• tim wood
    1.1k
    When I try to find the bottom of things, that is, what underlies, what I find is predication. Something said or thought about something. In English it's always is, whether or not the is is explicit. I suspect in other languages it's the same, no matter the language or the grammar. Always the is. Thinking, the same - near as I can tell. Feeling, emotion, as reaction doesn't seem to need an is. But it does in articulation: hunger to "I am hungry," and so forth.

    This omnipresence of predication must be a clue to something. Or at least it must in itself mean something or be in some way significant. If you discovered a primitive people and every last mother's child had a bone in his or her nose, you'd wonder why, what it might mean, or why they collectively decided on such an ornament.

    It seems to me that predication is really very simple. Subject, predicate. The subject is always something of some kind: a brick or star, seven or the square root of two, a unicorn, love or anger or apathy, or even nothing reified as that about which something is said. It seems to work that way and no other way. Being a subject gives it, the subject, substance - at least a substance as subject that the predicate as predicate lacks.

    For example: this apple is red, that apple is green. "Red" and "green," as predicates, aren't real. Red and green, as subjects, are real.

    So what? All knowledge is predication. In consideration of the point just made, all knowledge isn't real; no knowledge is real.

    Now's a good time to clarify "real." The redness of, "The apple is red," is predicated redness, someone's idea of redness, or a reference to some kind of redness: in any case, not itself redness at all. Predicated redness, then is not real redness in any sense.

    How can there be knowledge, then? Only if the thing is substantiated as a subject. "The object is an apple"; "the apple is green"; "green is a colour." Knowledge comes into being in the movement from predication to substantiation (as a subject).

    Is this accurate? If accurate is it obvious? Is this a waste of time on the obvious? In looking at this, I have a feeling I'm looking at something that's looking back at me, but is obscured by, in, its way of appearing.

    I'll draw this from it: notwithstanding the practices and shorthands of thinking and speaking from time immemorial - in spite of those long-standing practices and whatever their virtues as a practical matter, what is predicated is in substance nothing at all, until and unless it's substantiated. In fact we do this all the time, and usually instantly, or we extend credit to the predicate, to be redeemed later - and it usually is.

    Of course once substantiated as a subject there's a separate process of verification, again in the world as a practical matter not an issue.

    Except when it is an issue, or the credit is never redeemed, and we accept as knowledge that which is not knowledge.

    One implication is that every argument that does not or cannot proceed from predication through substantiation to verification, is a form of non-sense.

    Discussion, correction, refinement, or counterexamples welcome.
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    You're question is one of classical metaphysics. The passage on predication is very much Aristotelian; as Kelly Ross puts it: 'the Aristotelian "form" of an object is its substance (the "substantial form") and its essence, not all abstract properties belong to the essence. The "essence" is what makes the thing what it is. Properties that are not essential to the thing are accidental, e.g. the color or the material of a chair. Thus the contrast between "substance and accident" or "essence and accident." ... A contrast may also be drawn between substance and "attribute." In this distinction, all properties, whether essential or accidental, belong to the substance, the thing that "stands under" (sub-stantia in Latin, hypo-keímenon, "lie under," in Greek) all the properties and, presumably, holds then together. Since the properties of the essence are thought together through the concepts produced by abstraction, the "substance" represents the principle of unity that connects them.

    Concepts, or predicates, are always universals, which means that no individual can be defined, as an individual, by concepts. "Socrates," as the name of an individual, although bringing to mind many properties, is not a property; and no matter how many properties we specify, "snub-nosed," "ugly," "clever," "condemned," etc., they conceivably could apply to some other individual. From that we have a principle, still echoed by Kant, that "[primary] substance is that which is always subject, never predicate."'

    "The object is an apple"; "the apple is green"; "green is a colour." Knowledge comes into being in the movement from predication to substantiation (as a subject).tim wood

    That, to me, reflects the process of what has come to be called 'apperception', whereby an object is identified by the process of recognition and categorisation and so incorporated into knowledge.

    The subject is always something of some kind: a brick or star, seven or the square root of two, a unicorn, love or anger or apathy, or even nothing reified as that about which something is said.tim wood

    I still think a distinction can be drawn between analytic a priori and a posteriori. In classical metaphysics, that is the distinction between mathematical or logical knowledge and sensory knowledge.
  • creativesoul
    3.1k
    When I try to find the bottom of things, that is, what underlies, what I find is predication. Something said or thought about something. In English it's always is, whether or not the is is explicit. I suspect in other languages it's the same, no matter the language or the grammar. Always the is. Thinking, the same - near as I can tell. Feeling, emotion, as reaction doesn't seem to need an is. But it does in articulation: hunger to "I am hungry," and so forth.

    This omnipresence of predication must be a clue to something.
    tim wood

    That's a good start.

    It doesn't follow that all thought is existentially dependent upon predication.
  • creativesoul
    3.1k
    In articulation...

    That's key, I would think.
  • creativesoul
    3.1k
    Calling something "the bottom of things" presupposes that we've arrived at a basis. Predication is a part of the basis of all spoken/written language.

    I would strongly argue that spoken language is not part of the the basis of all thought.

    The two have something else in common.
  • creativesoul
    3.1k
    A creature capable of drawing correlations, connections, and/or associations between different things.
  • creativesoul
    3.1k
    Some predicate-less creatures are capable of drawing correlations between their own behavior and what happens afterwards. These are causal connections being made by a creature without language.

