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Negation

  • A. J. Ayer

Abstract

That certain statements have the quality of being negative would hardly seem a matter for dispute. There may be a problem about the way in which affirmative and negative statements are related to each other, but it is commonly taken for granted that we have some adequate means of distinguishing between them. Yet to give a satisfactory account of this distinction is not altogether easy. In practice, one tends to regard a statement as negative if it is expressed by a sentence which contains such English words as not, no, nobody, nowhere, nothing, or the corresponding words in other languages. But an argument against taking this as a criterion is that its use would lead to ambiguous results. Thus, the statement that Mt. Everest is the highest mountain in the world is to be classified, according to this principle, as affirmative and the statement that Mt. Everest is not the highest mountain in the world is to be classified as negative. But to say that Mt. Everest is the highest mountain in the world is to say that there is no mountain in the world which is as high as Mt. Everest, a statement which we have now to regard as negative, and to say that Mt. Everest is not the highest mountain in the world is to say that there is some mountain in the world which is higher than Mt. Everest, a statement which we have now to regard as affirmative.

Keywords

Negative Sign High Mountain Negative Statement Positive Fact Negative Form 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. Ayer
    • 1
  1. 1.University of OxfordUK

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