Apr 2, 2013

The topic was:
The investigation of the truth is in one way hard, in another easy. An indication of this is found in the fact that no one is able to attain the truth adequately, while, on the other hand, no one fails entirely, but everyone says something true about the nature of all things, and while individually they contribute little or nothing to the truth, by the union of all a considerable amount is amassed.
― Aristotle, Metaphysics

Analysis by Abhinav Menon: (and my comments and questions to Abhinav)
I have split my argument into Aristotle's argument, Sec A is my analysis of Aristotle's Arg, Sec B and C are further discussions. 
Aristotle’s Argument
P1. Every individual can say ‘something true’ about nature of things in virtue of   ‘things’ existing
P2. Truth is an all-encompassing concept (How) – thus an individual alone cannot comprehend the vastness of truth (Why)
P3. Truth as a concept is being investigated and thus so is the nature of truth. Investigating the nature of truth contributes to the investigation of truth. (Does he mean concept OR individual truths?)
(P1 + P2 => C1.) The union of all P1s leads to a larger portion of the truth (indicated in P2 + P3) being discovered
C2. Physics (saying something true about the nature of things) (i.e. facts, often named as truths) is different from Metaphysics (investigation of truth) (i.e. the concept or 'Truth', what constitutes Truth?, what characterizes it?, How do we arrive at it?)
(C1 + C2 + P3 => C3.) Truth in its entirety cannot be known. All we can say is that we can know a large part of truth by knowing about the nature of things. (I think he means that sum of knowledge of ALL men gives us a large portion of the Truth and not one man's knowledge)

Sec A
A1.’Investigation of the truth’ (what you mean is the Truth in such and such a case, i.e. an instance of truth and not Truth as an idea?) affirms a something/concept called truth with certain properties, which form its nature
A2. Things have elements of truth in them (this follows from ‘the nature of all things’ argument) and only by piecing together the elements of truth and taking its union can we arrive at an understanding/attainment of truth
A3. Inherent in truth’s nature is that it encompasses everything (this is a restatement of P2)
(A1 + A2) A4. A3 is inconsistent and Aristotle’s reasoning is circular. He is in a process of investigating something called truth, and yet he is able to assign a property like “all-encompassing” to truth without fully investigating its nature. I.e. he has defined truth but he is still in search of it.
(I think Aristotle would be unhappy with this unfair interpretation. I think you are confusing the 'idea' with the 'instance')

Sec B
B1. A definition of the notion of truth is not clear in Aristotle’s argument (i.e. truth is some sort of an abstract entity not well defined)
B2. If truth is everything under the sun then why call it truth? (If existing objects have element of truth in that, they are, as they appear, why do we need a separate notion of truth.)
B3. If purpose of philosophy is to ‘investigate truth,’ then what is, ‘to say something true about the nature of things?’ (is it science). What is the purpose of this distinction and can one lead to another?
(B4) Say something true about nature of things is saying: - the ball is red
B5. If I were to call a red ball blue, the fact does not change.
(B4 + B5 = B6) Truth is unaffected by what people may say about it or perceive it as (however they may do so) (This is the notion of objectivity of Truth. Some philosophers may not agree on the basis that your only means of perceiving truth are your senses and cognition, both of which could be faulty. Hence the TRUTH you perceive, may not be THE Truth. So it may change from person to person or from time to time. Science on the other hand {or real/rational/empirical philosophies} agree on objectivity. So you should state your position before asserting 'a fact')
B7. What everyone says about the nature of all things may not be necessarily true. Thus unions of all is not necessarily lead to a ‘considerable amount.’
(Agreed. However, let us say that 1 out of a million persons spoke 0.1% truth about a certain issue/situation/human condition/etc.; then in the entire span of history, given that there have been at least a few ten's of billion people who have lived and died and transmitted their ideas to the next generation - the amount of truth thus amassed adds up to nearly 100%. Of course 'truth' is not so simply seen and transferred. Their are losses in transmission due to religious / political interferences in history or simply due to people's neglect of the responsibility of handing over the truth to the next gen. Also, perceptions may be equally faulty for many of the truth seekers and the actual percentage of truth amassed may be reduced greatly.)
 Sec C
C1. Truth can be broken down into constituents.
C2. Each constituent can be analyzed, providing better understanding of truth.
C1 + C2 = C3) Truth is fundamental atomic facts. When a fact (a true proposition) is broken down, there are individual elements of the proposition which create meaning by referring to particulars/concepts/universals (clearer definition needed here)
C4) In a certain sense Aristotle’s quote can be seen as discussing the nature of propositions however the whole truth can be attained and affirmed through analysis of individual propositions.
(More discussion on how this links to empiricism)
 (Now, that's where the problem of Truth lies. Can we actually atomize truth, always? Sometimes, even as the truth is obvious, its difficult to analyse/atomize it. e.g. A mother loves her child. You can point out many ways in which she indicates this love. But does that prove her love as a truth? What about the times when she hits the child? What if there is a disaster and only one of them would survive? What if she survives by accident? Would she then commit suicide for her child? Then again - does dying for the one you love show the Truth of your love? If not sacrifice, then what proves love? O.K. leave all that, can we compare the love of one mother towards her child, with another mother towards hers? So how do you go about atomizing this further? But, don't you accept this as a general Truth of humanity? How come?)

Most facts of human interactions (a domain of sociology) are impenetrable in this manner. It is difficult to be deductive about them as an idealist would try. Now empiricism is somewhat the answer and I guess that's what Aristotle is trying to say. Empirically you observe (human nature or human interactions) and collect data, pass it down generations, until a huge amount of data is collected. Humans are not capable of retaining ALL data, such as Every Mother's EVERY Act of love towards her child. Hence they form truths by interpolating and extrapolating from the limited observation and hand these over to the next gen. Next gen further refines and redefines the conclusions with their  own observations. and so on....

Also, Truth about any matter needs to be observed with keen and faultless senses of one individual and then the next and thus many to consider it coherent with reality. "Truth" has to be found to be consistent with the other "truths" known to Man. And then again, the "Truth's" need to be analysed in reference to other known truths to understand their origin and nature. This demands a great effort and is seldom possible for any one Man in his lifetime. Hence, Aristotle says that men perceive fragments of truth.

Thus, the process of discovery and transmission of Truth as described by Aristotle is fine. But you could question his assertion that THAT is how Truth is. So maybe our process of discovery needs to be refined with objectivity and logic. Our process of transmission is already better with books and other technology (unfortunately, facebook un-does that, :-( ...) So maybe Truth can be formed more completely and definitively now.
OR ... you could argue that Truth is a metaphysic myth. Its purely relative and subjective. :-o