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Self-Evidence And Proof1

  • C. H. Perelman (a1)


There is an argument, well known in the history of philosophy, which makes all knowledge ultimately depend on some kind of intuitive or sensory immediacy. According to this argument, either the proposition itself is self–evident;2 or else it can be shown to follow, with the help of a chain of intermediate links, from other propositions which are self–evident. Moreover, it is this self–evidence of immediate knowledge and only this which, again speaking traditionally, sufficiently guarantees the truth of the affirmations of a science as opposed to those of various and fluctuating opinions.



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page 289 note 2 The French word “evidence” is difficult to translate into English and in this article is rendered, in accordance with the context, by “self–evidence”, “evidentness”, “immediacy” and “evidence”.

page 290 note 1 Cf. Peter C. Vier, O.F.M.: Evidence and its Functions according to John Duns Scotus, Franciscan Institute Publications, St. Bonaventure, N.Y. 1951, pp. 48–51.

page 290 note 2 Ibid., p. 55.

page 290 note 3 Spinoza: Ethics, II, XLIX, scholium.

page 290 note 4 Ayer, A. J.: The Problem of Knowledge, London, Macmillan, 1956, p. 34.

page 291 note 1 Cf. Vier, op. cit., pp. 121 à 125. So too Aristotle, Metaphysics.1011a, St. Augustin: De Trinitate, XV, Patrologia latina, 42, col. 1073.

page 292 note 1 Leibniz: Nouveaux essais sur I'entendement, in die Philosophische Schriften, ed. Gerhardt, Vol. V, p. 67.

page 292 note 2 Ibid., p. 388.

page 294 note 1 Cf. St. Jaskowski: On the rules of suppositions in formal logic, Studia Logica 1, Warsaw, 1934.

page 295 note 1 Descartes: Oeuvres, éd. de la P1éiade, Méditations, p. 161.

page 295 note 2 Ibid., Regulae, p. 50.

page 295 note 3 Ibid., Regulae, p. 10.

page 295 note 4 Ibid., Regulae, p. 5.

page 295 note 5 Ibid., Regulae, p. 6.

page 296 note 1 Cf. G. Bachelard: La philosophie du non, Paris, P. Univ. France, 1940.

page 296 note 2 Descartes: Op. cit., Méditations, p. 165. Secondes réponses, p. 273.

page 296 note 3 Cf. Hume: Treatise of Human Nature.Book I, Section VII, in fine.

page 298 note 1 Leibniz: Op. cit., p. 500.

page 298 note 2 Cf. Descartes: Op. cit., Discours de la Méthode, p. 103. Premières résponses, P.243.

page 298 note 3 Cf. Ch. Perelman, and Olbrechts–Tyteca, L.: Traité de l'argumentation, paragraph 27, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1958.

page 298 note 4 Descartes: Op. cit., Discours de la Méthode, p. 102.

page 298 note 5 Leibniz: Die Philosophische Schriften, ed. Gerhardt, Vol. VII, p. 157.

page 299 note 2 Ch. Perelman: Education et Rhétorique, Revue belge de Psychologie et de Pédagogie; No. 60, Bruxelles, 1952.

page 300 note 1 Ch. Perelman, and Olbrechts–Tyteca, L.; Rhétorique et Philosophie, Paris, P. Univ. France. 1952.

page 301 note 1 Cf. Ch. Perelman; La quête du rationnel, in Etudes de Philosophie des Sciences, en hommage à F. Gonseth, Editions de Griffon, Neuchâtel, 1950.

page 302 note 1 Cf. Ch. Perelman; De la Justice, Bruxelles, Office de Publicité, 1945, and Traité de l'Argumentation, paragraph 52.

page 302 note 2 Cf. Ch. Perelman; La rôle de la décision dans la theorie de la connaissance, Actes du 2ème Congrés International de l'Union Internationale de Philosophie des Sciences, Editions du Griffon, Neuchâtel, 1955.

1 The first of two Special University Lectures delivered at University College in the University of London in March 1957. The lecture was translated from the French by Mrs. R. B. Braithwaite. It has appeared in French in Dialectica (June 1957) and the Editor of PHILOSOPHY is grateful to the Editor of that Journal for permission to print this translation.


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