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Tuesday, January 31, 2017


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Your exam question is this:

Can we justify a distinction between the 'is' of identity and the 'is' of predication even if we do not make an absolute distinction between names (object words) and predicates (concept words)? I think we can.
(1) I shall address this, then (2) address your own answer.

(1) We need to look deeper at the reason for the absolute distinction between singular terms and common/concept terms, which originates with Frege. Frege believed that we must ‘keep well apart two wholly different cases that are easily confused, because we speak of existence in both cases.

In one case the question is whether a proper name designates (bezeichnet), names, something; in the other, whether a concept takes objects under itself (unter sich befaßt). If we use the words 'there is a --' we have the latter case. Now a proper name that designates nothing has no logical justification, since in logic we are concerned with truth in the strictest sense of the word ..
For the latter relation he also uses the term ‘falls under’ (unter .. fällt). For example he says
Das Wort 'Planet' bezieht sich gar nicht unmittelbar auf die Erde, sondern auf einen Begriff, unter den unter anderm auch die Erde fällt. So ist die Beziehung zur Erde nur eine durch den Begriff vermittelte, und es bedarf zur Erkennung dieser Beziehung der Fällung eines Urteils, das mit der Kenntnis der Bedeutung des Wortes 'Planet' noch keineswegs gegeben ist. Wenn ich einen Satz ausspreche mit dem grammatischen Subjekte 'alle Menschen', so will ich damit durchaus nichts von einem mir ganz unbekannten Häuptlinge im Innern Afrikas aussagen.

(‘The word 'planet' has no direct relation at all to the Earth, but only to a concept that the Earth, among other things, falls under; thus its relation to the Earth is only an indirect one, by way of the concept; and the recognition of this relation of falling under requires a judgment that is not in the least already given along with our knowledge of what the word 'planet' means. If I utter a sentence with the grammatical subject 'all men', I do not wish to say something about some Central African chief wholly unknown to me.

This is contrary to the assumption of traditional Aristotelian logic where the same relation of falling under (subsumption from sumere sub) holds between both common and proper names. The difference with the proper name is that only one thing can fall under the name, when used in the same sense, nor unlike ‘the present King of England’ can there be different objects falling under the name at different times. Thus a premiss with a proper name in it can be treated as a universal proposition. As Ockham says (Summa III-1.8)
It should be known also that just as it is argued evidently by putting such an affirmative or negative universal for the major in the first figure, so also it follows evidently if the major is an affirmative or negative singular. For "Socrates is white, every man is Socrates, therefore every man is white" follows well.
This is because only one object falls under ‘Socrates’, when ‘Socrates’ has a fixed sense, so ‘Socrates is bald’ if true is true because every man who is Socrates is bald, since only one of him.

If this is correct (and that is an assumption) there is no need for identity. Take e.g. ‘Hesperus is Venus, Venus is Phosphorus, therefore Hesperus is Phosphorus’. This can be interpreted as a syllogism with the valid form ‘every Hesperus is Venus, every Venus is Phosphorus, therefore every Hesperus is Phosphorus’. Any identity statement whatsoever can be interpreted as a universal statement.

(2) In your answer, you say first that ‘Tom is hypertensive' can be analysed as 'Tom instantiates hypertensiveness.' Fine, which is similar to Frege saying that Tom falls under the concept of hypertensiveness. Indeed, Frege holds that concept names (common terms) are names of Platonic extralinguistic objects. But then you say

It appears that Sommers is mistaken in his claim that "Clearly it is only after one has adopted the syntax that prohibits the predication of proper names that one is forced to read 'a is b' dyadically and to see in it a sign of identity."
Well, no, because the whole point of the two term theory is that the same term (including proper names) can stand as both subject and predicate, and the whole point of the Fregean theory is that a proper name cannot stand as a predicate: we cannot interpret ‘Hesperus is Venus’ as ‘Hesperus is Venus-ness’. So your analysis implicitly rejects the two-term theory, even if not explicitly. You then object to the nominalist theory that in ‘Hesperus is a planet’ both terms denote (not refer, please) a single thing, on the grounds that while Orwell might not have fallen under ‘famous’, there is not possible situation in which he might might not have fallen under ‘Orwell’. So? Aristotle:
By the term 'universal' I mean that which is of such a nature as to be predicated of many subjects, by 'individual' that which is not thus predicated. (λέγω δὲ καθόλου μὲν ὃ ἐπὶ πλειόνων πέφυκε κατηγορεῖσθαι, καθ’ ἕκαστον δὲ ὃ μή, οἷον ἄνθρωπος μὲν τῶν καθόλου Καλλίας δὲ τῶν καθ’ ἕκαστον)
That is why proper names are called ‘proper names’. They are of such a nature (πέφυκε) as only to be predicated of a single individual. Every Orwell is an Orwell, and every Orwell is necessarily an Orwell: it is false that Orwell might not have been an Orwell, although he might not have been a famous person. In summary, your objection requires further justification. Why can't a proper name be a special kind of 'proper' predicate?

PS Christina Hoff Sommers in your previous post was the wife of the late Fred Sommers.

