Sunday, February 05, 2012

Every horse is living

Here is a translation of a question by Jean Buridan which has some affinity with our earlier discussion about men who are not men.  Reading what he says, it is clear that he would resolve our difficulty by rendering 'some men are not men' into 'some things which are men, are not men', which is clearly false.

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27 Comments:

Blogger Anthony said...

Well, yeah. But is there any other way to read "some men are not men" which is not equivalent to "some things which are men, are not men"?

2:20 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>Well, yeah. But is there any other way to read "some men are not men" which is not equivalent to "some things which are men, are not men"?
<<

Obviously, and Buridan discusses this. He says (in effect) that 'many men are dead' can be read in two ways. As 'many men who are men are dead', and this is false. Or 'many men who were men are dead', and this is true. I don't think it solves the problem, but that is his solution.

4:58 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

Weird. That's not how I read it at all.

1:21 am  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

Well I may be wrong, but the key for me is where he says “But it seems to me that it is better to concede the said ampliation of the subject by the predicate, although the verb is of the present tense.” He is objecting to the view, presented in the paragraph beginning “You ought to know that … some persons have denied such ampliations”. These persons deny the proposition “some man is dead”. (Actually I see I have mistranslated that part. The persons in question deny the proposition 'aliquis homo est mortuus', but concede the proposition 'aliquis homo mortuus est'. The difference is hard to capture in English. ) Buridan, by contrast, allows the ampliation, i.e. he allows that in ‘some man is dead’, the verb is genuinely present tense. He then has to explain the validity of the syllogistic moods, and he gets out of it by, in effect, saying that there are two verbs in the proposition. Thus ‘a B is A’ can mean ‘a B which is a B is A’, or it can mean ‘a B which was a B is A’. Thus ‘some man is dead’ can mean ‘a man who is a man is dead’, and this is false, for being dead implies not being a man. But it can mean ‘a man who was a man is dead’. I.e. it’s not the tense of the main verb which causes the ampliation, but the tense of the verb embedded in the ‘which’ clause.

Is it less weird now?

8:49 am  
Blogger Anthony said...

Not really. I think I'm still hung up on "Socrates is not a man."

To me that's like saying "Dinosaurs are not animals." I do not accept that this is a true statement. In fact, I'd say it is a false statement. Dinosaurs are animals.

1:48 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

I'm sure I'm completely abusing terminology, but basically I'm saying in a sentence like "Socrates is [not] X" and "Dinosaurs are [not] Y", we have an ampliation of the copula by the subject.

1:55 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

Would be comfortable with the situation where Socrates was turned into a frog. Socrates was a man but now is a frog, and so is no longer a man.

Or if you have a problem with that, because of the magic, how about boys becoming men? Or caterpillars becoming butterflies?

1:55 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>we have an ampliation of the copula by the subject.

You can only ampliate a term.

1:56 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

(Although, I never learned why the copula is separated from the predicate in the first place. This would be a good topic for another discussion, and I think it was somewhat touched on by Buridan.)

In Aristotelian logic we just have a subject ("A") and a predicate ("is B"), no separate copula, right?

1:59 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

"You can only ampliate a term."

I know. I was abusing terminology in the hopes that I might convey what I was trying to say but did not have the words to express properly.

2:00 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

If Socrates was turned into a frog, then that would greatly change things.

Moreover, if instead of "man" we used a term like "adult", or something of which Socrates was only categorized under during part of his life, this would greatly change things.

For instance: "Some adults are not adults." I can't translate that into "Some adults who were adults are not adults."

2:04 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>In Aristotelian logic we just have a subject ("A") and a predicate ("is B"), no separate copula, right?

No, quite the opposite. Fregean logic has a subject and predicate only (the copula is built into the predicate). Aristotelian logic famously has two terms and a copula.

2:05 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>For instance: "Some adults are not adults." I can't translate that into "Some adults who were adults are not adults."
<<

How about 'some persons who were adults are not adults'? As in the case of Benjamin Button.

2:08 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>but did not have the words to express properly.
<<

You need to combine the words that you do have, in the right way.

2:09 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

If Socrates was turned into a frog, and then the frog died, I wouldn't say "Socrates is not a man" nor "Socrates is a man".

2:13 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> How about 'some persons who were adults are not adults'?

That is not equivalent to "some adults are not adults". (Or, to make it a bit more conceivable, "some children are not children" vs. "some persons who were children are not children").

"Some children are not children" just doesn't make sense, unless you are using two different senses of "children" (biological age vs. mental age, perhaps).

2:16 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

OK how about “Some caterpillars are now butterflies”? or “some cygnets are now swans”?

4:20 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

I suppose "some caterpillars are now butterflies" makes sense. I wouldn't say that "some caterpillars are not caterpillars" does, though (at least not without some sort of context).

In both cases there is an implicit "former" before "caterpillars". But the content of the latter sentence does not make this clear, as the content of the former does. I don't think you can break the sentence apart and say that it is any particular word in it that leads one to focus on former caterpillars, and not current ones. Rather it is the sentence as a whole which does so.

