The future and the principle of contradiction

One of two contradictories must be true. Aristotle noticed this was a problem for statements about the future:

There will be a sea battle tomorrow

There will not be a sea battle tomorrow.

If either of these must be then the future is determined. Even if we are necessarily ignorant of which is true, logic alone seems to prove that all is determined in advance.  What to say?

1.) The Principle of Contradiction (POC) can determine truth only so far as things are knowable to us. Because it is impossible for us to know future contingent things, the POC can throw no light on them.

2.) No, the POC demands that one must be true, but it does not demand that it be true before it happens. Truth is not just something being the case but it being so for some intellect, and not all intellects seeing the whole of time see it before it happens.

3.) No, the problem arises from wanting to take necessary and contingent, when said with respect to time, as absolute designations when in fact they are only relative ones. Anything in sensation takes part of its being from the one perceiving it: If you want to know whether the water is warm or cold you’ll have to specify if you want persons or polar bears to swim in it; if you want to know if a six-pack is six or one you’ll have to specify what counts as one. But time is known through sensation, and so the future is observer-relative in the same way that anything sensed is. But contingency is necessary when it is happening – this is the only non-nugatory sense of the principle of identity, and so contingency is and necessity can be relative distinctions when considered relative to time. And so the priority of the Principle of Identity allows for the absolute necessity of the POC.


1 Comment

  1. Loreen Lee said,

    November 14, 2015 at 10:03 am

    How would Aristotle’s third principle – the excluded middle fit into this explanation. I have thought of these within the application of Kant’s third category: as possibly, the ‘idenity’ for the first one, in Derrida’s Identity and difference, and the hypothetical as covering the perspective of scientific ‘possibility’: ‘probability’, as well as the third, the excluded middle, as (in relation to the past and present of the other two) a ‘projection?’ of the future? (if time is the thing here), as alternatively and either/or limitation, or as a both, and, both/and, and alternative, possibly what was expressed by Hegel, as Being, ‘Negation?’ and either or/both and- expressed by the concepts- limitation – infinitude.
    But I’m simply an amateur, whose always looking for ‘connections’. Thanks for your posts.

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