In every judgment there is an attempt to match one concept with another and our success or failure is expressed in an affirmative or negative proposition. The concept held in the mind and thought about is the subject; what is though about is the predicate.


Terms, Propositions, Meaning

As discussed in Chapter 18, true/false talent is our human ability, useful but limited, to distinguish true from false. To be able to distinguish true from false, we must, in some manner, put the item to be distinguished in the form of a complete sentence either explicit or implied. That which is a complete sentence will be a judgment. Of course not all judgments are of the true/false type. However, some judgments are. Those judgments that serve as true/false candidates, in plus definition set, are defined as propositions.

Using the term ‘proposition’ this way is an old, standard procedure of logicians and epistemologists that is still accepted by many. The plus system follows this convention.

A proposition is a judgment that we can recognize as either true or false. Because we are limited in our ability to understand all possible nuances, we should be modest in declaring whether a proposition under consideration actually is true or false. However, we can be confident that, if it is a well formed proposition, then it is one or the other. Two steps are involved. Step one: recognizing it is a true/false proposition. Step two: Judging whether it is true or false.

If the statement is meaningless or in the gray area, then it is not a proposition from a logical point of view. In logic, not every complete sentence qualifies as a proposition. People who have had a basic course in logic are already familiar with this procedure and the distinctions involved. People who have missed out, should be able to figure it out with out too much trouble.

Although, as discussed in Chapter 18, a single term can stand for a proposition, proper names and general concepts as such are not judgments and are neither true nor false. It is a tenet of plus root theory that: proper names and general concepts considered alone are not judgments and are not propositions and are neither true nor false. This important root tenet should be ingrained in the mind of all educated people. We should learn these simple, obvious aspects of rational thinking in grade school and not have to waste time about these matters in later years. Failure to appreciate this simple truths about basic logic produce reams of foolish philosophy.

The following exercise appears trivial but points out the issues at stake. Lack of appreciation of the difference between terms and propositions sets the stage for radical ideologies that are not trivial.

1. Samuel Adams 11. Fat cat

2. All women of the world 12. Running boy

3. Justice 13. Blue moon

4. Good 14. Harsh discipline

5. Castles 15. In the mud

6. Jump 16. If it rains

7. Love 17. 2 + 3

8. Out 18. Did gyre & gimble

9. Happily 19. Jumped

10. Water 20. Is wet

The above terms all have meaning, but they are neither true nor false. If this list of 20 terms were presented as a true/false test to a 5th grade class, the students would soon let it be known that such a task could not be done. They would be indignant and justifiably so. Names and concepts, even though they have meaning, are not judgments. They are not propositions and do not have truth values. This is so obviously the case that even young students know it is so.

Judgmental Meaning

To be answered true or false, a proposition must have judgmental meaning. Judgmental meaning is different from the meaning of concepts as concepts. Why some propositions have meaning for us and others do not is a subject of it’s own. For now we stick to the distinction between conceptual and judgmental meaning and emphasize that: some statements do have meaning. It is normal for people to understand these distinctions in cultivating commonsense.

Just because concepts have meaning considered as concepts does not mean they can be put together any which way and produce a judgment with meaning. It is a tenet of plus root theory that: sometimes sentences are meaningless even though they contain meaningful words and are in the form of a complete sentence. Stated the other way round, just because a sentence contains meaningful words and has acceptable grammatical form, does not mean that the sentence represents a meaningful judgment or qualifies as a proposition.

Eight furrows to east are nuckle find.

The jump ran the fried potatoes.

The wind cooked a steeple paint to plow.

The above examples could be code words and have meaning to the people using the code, but to the average English speaking person the above examples are nonsense even though each word has meaning alone the words are connected in the form of a sentence.

Sometimes statements that at first appear to have meaning on close examination do not and visa versa. It is not unusual, particularly in philosophy, to discover a sentence that appears impressive at first glance but, on closer analysis, is meaningless.

In the physical sciences, the opposite often occurs. In quantum physics, for example, a sentence by a scientist might first appear meaningless, but on study becomes clear, significant, inspirational, and useful. It is a plus tenet that: judgmental meaning is a prerequisite for a statement to have a truth value. Conceptual meaning of individual terms is not enough. Much philosophical exposition is replete with meaningful words connected in meaningless sentences. This latter happening is often referred to as mystification.


