Witticisms and Aphorisms

(Or: Clearing Out My Bookmarks Folder)

The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.

– B. Russell

More here, from 3QD.

Omnis affirmatio est negatio

You might be wondering: “what does that mean?” . I’m glad you asked. “Omnis affirmatio est negatio” is a latinate expression for “all affirmation is negation”, a philosophical principle once propounded by Benedict Spinoza.

But what does that mean? Nicholas Rescher explains1:

A positive claim always stands correlative to a corresponding negative. To characterize something in some way or other is to contradistinguish it from that to which that characterization does not apply. There is no communicative point in ascribing a feature to something when this does not effectively separate and distinguish what this feature involves from what it excludes.
Now, for philosophy in specific this means that we can only clarify what a doctrine asserts and maintains if the same time we become clear about what it denies and rejects. Any thesis or position must make manifest its particular substance and purport in the setting of a contrast with the various rivals that contest the doctrinal ground at issue.

In other words, getting clear about what you think is true involves at the same time casting aside all sorts of other ideas as false. ┬áThe clearer one’s view of the truth is, the more that is denied, and that’s as it should be.
And so, hopefully, it will be with this blog, if I’m doing things right – so, omnis affirmatio est negatio reflects my aspirations in this way. I expect that much of my writing should fall on the critical side, but as you see, the speculative and the critical are really two side of the same coin.

1 Philosophical Dialectics, p. 4.