Now, there are two major (and related) differences between caterpillars turning into butterflies and men turning into non-men. 1) Men are always men ("men" in the context we're talking about). There is no time when Socrates exists and is not a man. 2) The men, who it is said "are not men", do not currently exist.

It seems to me that the only possible conclusion is that the word "is" can be used to designate timeless truths. Dinosaurs are animals. The "are" does not mean currently-are. But it doesn't mean in-the-past-were either. It means, throughout time, every dinosaur that ever lived, that lives, and that ever will live, is an animal. In the case of dinosaurs the "that lives, and that ever will live" is vacuous, but that's because I chose an extinct animal in order to show that the "are" could not possibly be currently-are. (Substitute a possibly extinct animal, such as the "shortnose cisco" - shortnose ciscos are fish.) I would say that in the sentence "men are rational animals", the "are" is meant in the same way. Not just that men who currently live are rational animals, but also that men who lived in the past were rational animals, and that men who live in the future will be rational animals.

1:20 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>I suppose "some caterpillars are now butterflies" makes sense. I wouldn't say that "some caterpillars are not caterpillars" does, though (at least not without some sort of context).
<<

The problem is

1. "These are not caterpillars" (pointing to the butterflies) is true
2. "These were once caterpillars" is true

3. "These are now butterflies" also true.

4. "Some caterpillars are now butterflies" true

5. "They [pronoun back referring to the 'some caterpillars'] are now butterflies" also true.

The problem is that the back-referring pronoun of (5) seems to have an identical reference to the demonstrative pronoun of (2).

4:32 pm  
Blogger David Brightly said...

Doesn't 'some caterpillars are now butterflies' imply 'some things are now both caterpillars and butterflies'? But the latter is false since, as (1) in the preceding comment suggests, Caterpillar and Butterfly are incompatible concepts---nothing can be both at one time. Hence the former is false too. 'Some former caterpillars are now butterflies' does not have this implication. Compare with 'some police officers are now women'.

Contrast with 'some of the caterpillars are now butterflies', said in the context of some natural history experiment where 'the caterpillars' refers to the creatures we saw last month, say. This is unproblematic. I'm tempted to suggest that medieval Latin glosses over some distinctions that can be made in modern English with articles.

11:11 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

Well, the reference isn't identical. The "they" in 5 refers, I believe, to all former caterpillars which are now butterflies (which is equivalent to all now butterflies). The "these" in 2 refers to the specific butterflies you happen to be pointing to.

But moreover, I don't see the problem. The sentence I have a problem with is "Some caterpillars are not caterpillars", not "Some caterpillars are not now caterpillars". The introduction of the word "now" makes it clear that the word "caterpillars" in the subject is referring to something other than current-caterpillars.

Furthermore, there is context surrounding the sentence. I don't deny that "some caterpillars are not caterpillars" might make sense in the right context. "Some caterpillars have turned into butterflies. Some caterpillars are not caterpillars."

This might be a problem if I denied that context can change the meaning of such a sentence. But I don't.

12:14 am  
Blogger Anthony said...

Actually I shouldn't say that the meaning is changed by the context. To be more precise, the context reflects the intended meaning.

12:17 am  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>referring to something other than current-caterpillars

are current caterpillars a variety of caterpillar?

Are non-current caterpillars a variety of caterpillar?

I.e. are both caterpillars? In which case 'some caterpillars are not caterpillars' is perfectly OK, no?

11:50 am  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> I.e. are both caterpillars?

They are both members of the order Lepidoptera. If that's what you mean by caterpillars, then yes.

>> In which case 'some caterpillars are not caterpillars' is perfectly OK, no?

No, without context, it's not okay. Without context, it's an equivocation.

2:25 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

>> Doesn't 'some caterpillars are now butterflies' imply 'some things are now both caterpillars and butterflies'?

Not if you know that this isn't the intended meaning.

I know this is a dispute between Ed and myself which is still unresolved, but "Some caterpillars are now butterflies" is a sentence. It does not have an intrinsic meaning of its own. It's just a linguistic device used to convey meaning.

"Some caterpillars are now butterflies" is meant to convey a meaning which is probably better phrased as "Some members of the order Lepidoptera are now butterflies". But I think it's clear what the intended meaning of "Some caterpillars are now butterflies" is, at least to people who know that caterpillars turn into butterflies.

I don't think it's clear, without further context, what the intended meaning of "Some caterpillars are not caterpillars" means.

3:01 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>No, without context, it's not okay. Without context, it's an equivocation.

My point was that if 'current' and 'not current' are not alienans qualifiers, i.e. if they do not qualify 'caterpillar' in the way that 'fake' qualifies 'fur', then there is no equivocation.

3:04 pm  
Blogger Anthony said...

It's more complicated than that. Sometimes when one uses the term "astronaut" they mean to include former astronauts, and sometimes they don't.

3:54 pm  

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