Thursday, December 30, 2010

Album fuit disputaturum

Vallicella continues here. What I find puzzling is how he continues with trifling, even frivolous objections to the extreme version of Ockhamism that I have proposed here and there, without picking up on any of the really serious objections to it.

So let’s talk about one possible objection here. Extreme or ‘London’ Ockhamism is the view that relations can only relate things. There are no ‘non-existent relata’. Where the Stanford Realist talks about ‘non-existent relata’, as apparently required by ‘Tom is thinking about Pegasus’, the Ockhamist sees only things. ‘Tom is thinking about Pegasus’ relates Tom to nothing (for Pegasus is not a thing). Thus ‘Tom is thinking about Pegasus’ is a linguistic relation only

Londonists allow present relations. Thus ‘Cameron is colleague of Clegg’ is true, and relates two things. Londonists also allow past relations. Thus ‘Churchill met Roosevelt’ is true, since it expresses a relation which was between two things, although now between no things.

The problem occurs when the relation is between something in the present, and something in the past, or when there is no time at which the relation could possibly have been between two things. Consider ‘Churchill (who died in 1965) died before Cameron (who was born in 1966) was born’. At no time when Churchill was something, was Cameron something. For when Churchill was something, Cameron was not born. And when Cameron was born, and so was something, Churchill was nothing. Thus at no time did ‘Churchill died before Cameron was born’ relate any two things.

The medieval philosophers discussed a similar problem in the sophisma ‘Album fuit disputaturum’ (a white person was going to argue). Assume Socrates was white, before he went into the Mediterranean sun. And assume that he only argued after acquiring a Mediterranean suntan. Thus ‘a white (i.e. untanned) person is arguing’ was never true (at least, in respect of Socrates). Thus ‘Album fuit disputaturum’ apparently relates the person of whom the subject is true (untanned and unarguing Socrates) with the person of whom the predicate is true (tanned and arguing Socrates). How is that possible?

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5 Comments:

Blogger David Brightly said...

I suspect you are making the same mistake that I think BV and PL are making---that of thinking that a relation is a thing in the world in addition to the things related. You say

Thus ‘Churchill met Roosevelt’ is true, since it expresses a relation which was between two things, although now between no things.

So the relation is in time and subject to change? Likewise ‘Cameron is colleague of Clegg’ expresses a relation that came into existence a few months ago and will probably cease to exist shortly, certainly when either of them dies. So in addition to Cameron and Clegg going about their business collaboratively in the way that colleagues do for a period of time, there is also this decidedly dodgy entity that relates these two, perhaps like a piece of string that joins them together? Why else this emphasis on the simultaneous existence of the two relata?

8:59 pm  
Blogger David Brightly said...

Perhaps I should add that apart from this business about relations everything you've said here and at BV's on these topics is spot on.

9:06 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>I suspect you are making the same mistake that I think BV and PL are making---that of thinking that a relation is a thing in the world in addition to the things related.

This is in fact Scotus' solution to the problem. More later.

10:09 pm  
Blogger David Brightly said...

I continue to find this view of relations exceedingly odd. My grandfather, A, died after I was born. Before he died it was true to say 'A is D's grandfather' and to say 'the grandfather relation holds between A and D'. After he died it was true to say 'A was D's grandfather' but false to say 'the grandfather relation holds or held between A and D'. After I have died it will still be true to say 'A was D's grandfather' and also true again to say 'the grandfather relation holds or held between A and D'. I find it impossible to see how the passage of time affects the fact essential to the holding of the relation, namely, that A fathered my father. 'Relation' must mean different things for us. Can we locate the difference?

11:51 am  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>'Relation' must mean different things for us.

Not now. I changed my mind after thinking about the points you raised. Before, I was thinking about causal relations (which clearly must be co-present, or very nearly co-present in some infinitessimal sense). And I am still tempted to think that co-present relations are in some sense 'real'. But then the grandfather relation you mention is equally real.

5:05 pm  

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