Ambiguity is different from meaninglessness of a statement. With ambiguity, the problem is too many meanings. Propositions ambiguously stated or employing terms susceptible to ambiguity cannot justly be treated as true/false propositions until the ambiguity is cleared away. A good education helps the students to recognize and avoid treating ambiguous statements as if they were propositions worthy of rational development.

Ambiguity is not a fallacy. There are many times when ambiguity is a justifiable rhetorical devise, as long as it is used in an responsible framework. Much good poetry gains its beauty and inspiration by using ambiguity to help us raise our thoughts from one level of understanding to another. However, this is not a form of deception because the reader is "in on it". The deception occurs when the read is left "out of it", especially if the reader is left out on purpose.

When ambiguity is used as a vehicle for deception, illusion and radical subterfuge, then it is "equivocation" and is a fallacy. As we become skilled in appreciating logical distinctions, we become adept in avoiding many destructive fallacies. Failure to know how to distinguish between poetic ambiguity and logical equivocation leaves us vulnerable to cunning manipulation.

Much misinformation and misunderstanding can be traced to ambiguous terms and statements that are candidates for equivocation.

The faculty to think objectively is reason. [B152p101]

Objective consciousness is alienated life promoted to its most honorific status as the scientific method.[B76p232]

Marx considered society to be irrational and hence evil so long as it continued to be governed by inexorable objective laws. [B123p332]

In contrast to the subjectivism of the conscious mind, the unconscious is objective … [JUNG/99]

The tendency toward objective thought finds its culmination in Hegel.

Any attempt to determine an objective reality is futile, because in the act of perception each person interprets the world subjectively. [B51/cover]

We ‘objectivate’ a statement if we claim that its content does not depend on the conditions under which it can be verified. [B130/80]

The categories are the necessary relations of all objects of knowledge. [Paraphrased from EnBr 1892 on Kant]

I am not now attempting to solve the problems created by ambiguity but rather to acknowledge the existence of ambiguity. In the above examples the terms "objective" and "subjective" achieve an unusual degree of ambiguity. Each statement has a dozens of meanings depending on which meaning of which term is intended.

Every sentence is potentially ambiguous. Even in the most straight forward statement, it is possible to put an unconventional definition to a term and alter the truth-value. In normal commonsense thinking and discourse, we learn to adjust for ambiguity.

Ambiguity of terms makes one statement stand for two or more propositions. Although the same words are used, they represent different thoughts. If the thoughts qualify as a propositions then each has its own truth value.

Propositional Forms

Some sentences that look like propositions are instead propositional forms with certain words functioning as variables. For the statement to become a proposition with a truth-value, the variable must be filled in with a specific.

Eg.: Propositional Forms

She gave it to him.

It is over there.

The time is right.

The people demand a change.

But that’s neither here nor there.

She came into her own.

For awhile he was put out about it.

Which "she" gave which "what" to which "him"? Before we can pass judgment on the truth value of 19e1 we need an answer this question. The same with the rest of the examples. As written, the above sentences are neither true nor false. They are not propositions. They are propositional forms.

Time and Space

For particular statements to be facts and have a truth value, both time and space need to be specified. If not, the statement, technically speaking, is a propositional form and not a proposition.

John Smith’s blood pressure is normal.

At 10:00 am. March 23, 1981, John Smith’s (100 Main Street, Centerville, U.S.) blood pressure was normal.

Item 1, strictly speaking, is a propositional form. Item 1 does not provide enough information to be a genuine proposition. Item 2 is a proposition. It’s probably false, since I made up the example. However, there may be a Centerville, USA. If such a place exists, it is possible that a citizen of the place is named John Smith and that his blood pressure was normal on the date indicated. It could be true in more than one instance, because there could be more than one Centerville with a John Smith in such a situation. We figure this out using our commonsense. Usually we don’t bother to explain our thinking in these simple cases because there is no reason to do so. This is part of the silent element thinking most people do in developing their personal elemental systems.

Going through exercises like this is helpful in understanding our own thought processes. In using facts, specifications are usually there by implication. A person exercises their own good judgment about when to put in details and when they are superfluous. Making too much explicit long strings of implied detail can block communication as effectively as too little.

Complex Questions

A complex question contains a half-hidden assumption, the truth of which needs to be established before the question itself can be answered. Complex questions often deceive the unwary. One of the objectives of basic education is to alert students to the nature of complex questions so they can avoid being taken in by this subterfuge.

