Chapter

A Language With Absolute Terms

Peter Unger

in Ignorance

Published in print January 1978 | ISBN: 9780198244172
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191711473 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198244177.003.0003

Series: Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy

 A Language With Absolute Terms

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The notion of an absolute term (such as “flat”) is defined as one that denotes a limit, and contrasted with the notion of a relative term (such as “bumpy”). Since absolute terms denote limits – if something is flat, then there could be nothing that is flatter – they are hardly ever, if at all, instantiated. The existence of absolute terms is defended against objections to the effect that owing to their sparse or missing instantiation, we could not learn their meaning. “Certain” is identified as an absolute term, on the grounds that certainty entails the complete absence of doubt; it follows that there is at best very little of which we are certain. Arguing that knowledge requires certainty, the chapter concludes that there it at best very little that we know.

Keywords: absolute terms; certainty; knowledge; limit; meaning; relative terms

Chapter.  18866 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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