Wednesday, May 09, 2012

What the meaning of 'not' is not

There were (or was?) a flurry of comments on my earlier post about the concept of negation, and the meaning of the word ‘not’. I would say these are quite separate things. Indeed, there are many separate things. Negation is not the same as the concept of negation. For the expression “the concept of negation” is a noun phrase referring to the concept of negation, whereas ‘negation’ refers to negation. As for the word ‘not’, it is an adverb not a noun, and while it clearly has a meaning, it cannot be the same as the meaning of the word ‘negation’. Otherwise we could replace the word ‘negation’ with the word ‘not’ without change of meaning. But ‘snow is not black’ does not mean the same as ‘snow is negation black’. Note also (and I find this a bit puzzling) that the ‘the meaning of the word “not”’ is a noun phrase that refers to the meaning of the word ‘not’. Yet we can’t replace ‘the meaning of the word “not”’ with the word ‘not’ without change of meaning.

There is also the verb ‘negate’. This is derived from the Latin ‘nego’ meaning to deny, and the meaning is still pretty much the same. Negating is denying. This is what the word ‘not’ does when we attach it to a sentence. So the word ‘not’ achieves what the verb ‘deny’ does, and so it has the effect of a verb, yet it is an adverb!

All very confusing. I shall talk about the interjections ‘yes’ and ‘no’ tomorrow.

8 comments:

Anthony said...

"Negating is denying. This is what the word ‘not’ does when we attach it to a sentence."

Reification.

Denying is what *we* do when we include the word "not" in a certain position in a certain type of sentence.

Edward Ockham said...

Maverick makes this point frequently and often.

Anthony said...

"Negation is not the same as the concept of negation."

So the proper answer to "Is negation a concept at all?" is "No, negation is not a concept. The concept of negation is a concept."?

Edward Ockham said...

>>So the proper answer to "Is negation a concept at all?" is "No, negation is not a concept. The concept of negation is a concept."?
<<

Possibly.

Anthony said...

Fine. No. Negation is not a concept. Negation is the act of negating. The concept of negation is a concept, though.

Jason Hills said...

Ed,

Are you going to make something akin to the sense/reference distinction, etc., or are you toying around?

I say this because I get the feeling that you are holding back whole theories of language, logic, and signification that you have in mind, which makes any conservation less fruitful without more cards on the table.

Edward Ockham said...

Just toying around for now. All work in progress for the next book, if there is a next book.

Jason Hills said...

It's all good. I do that on my own blog. I posted about scholastic realism and nominalism for months before tying it to my own project.