Have you stopped beating your wife? (This presupposes you have been beating your wife.)

Is that tree a birch or an elm? (It could be an oak, etc.)

That dress looks lovely on you madam. Will you charge it or pay cash? (You haven’t yet said you would buy it.)

Are you still a member of the Klu Klux Klan? (You abhor the Klu Klux Klan and have never even considered joining.)

Will the farmer benefit by the increased wages which labor will receive if we raise our tariffs? B144/89 (The big question, whether raising tariffs will increase wages for labor, is suppressed in an unexamined assumption.)

Will you vote for bill xx to improve health care in America or are you against improving health care? (The big question is whether bill xx will be an improvement or a regression. It’s amazing how much bad legislation gets passed using this kind of specious reasoning).

When politicians play these tricks they should be kicked out of their respective parties. Tricks like g5 and g6 are designed to manipulate susceptible people who, through no fault of their own, did not receive a high quality education. The people being deceived are often hard working citizens supporting families who do not have time to unravel complex deceptions. Complex lies are much more damaging than simple lies. Politicians who gain power through a chain or complex lies are more culpable than politicians who occasionally tell a fib.


Definitions, at their source, are arbitrary. However, ideas and concepts are not arbitrary. It is a plus tenet that: a term and the concept it symbolizes are not the same thing. From a plus point of view, a definition helps us designate which term symbolizes which concept.

A concept is not a perception or a mental image or an emotion or an instinct or a conditioned reflex. Mental images, emotions, instincts, and conditioned reflexes are physiological events that occur at a specific time and place. A concept is a bit of comprehension that possesses universal characteristics that are not bound by time and space. If we imagine two apples, the image is a physiological image in our mind. If from many examples we abstract the idea two, it is a concept with universal characteristics beyond our ability to imagine. In the same manner, if we abstract the idea apple, it is also a concept beyond our ability to imagine. If you had a good logic course, you know this. If you do not understand this feature of plus root theory than you could benefit by studying the issue until the distinction between image and concept becomes clear.

We cannot build a unified science of definition until fundamental distinctions between image and concept are generally recognized and acknowledged. Explaining these relationships is something we should all learn in school. Unfortunately, this is where elemental mistakes often take root. The distinction between image and concept is a primary tenet of plus root theory. More later.


As said, concepts alone, even though their meaning is clear, do not have a truth-value. This claim is simple, obvious, and virtually self evident. Its easily verifiable through self testing and qualifies as a credible root claim. Children in lower grades can recognize this with no problem. See above examples.

Obvious as it is, philosophers, even famous ones, sometimes fail to apply this simple observation to their more profound thoughts. Mistakes of this type create enormous problems when people attempt to practice the philosophy they preach. Monstrous troubles have developed in society because influential thinkers have over looked simple elemental requirements.

Plato, speaking as Socrates, was much committed to establishing the truth of terms such as "virtue", "justice", " honor", "friendship". From a plus point of view, he was on the wrong track. Terms do not have a truth-value as such and neither do definitions. Once this is recognized, it is obvious but it is sometimes hard to see unless it is taught correctly by a teacher who takes the time to be sure students understand the issue at stake. Although we use this basic knowledge in our liminal commonsense thinking, most of us need a good logic teacher to help us bring these nuances into the realm of critical consciousness.

Plus root theory stresses that: the triggering effect of terms and the meaning symbolized by terms work together as a team to facilitate learning. Although both are important, from an intellectual point of view, the meaning has a higher value in developing knowledge than the effect of the word.

An ethic emerges as we pursue this ideal. For example, when advertising plays on the good connotations of a term to propagate false information for the purpose of selling a product, our conscience cries "foul". In commonsense unbiased normal thinking a strong ethic presides in our mind to keep the triggering effect of terms in the service of meaning.

When people fail to follow this ethic and allow the triggering effect to dominate over the meaning, then communication becomes sham propaganda. Affirmative logic emphasize that: it is a serious root error to elevate image over idea in our value system.

When image impact is presented as the primary vehicle of discourse, then meaning and understanding are placed in a subordinate position and are effectively suppressed for practical purposes. To promote personal gain or ones ideology as the primary guide of discourse damages problem solving skills. Elevating image impact to a higher honor than meaning and truth in our priorities of value, brings into the forefront an underhanded manipulative rational style.

