ASSERTION (Latin assertio—assertion, recognition, consent)—recognition of something as a truth.
ASSERTION IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF KNOWLEDGE. Cognitive assertion is an essential and constitute element of predicative judgment. It consists in the affirmation of agreement (or disagreement) of the content of a judgment with the reality it designates and indicates the truth (or falsehood) or the judgment. Assertion occurs by the copula of a proposition or judgment “is” in its assertive function.
In every predicative judgment we can distinguish two basic elements: the content that comes from a system of concepts or representations where these occur as subject and predicate joined by the propositional copula “is” into one whole (the so-called enuntiabile) and a statement of the reality of this content—an assertion. An assertion is a new cognitive act in a judgment in which from the aspect of its representation the same content occurs as is found in the component concepts of the judgment. Cognitive assertion is a basic function of judgment, a function that constitutes the judgment in a formal sense, and it is the reason for the unity of a judgment. All preceding cognitive phases of judgment (simple apprehension, reflection on the system of concepts, the vision of agreement or disagreement) are only a preparatory act and belong rather to the domain of simple apprehension. Simple apprehension is ordered to judgment. The assertion that two different concepts as concepts are identified in one and the same thing as a thing constitutes the essence of judgment.
Assertion establishes a new relation between the entire statement and reality by the perception and recognition of agreement or disagreement between the statement and reality. By assertion not only do we ascribe and express the identity of predicate and subject under certain aspects, but we also verify this as we refer the system of concepts contained in the judgment to the thing itself. By this equation the reason becomes aware that the thing is such as is the concept the reason possesses of it. As a result of assertion a man takes responsibility for his statement. His statement is his personal perception and recognition of the relation of agreement (or disagreement) between his statement and a state of affairs. Hence we may say that to judge is to be convinced.
As a personally certified vision of the agreement (or disagreement) of a statement with reality, assertion constitutes an epistemological-logical truth and is a sign of the truth of a judgment. Assertion, which expresses the relation of the ordering of the judgment to the reality comprehended in it, being a fully conscious act of knowledge, is a condition for knowledge of the truth, for in assertion there is an adequation of the concept with the thing, together with a vision of their mutual agreement. Assertion considers the relation of the living person’s judgment to the reality expression in its content and places the statement in the field of truth and falsehood. The judgment constituted by assertion is an act in which the intellect performs a full and self-aware cognition of the thing and states the truth of this intellectual knowledge by asserting that “it is so” or “it is not so”. By the moment of assertion, the judgment constitutes a manifestation of full human knowledge that joins us consciously with the reality grasped under certain aspects and it is a cognition of the truth.
Assertion, as the moment of affirming a specific existence—in the sense of the existence of the inherence of features in a certain nature (the existence of a relation in a certain system of contents, without their real existence in a specific being)—does not express the real existence of a thing but presupposes a primary affirmation of reality (in existential judgments), an affirmation that expresses the factuality of being which persists virtually in the assertion of judgment, and is the sole guarantee for the realism of all acts of human cognition.
ASSERTION IN THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHICAL THOUGHT. Aristotle was the first to note the role of assertion as a specific moment of judgment. He linked it with the copy “is” of judgements and propositions. However, he did not see in judgments the source of cognition, that is, a cognition that provides new information. Following Plato, Aristotle thought of concepts and perceptions merely as cognitive effects of man’s apprehensions. He treated judgments as “superior” concepts which are complex and which arise by joining together previously acquired concepts. Positive judgments are joined by the copula “is”, and negative judgments are joined by the copula “is not”. In Aristotle, assertion expresses a connection of terms occurring in a judgment and at the same times refers to reality in which the state described by the judgment occurs. The moment of assertion thus contains a reference to reality. Since reality in Aristotle’s system is constituted by form as content, he thought that conceptual cognition was sufficient to grasp reality in cognition.
After Aristotle, attention turned to the “is” of judgment, which is a specific element that is decisive in the act of judgment. It was regarded as the “soul” of the judgment. In ancient times and in the Middle Ages in commentaries on the Peri Hermeneias, philosophers emphasized the function of compositio et divisio (today called the cohesive function) in the act of judgment. They linked it with the “is” and “is not” that occurs in propositions. This function occurs with respect to the ordering of the material components of the act of judgment, i.e., the concepts that constitute the subject and predicate of a judgment.
Two functions of “is” were known to Aristotle: cohesive and assertive. When he stated that the function of the verb is to predicate of the subject, he emphasized the cohesive function, and when he said that a judgment is a vehicle of truth or falsehood, he emphasized the assertive function in judgment.
The cohesive function was for Aristotle a recognition-feature of judgment in relation to pure conceptualization. For him and his commentators, the material aspect of the judgment was particularly visible. The material aspect is expressed in a proposition in the form of the arrangement of terms. The judgment is here a complex of concepts.
