I'm glad to see that something may (possibly) be done about the current ban on links from Wikipedia to the Logic Museum
. John Vandenberg, who is president of Wikimedia Australia, and who is slightly more sane and mature than the bunch of teenagers who run the place, has left a kind comment
on the spam blacklist page, saying that "The Logic Museum is scholarly work, of exceptional quality and utility
Yes of course, John! How else would readers of Wikipedia understand the use of Latin phrases like de dicto
and de re?
I discussed this in an earlier post
, but let's see what Wikipedia has to say
about this important distinction.
De dicto and de re are two phrases used to mark important distinctions in intensional statements, associated with the intensional operators in many such statements. The distinctions are most recognized in philosophy of language and metaphysics.
The literal translation of the phrase "de dicto" is "of (the) word", whereas de re translates to "of (the) thing". The original meaning of the Latin locutions is useful for understanding the living meaning of the phrases, in the distinctions they mark. The distinction is best understood by examples of intensional contexts of which we will consider three: a context of thought, a context of desire, and a context of modality.
This is horrible. Note the article doesn't have any warning sign that something is wrong (to preempt a complaint
that William made about the Maverick post yesterday. It is a mixture of the horribly clumsy and the horribly wrong. The plural 'important distinctions' is merely clumsy, given that there is just one distinction. So is "The distinctions are most recognized in philosophy of language and metaphysics", although it is not clear whether recognised
is meant, as though writers outside those subjects are aware of the distinction, but refuse to recognise it, or whether made
is intended, in the sense that writers outside those areas simply aren't aware of the distinction at all.
But some of it is just wrong. The standard use of the term 'intensional' qualifies not a statement but a context
. See e.g. the more useful SEP article
on this. And the distinction itself is a distinction in reading
, which the introduction does not explain properly. Thus there is a de re
reading of a particular sentence, or a de dicto
. And the worst bit is the explanation of the Latin 'original meaning'. 'De dicto' does not mean 'of the word', as my previous post made clear, and as another excerpt from the Logic Museum, this time from the Summa Logicae
of pseudo-Aquinas (my hasty translation) makes clear. A dictum
is what we now call a 'that clause', which Latin expresses by combining an accusative with an infinitive - Socratem currere
- 'Socrates's running' or 'that Socrates runs'. In Latin such a construction can be the subject of a sentence, as in Socratem currere est necesse
, where 'that Socrates runs' is the subject, and 'is necessary' is the predicate. We can say the same in English, although it sounds a bit old-fashioned, such as in 'that snow is white is a well-known fact'. In no way does 'dictum' mean a word, as Wikipedia says, possibly confusing it with 'dictio' which can mean a word, or an expression. It literaly means 'about (de
) what is said (dicto
As for de re
, 'of the thing' is slightly better, although res
in has a much richer semantics than the plain English 'thing'. It is sometimes translated as 'about reality' or 'about the
reality'. Note the two letters that begin the word 'reality', which is not a coincidence.
Here is the link
to the Summa Logicae
. Don't try inserting it in Wikipedia: it will get you banned. Needless to say, Google returns the Wikipedia article first, on a search for de dicto
|Ad sciendum autem earum quantitatem, notandum quod quaedam sunt propositiones modales de dicto, ut, Socratem currere est necesse; in quibus scilicet dictum subiicitur, et modus praedicatur: et istae sunt vere modales, quia modus hic determinat verbum ratione compositionis, ut supra dictum est. Quaedam autem sunt modales de re, in quibus videlicet modus interponitur dicto, ut, Socratem necesse est currere: non enim modo est sensus, quod hoc dictum sit necessarium, scilicet Socratem currere; sed huius sensus est, quod in Socrate sit necessitas ad currendum. ||Now for knowing about their [i.e. modal propositions'] quantity, it should be noted that some modal propositions are de dicto, such as "that Socrates runs is necessary", namely those in which the dictum [i.e. the clause "that Socrates runs"] is the subject and the mode [i.e. 'is necessary'] is the predicate, and these are truly modals, for the mode here determines the verb by reason of composition, as was said above. And some are modals de re, namely in which the mode is interposed in dictum, e.g. "Socrates necessarily is running", for the sense is not now that the dictum is necessary, namely 'that Socrates runs', but the sense of it is that in Socrates there is 'necessity towards running'.|
Labels: Latin, logic, wikipedia