I think I see now how this ties in with divine simplicity. You start by converting predicate terms into proper names of universals, with a different verb to express predication. Thus ‘Tully is bald’ translates to ‘Tully has baldness’. But you still need to express relations of the form ‘Tully is Cicero’, so you keep the is of identity. Thus you require a being-having distinction for sublunar predication. Turning to God, you don’t want to express ‘God is good’ as ‘God has goodness’, because that implies a relation between the two things named by the terms, meaning that God is not simple. Moreover ‘God has existence’ suggests that existence is an accidental property of God. But fortunately you still have the being relation: you can say God is goodness. Even better, the logical paradox this generates justifies the ‘negative theology’ or mysterian claim.

To summarise, you justify the being/having distinction as necessitated by logic. This in turn justifies the mysterianism, because it ultimately violates logic.

Your second comment is especially perceptive. At the sublunar level we need to distinguish among the 'is' of identity, the 'is' of predication and the 'is' of existence. But if there is a God, then he has to be simple, and the three-fold sublunar distinction collapses into a mystical unity that we cannot wrap our heads around because our 'heads' are necessarily discursive. On the sublunar/discursive plane it is just nonsense to say that a thing is identical to its attributes or identical to its existence. This drives me to mysterianism about the very existence of God.

It is interesting that the clear-headed Frege's official doctrine issues in paradox, that of the horse. The concept *horse* is not a concept. This is because 'the concept *horse*' is a name, not a predicate, and so picks out an object, not a concept.

On the other hand, as you note, Frege is a sort of platonist about concepts which suggests that, after all, they are higher-order objects.

At the bottom of all this is the problem of the unity of the proposition. If the predicative tie is a relation that connects two objects, Tom and tallness, say, then we get Bradley's regress. But if you try to avoid this by maintaining that concepts are essentially predicative and unsaturated as F. does, then you get the paradox of the horse.

Yet note how the London theory of reference and predication gracefully solves all these difficulties. All we have to buy is that proper names as well as common names are predicable. The only difference is that common names are by nature predicable of several (dicibilis de pluribus), whereas proper names are by nature predicable of no more than one (indicibilis de pluribus).

Thus we can assert the univocity of ‘is’ – that it has the same sense in ‘something is Tully’, ‘every Tully is a Cicero’, ‘every Cicero is bald’. We can assert the contingency of identity – while every Tully is a Cicero, it might have been the case that a Tully was not a Cicero. We can explain how Tom believes that every Cicero is bald, but not that every Tully is bald. We can explain how existence can be meaningfully denied. We can meaningfully deny that anything is a Cicero.

>>We can assert the contingency of identity – while every Tully is a Cicero, it might have been the case that a Tully was not a Cicero.<<

Here is one sticking point. 'Tully,' a proper name, is sayable of exactly one individual. And Tully is Cicero. I needn't balk at the rewrite as 'Every Tully is a Cicero' which allows for traditional syllogistic argument evaluation. So 'Tully' and 'Cicero' are sayable of exactly one and the same individual.

But it strikes me as absurd to say that a Tully might not have been a Cicero. For given that Tully is Cicero, and that there is only one such individual, you are saying that this individual might not have been itself.

It might have been that a man called 'Tully' might not have been called 'Cicero.' Here there is contingency. But it is absurd to hold that Tully might not have been Cicero given that Tull is Cicero.

>>All we have to buy is that proper names as well as common names are predicable.<<

Strictly speaking, though, what is predicable is not the predicate, but what the predicate expresses. An assertive utterance of 'Tom is drunk' predicates being drunk of Tom. 'Drunk' or ' ___ drunk' is the predicate. Being drunk is the property predicated of Tom by the use of the predicate.

Say this instead: All we have to buy is that proper names as well as common names can function as predicates.

>>But it strikes me as absurd to say that a Tully might not have been a Cicero. For given that Tully is Cicero, and that there is only one such individual, you are saying that this individual might not have been itself.<<

No, but more later. Think of our earlier discussion about whether all possibility is epistemic.

I claim that

(1) 'some F is some G' is contingent.

(2) We can back refer either to the 'some F' or to the 'some G'. We can say 'the F is a man' or whatever.

(3) We can employ back reference in modal statements. We can 'it might not have been the case that the F was an F', where 'the F' refers back to precisely the 'some F' in the original statement.

Do you disagree with any of these claims?

I can't agree or disagree with what I don't understand.

>>I can't agree or disagree with what I don't understand.

Would help for you to say which of the three you don't understand. E.g. 'some F is some G'. If you replace 'F' with 'man' and 'G' with 'animal' you get 'some man is some animal'. Using schematic letters as placeholders for expressions is standard in logic.

On the second, we can say e.g. 'some man is a lawyer. The man is a barrister'. We say 'the man' refers back to 'a man'.

On the third, we can say 'the barrister might not have been a barrister'. I.e. he might have been an accountant or a doctor, not a barrister.

Perhaps you don't what I am getting at, but that is not the same thing. It would really help to say which statements you don't agree with, or don't understand.

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