said" literally, how would you avoid Peikoff's conclusion? Right, I don't think you can.
I wrote, "But an arbitrary statement is a statement nonetheless. It is not bereft of cognitive content; if it were, it wouldn't be a statement, but a meaningless utterance. Moreover, just where is the evidence for the assertion that an arbitrary statement lacks cognitive content? Does the arbitrary statement, "There is life on Venus," lack cognitive content? Of course not."
Although Peikoff never actually uses the word "meaningless" in his treatment, I have also taken "has no cognitive content" or "cannot be cognitively processed" to imply "meaningless." Right, I think you have to take it that way; otherwise, you can't say that the statement is neither true nor false. If it's meaningful -- if makes a statement about reality -- then it's either true or false.
The ARI contingent at SOLOP was not pleased with my interpretation, however. (For the highest signal-to-noise ratio on the issue, I would direct you to Thomas Lee's comments.) If I get a chance, I'll check it out.
By the way, are you familiar with Peikoff's early-1970s approach to such statements as "The present king of France is bald"? I kept expecting him to mention it during his discussion of "the arbitrary," but he never did. Yes, I am familiar with it. He argues that Russell's purported solution to the so-called problem of definite descriptions simply pushes the problem back one step, but doesn't solve it. The problem is that the proposition, "The present king of France is bald" doesn't describe a definite existent or have an existential referent, because there is no present king of France. So Russell attempts to solve this problem by translating the proposition into three other propositions which collectively have the same meaning as the original. Viz.:
At most, one person is the present king of France.
At least, one person is the present king of France.
Whoever is the present king of France is bald.
Peikoff notes that Russell's translation leaves him with the same problem, because when you say, "one person" you are saying that there is a person who is the present king of France, when there is no such person. So, it's the same problem all over again. Ditto for the pronoun "Whoever," since "Whoever" also refers to a person who is the present king of France, and again there is no such person. So Russell's solution fails, and we're left with the original problem, assuming of course that it is a problem, which Peikoff says it isn't. The alleged problem is that this proposition is supposed to be meaningful, but in order to be meaningful, argues Russell, the definite description "The present king of France" must have an existential referent. If it doesn't refer to anything, then it's not meaningful. One philosopher, Alexius Meinong, attempted to solve this problem by arguing that since the proposition is meaningful, there must somehow be a present king of France, and since he doesn't exist in this world, he must exist in a metaphysical underworld, inhabited by all of the other non-existent things we refer to like unicorns and centaurs.
But Peikoff maintains that the proposition "The present king of France is bald" is nevertheless meaningful despite its subject having no existential referent, because human beings have the power to abstract from reality and combine their abstractions in ways that form meaningful propositions whose referents do not actually exist in the real world. Nevertheless, he says, we must get our abstractions ultimately from an observation of reality, so these abstractions must ultimately refer back to reality. He gives the example of a centaur -- a mythical creature that is half man and half horse. Although centaurs don't exist in reality, men and horses do. So "centaur" is meaningful, because its constituent concepts are themselves meaningful.
Now, I think that what you had in mind, Bob, is the contradiction between this view and the one in which Peikoff says that arbitrary statements are meaningless. Suppose I say, quite arbitrarily, "Centaurs inhabit the local zoo." According to his discussion in OPAR, Peikoff would say that that statement is without cognitive content, because it has no evidential support. But, according to his critique of Russell, Peikoff would say that it does have cognitive content, because its constituent concepts refer to reality.
Of course, the proposition "Centaurs inhabit the local zoo" is false on its face, even though it is arbitrary. But what about the proposition, "The present king of France is bald"? If that proposition is meaningful as Peikoff says it is, then it must be either true or false. Of course, it's not true, because there is no present king of France, which means that it must be false. And if it's false, doesn't that mean that the present king of France is not bald? But how could he not be bald? He doesn't exist? It would appear, then, that the proposition "The present king of France is bald" is neither true nor false. And if it's neither true nor false, then it's meaningless, but obviously, it's meaningful; therefore, it must be one or the other. We are thus left on the horns of a dilemma.
I would solve this dilemma as follows: To say that the proposition is false is not to say that "The present king of France is not bald." Rather, it is to say that "It is not the case that the present king of France is bald," which is true, since the present king of France doesn't exist, and no non-existent entity can be bald. In other words, we falsify the proposition by negating the entire statement, not simply by negating the baldness of the present king of France. So, every meaningful statement is either true or false, because either it corresponds to reality or it doesn't. Stated symbolically, either P is Q or it's not the case P is Q. There is no third alternative.
(Edited by William Dwyer
on 9/02, 4:31pm)