In logic a statement can be

the assertion that is made by a true or false declarative sentence... a statement is viewed as a truth bearer

However, in everyday speech a statement is

a definite or clear expression of something in speech or writing

So I wondered whether a statement in this logical sense can be indefinite or unclear, especially whether it is true or false, and how to state that uncertainty.

So Ezra Pound's Pisan Cantos states that

Manes was tanned and stuffed

It's not clear to me what sense of 'tanned' is meant here. I think that it is not a clear expression, and we can't be sure what sort of logical statement is being made.

However, some sentences use relatively clear and unambiguous language but seem to express a statement that is an indefinite or unclear as a truth bearing thing. So e.g. when Pound says that

He strove to resuscitate the dead art / Of poetry

I think he's asserting something vague. Is there a way of speaking about statements of this sort, which often seem to have emotive and symbolic uses. Similarly, it is easy to construct a metaphor that literally speaking seems to have indefinite truth conditions:

He played the violin of death.

The metaphorical meaning is clear: death is compared to an orchestra someone is playing in. But I have no idea what would mean we should agree or disagree with it.

  • Fitch allows both definite and indefinite propositions in his Symbolic Logic. To do this he does not allow the law of the excluded middle to apply except to the definite propositions. An indefinite proposition would be something like "this sentence is false". It is neither true nor false. Oct 21, 2018 at 23:51
  • Metaphorical language and ambiguous language is open to interpretation and is often (although not always) meant more to entertain than to inform. It is subjectively up to the audience whether to agree with it or not. Some may appreciate and understand it on some level, while others may not. Which may be intentional on the part of the author.
    – Bread
    Oct 22, 2018 at 0:17
  • Poetry is not logic; in poetry it is not true that every statement is "a meaningful declarative sentence that is true or false". In poetry a statement can be meaningful without a specific tuth vale.; a statement can have a "value" that is not the truth value. Oct 22, 2018 at 8:07
  • See Metaphor and Max Black, Metaphor (1954) for a philosophical analysis. Oct 22, 2018 at 8:09
  • "He strove to resuscitate the dead art of poetry" is cleraly meaningful: we can perfectly understand it. Pound uses "to resuscitate" in a metaphorical way, to says : "bring back to its past splendour the neglected art of poetry". Read this way, it is an assertion regarding a fact: someone (a poet) has done a certain action. Oct 22, 2018 at 9:13

2 Answers 2


I generally fall back on this ruling when I have to decide whether a statement, let us call it x is a logical statement or not.

To say a statement x is logical is to say That S:x⇒{True False}. In simple English that would, then, mean the statement is such that it can be categorized as either true or false. However, one might wonder, as you rightly did, what if x(a,b,c). That is, x is a function of a, b, and c and therefore the truth value of x depends, perhaps on the a,b, and c. However, regardless of the interior working of x. One can clearly assign a truth value to x. Therefore, It does not matter what a, b, and c are. Similarly, then, tanned and stuffed would not change the "statement-hood" of the sentence because if we were to know what stuffed and tanned meant, then we can assign a Boolean value to it.

For the second sentence, however, I am of the view that it is not a logical statement. Resuscitate, here, does not have any meaning. That is, x(a), is not defined for any meaning of a. For instance, suppose we knew what resuscitate meant in this context, it would still not give us a Boolean value for x that depends on a.

As for the last one, it simply is not a logical statement.


I don't have anything truly philosophical I can add but felt that the comments and answer lack focus.

To me each example seems to be an assertion that does not involve a fact: because the assertion is vague (what sense does 'tanning' have); because it is not precisely true or false (how were his efforts great); the third because literally read nothing could make it true (death has no violin).

whenever a proposition is true, its truth is to be explained in terms of the existence and / or non-existence of some facts.

So maybe all those unclear logical statements have an inexplicable truth.

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