We should emphasize that assertion is a reference to a reality that is constituted by a form. In the Analytics Aristotle notes that the problem of a thing’s content and the thing’s real existence is related to two linguistic operations—definition and syllogistics. It is readily apparent that existence that is to be demonstrated by syllogistics has little in common with the real and actual existence of being, but it is the “existence” of a specific new “pattern” of contents. Aristotle had nothing to say about the real and actual existence of things, as the problem of existence did not arise in the Greeks view of the world in terms of necessity. Since Aristotle spoke of the existence of things as a result of knowledge by syllogisms, he had in mind only an existing new pattern or system of contents (or a system that could exist).
St. Thomas Aquinas developed Aristotle’s thought. Aquinas saw two constitutive elements in every real being—essence and existence—and he considered the difference in how they are known. Existence cannot be given in perceptions and concepts since they concern only content that does not contain existence. He linked the cognition of existence with judgment and treated judgment as a result of cognition distinct from concepts. The essence of the judgment is the copula “is” of propositions and judgments which expresses the moment of assertion and orders the judgment to a state of affairs designated by the judgment. St. Thomas recognized assertion as a special subjective mode of grasping reality and connected judgment with the knowledge of truth. Assertion, the assertion that a thing truly is such as it is designated in a judgment, determines that the truth fundamentally and primarily is contained in judgment. The basis of the truth of a judgment is the prior apprehension of the existence of the thing with which the judgment is concerned. In St. Thomas, assertion is the ordering of judgment to reality whose constitutive element is existence.
According to Thomas, the judgments he distinguishes are concerned with existence conceived as an assertion of some implication that is not more closely defined or a content belonging to two concepts (then “is” performs the role of a copula in a proposition). In his commentary on Peri hermeneias (I 9, 4) Thomas states that when a judgment in which the subject and predicate occur joined by the copula of the proposition “is”, asserts (“has in view”, or “orders”) existence—then the affirmation of existence is expressed by the relations of the features of the object described by the predicate. Such a judgment expresses what Thomas called a necessary mutual ordering of the terms that are found in a statement, e.g., that man is a rational being. This is a type of necessary assertion. In Thomas, “is” designates the truth of the connection of terms in a judgment, and so it concerns the existence the existence of relations between concepts, but does not concern the existence of a concrete thing. The being of a proposition-copula does not concern any domain of reality but concerns the way I grasp reality.
Thomists of the existential school (Gilson, Krąpiec) continued St. Thomas’ analyses and stated that this kind of assertion can occur only when man has had a prior contact with reality, that is, only when he has affirmed the existence of reality in an act of cognition distinct from concepts and predicative judgments. This affirmation is in an existential judgment that expresses the factuality of being and guarantees the realism of any further cognition.
ASSERTION IN LOGIC. (1)It may be the recognition of a proposition as true, or the property of judgments made with the belief that they are true. Assertion, an essential component of the process of articulate judgment (a process of judgment which can be adequately expressed by the propositions of a definite language)., goes beyond a mere mental image of a proposition. It can be positive when the act of judgment consists in recognition (then such a process of judgment is called positive belief), or it may be negative, when the act of judgment consists in rejection (negative belief). The moment of assertion may be of various degrees of intensity. A proposition in the logical sense (a meaning that belongs to a proposition in some language), may be affirmative or negative, but it cannot be a recognition or a rejection, sine the moment of assertion is contained in the psychological process of the act of the judgment, not in the content of judgment. Assertion may be treated as a pragmatic function or as a semantic-pragmatic function.
(2) It may be a functor. It may be (a) a meta-linguistic function to designate an expression as recognized or acknowledged; (b) it may be a functor of propositions within a language with one argument in the proposition, which in connect with a variable proposition p produces the propositional truth-function that is also called assertion.
G. Frege (1879) introduced a formal sign of assertion into formal logic. At present the question of assertion is considered in modal logics. The question is connected with the theory of attitudes, decisions (the behaviorist sense of assertion: the assertion of a proposition consists in being prepared to undertake an action which if the proposition is false will cause us harm, or if it is true will benefit us), discussion, argumentation (assertion connected with the problem of rational justification: the demonstration of assertions is to derive them in such a way as to entitle us to recognize them as rationally justified).
The conditions that allow the recognition, that is, the assertion, of proposition q are provided by the law of assertion (or the law of hypothetic-categorical syllogism “modus ponens”) or the form CCpqCpq (or CpCCpqq); this thesis presents the property of implication used by the directive of disjunction, since this thesis asserts the truth of proposition q, if it is in a true implication a consequence of a true predecessor.
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