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Edward Feser: Avicenna on non-contradiction

We’ve been speaking about the legislation of non-contradiction (LNC), which says that the
statements p and not-p can not each be true.  (In symbolic notation: ~ (p • ~p)
)  We briefly famous Aristotle’s view that
skepticism about LNC can’t be made a coherent place.  Let’s now think about a well-known comment on the
topic by the Islamic thinker Avicenna or Ibn Sina (c. 970-1037).  In The
Metaphysics of the Healing
, he says of such a skeptic:

As for the obstinate, he have to be
plunged into hearth, since hearth and non-fire are equivalent.  Let him be overwhelmed, since struggling and never
struggling are the identical.  Let him be
disadvantaged of foods and drinks, since consuming and ingesting are equivalent to
. (Quoted
within the SEP article “Contradiction”)

Is this
merely an expression of frustration with the skeptic?  Or is there an argument right here?  Not fairly both, I believe.  The use of “must” and “since” signifies that
Avicenna does suppose that inflicting such ache on the skeptic ought to persuade
him of the error of his methods even when nothing else does.  Hence there may be extra right here than only a want
to punish the obstinate skeptic.  Avicenna appears to assume the ache ought to appropriate him.  But it could actually’t be that Avicenna supposes that
his comment quantities to an additional argument
for LNC.  That the defender of LNC holds
that fireplace is just not the identical as non-fire, struggling not the identical as not struggling,
and so forth. is one thing the skeptic already is aware of. 
These examples by themselves don’t
add something argumentation-wise to much less harrowing examples that can little question already
have been introduced to the skeptic (e.g. that one thing can’t be each a cat and
a non-cat, can’t each be a carrot and never be a carrot, and so on).

there’s something in regards to the disagreeable nature of the precise examples Avicenna
makes use of that’s imagined to be doing the work – and particularly, one thing about
truly inflicting this unpleasantness
on the skeptic that will do the work, relatively than merely having him tranquilly
ponder the thesis that fireplace is just not non-fire. 

What is
going on, I counsel, is that Avicenna takes the defect within the skeptic to lie in
the will, not within the mind.  It is just not that the skeptic’s mind wants
additional argumentation to ensure that him to see that his place is
mistaken.  All the mandatory
argumentation is already current; particularly, all a correctly functioning
mind ought to must know is that denying LNC is solely incoherent.  Rather, the skeptic is being willful – pretending, because it have been, that
there may be actually some critical doubt about LNC when actually there may be none.  And his will accomplishes this by not
permitting the mind to dwell on the incoherence, thereby facilitating its focusing
as a substitute on the truth that we are able to say
issues like “Perhaps LNC is not true,” as if this expressed an actual chance
relatively than mere verbiage. 

thrusting the skeptic into the fireplace, Avicenna is (I counsel) saying, would nullify
the need’s distraction of the mind, and power the mind to see
actuality.  Under intense ache it might no
longer keep the pretense that the fireplace it feels would possibly at that very same second
and in the identical sense be non-fire. 

Another method
to place it’s that what the skeptic wants is just not rational argumentation, since
his delusional place of its very nature makes him incapable, whereas he’s
entertaining it, of listening to motive. 
Rather, what the skeptic wants is a sort of remedy or remedy
certainly, one thing like shock remedy
to convey him again to actuality and stop clinging to his silly and merely
verbal quibbles. 


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