Vanity language manipulation, while encouraging short term cunning, in the long run suppresses individual rational skill. It contributes to low negotiation quality. Where we rely on image impact as a primary vehicle of communication, we will find disputants slinging insults at each other rather than discussing issues. When image impact is given highest priority, violence often follows in due course.

As already emphasized, placing a high value on understanding, meaning, truth, & right reason, does not imply that all use of image is bad. To the contrary, when used properly, drawing mental pictures is good, respectable, and useful communication tool. Ethical problems only develop when the triggering effect is used as a conniving technique that deceives trusting people and tends to establish a society run by self appointed elite care takers. The Platonic Guardian treats the people under his tutelage as naughty children who have to be kept in line with sneaky tricks. A mature democratic republic will shun such tactics.

To promote sound rational thinking, we use the triggering effect as our servant rather than as our master. Developing ethical rhetorical skill is an asset in promoting comprehension and the development of knowledge. Responsible rhetoric helps develop understanding. Well placed figures of speech assist in clarifying meaning. Attractive presentation helps to illuminate our goals.

The ethic of sound rational thinking is has been taught well by many teachers. Schooling children to use responsible has been one of the better aspects of western civilization for centuries. Unfortunately it has been often abused and abuse has caused much travail. However, ethics based on affirmative logic, has, as a theme of western history, always had influential advocates.

As mentioned earlier, not all rational theories are primarily intensional in their rational style. In contradiction to affirmative assumptions, there exists a strong, powerful ideological movement that for one reason or another suppresses the ideals of sound rational thinking. A stormy contingency of theorists who support themes of antagonistic invert ideology attempt to account for and use language independent of understanding, meaning, concepts, ideas, abstractions, judgments, and deductions. Examples are abundant. ###include a couple examples here#

Many philosophical problems that hinder our way to peaceful progress stem directly from failures discussed in this chapter. One fiasco is the failure to make simple distinctions between the understanding of concepts and the understanding of judgments. Often in the past, philosophers have talked about the principle of truth" the principle of justice, the principle of reason, and so on. These statements have created vast confusion because words such as truth, justice, and reason are not principles. Each one of these words is a term. Each term symbolizes a concept. One term is not a judgment. One concept is not a judgment. On the other hand, a principle, from a normal logical point of view, is a judgment. To proceed as if "a term is a principle" sets up a round of confusion that sends philosophy in a dizzy spin. If the philosophers in question are using a single term to stand for a judgment, they should tell us what the judgment is.

It is possible, and it often happens, that a specific proposition is given a single name. This happens regularly in mathematical logic where P is the symbol for one proposition and Q is the symbol for another proposition. When they say "P implies Q", logicians mean that "proposition P implies proposition Q." This same scheme can be used to devise automated programs of action and response that are different from comprehensive reasoning. Part C addresses this problem.

Using one word to symbolize a proposition is often what philosophers are doing when they speak of terms such as truth, justice, virtue, honor as being principles. For example, sometimes the word truth is used to symbolize the proposition, "Truth is objective". In the case in which the term truth is used as a symbol for a given general proposition, then it is logically okay to say: Truth is a principle. This procedure only makes sense for readers when a philosopher has clearly indicated which definition and which principle they have in mind when they use which term. In English, there are many possible definitions and/or principles associated with the term truth. Some are;

Truth is relative.

Truth is reality.

Truth is God.

God is Truth.

Truth is certainty.

Truth is cultural.

Truth is the same for all.

Truth varies from place to place.

Truth is unchanging.

Truth evolves over time.

Truth is that which works.

That which works is true.

Truth is consistency

Truth is universal

Truth varies from place to place

Truth is coherence

Truth is chaos

Truth is the goal of education

Truth is an illusion

This short list could easily become a long list. Which proposition a person has in mind when speaking of the "principle of truth" is important. The question of truth is pivotal to the free and fair conduct of a constitutional democratic republic.

The more we can come to an accurate and unified understanding of truth, the more we can unity in society and make improvements. It helps to see the distinctions between-among:

-- the word ‘truth’ as a symbol;

-- the images evoked by the word ‘truth’;

-- the meaning of ‘truth’ as we define it in our mind;

-- our understanding of "truth" in discourse

-- what others mean when they use the term ‘truth’.

When we appreciate these steps, we can begin to get a handle on what we mean by truth.