    The attribution of causality is not existentially dependent upon language. One cannot think or believe that touching fire causes discomfort without drawing the aforementioned correlations. One cannot draw the correlations unless they are thinking. That's precisely what all thought consists of. Mental correlations drawn between different things. There are no exceptions. None are immune.

    All reporting upon some candidate or another that we could bring to bear will consist of language.

    A report of something is not always equivalent to what's being reported upon... reports upon thought notwithstanding. The report requires thinking about thought. Thinking about thought cannot happen unless there is something to think about. Thinking about thought is existentially dependent upon pre-existing thought. It is also existentially dependent upon written language. We use the terms "thought", "belief", "understanding", "perception", "worldview", etc.

    All mental ongoings capable of being appropriately and sensibly called "thought" must presuppose it's own correspondence and be meaningful.

    That's what all predication does.

    That's what all pre-linguistic and/or non-linguistic thought does as well.

    Ought this not be considered more basic than predication? Surely.
  • tim wood
    1.1k
    Are you saying that Aristotle's word - nearly the first word on many subjects - is also the last word on the topics of this thread? Or do you suppose I am Aristotle? All you've done really is say the OP sounds like something you read somewhere else. Usually I think that's a valuable contribution. In this case it seems an invitation to step - fall - into the Aristotle rabbit hole and I am unwilling to go there, unless you can demonstrate that's the right way to go. It's really a question of the merit of the OP, if it has any, and not whether it can be pigeonholed in the Aristotle slot.

    For example, I doubt if Aristotle would ever have intended to say that any expression of the form, "x is true," is in itself meaningless, but just that is implied in what I wrote above. And it is meaningless, until "true" is, in terms of the OP, substantiated - which usually is immediately granted (i.e., we always assume we know what true means, and understand the word in various contexts).

    The rest of your reply, interesting as it is - did you get that right, that all predicates are universals? please confirm that - is all stuff for other topics. At the moment I like the current topic.

    As to "X is true" being meaningless in itself, I extend that at least to all propositions of the form "X is Y," or that can be converted into "X is Y," in themselves. And unless you've got a counter-example, I'm going to include all thinking (although, as above, not pure feeling, emotion, physical reaction).

    The test, or my point, I suppose, is exemplified in "This apple here is red." Do you know what color, exactly, this apple is? I'd argue you don't. The best you can do is some form of acknowledgement that presupposes I know what red is, and you know what I mean when I reference it.

    And I find this interesting. Had I figured it out a long time ago, I could have saved the many hours wasted in arguments of the form, is, isn't; is, ain't; is, your mother wears combat boots, and so on.

    I also do not have a firm grasp of it. I've been accustomed to supposing that speaking/writing conveyed meaning more-or-less directly, by itself. Now I'm of a mind it doesn't do that even a little bit in itself.

    Meaning, then, becomes elusive. We can get a lot of the world's work done on current understanding, but maybe we - or at least I - don't understand that as well as I thought I did.
  • tim wood
    1.1k
    It doesn't follow that all thought is existentially dependent upon predication.creativesoul
    Why "existentially"? Why "dependent"? Are these qualifications necessary or relevant? I argue that's how thought is, period. What I'm driving towards is that expression, even in thinking, is attribution of something to something, the predicated something not being anything in its own right until it's made a subject itself. Even mental picturing. I summon a mental image; it seems to me the image is the predication, although the subject is a little hard for me to identify.
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    Are you saying that Aristotle's word - nearly the first word on many subjects - is also the last word on the topics of this thread?tim wood

    No. I’m simply pointing out that the general style of the analysis - the division into ‘subject and predicate’ - is strongly reminiscent of Aristotelian metaphysics. I wasn’t intending to belittle or dismiss the OP but to point out this similarity. That is all I was getting at.

    The passage I quoted was from a review by Kelly Ross called Meaning and the problem of Universals. You might find it relavant, as it does also discuss the issue of ‘meaning’ in some detail.
  • creativesoul
    3.1k
    It doesn't follow that all thought is existentially dependent upon predication.
    — creativesoul

    Why "existentially"? Why "dependent"? Are these qualifications necessary or relevant?
    tim wood

    These questions have already been adequately answered. It may be helpful to address the post I made just prior to this one.
  • creativesoul
    3.1k
    We look to language to find thought. There is no reason to believe that all thought must consist of language. All predication does.
  • StreetlightX
    2.9k
    While it's true that one often 'finds predication at the bottom of things', one has to wonder if this is due to a confusion of the tool for the object: that is, language. Wayfarer is right to point out that the primacy of the subject-predicate distinction is primarily Aristotelian in inspiration, and it should also be noted that Aristotle himself modeled his understanding of Being precisely on the structure of language:

    "Aristotle treats here [in the Categories] of things, of beings, insofar as they are signified by language, and of language insofar as it refers to things. His ontology presupposes the fact that, as he never stops repeating, being is said (to on legetai...), is always already in language. The ambiguity between logic and ontology is so consubstantial to the treatise that, in the history of Western philosophy, the categories appear both as classes of predication and as classes of being.

    .... The structure of subjectivation/presupposition remains the same in both cases: the articulation worked by language always pre-sup-poses a relation of predication (general/particular) or of inherence (substance/accident) with respect to a subject, an existent that lies-under-and-at-the base [hypokeimenon, as Wayfarer again pointed out -SX]. Legein, “to say,” means in Greek “to gather and articulate beings by means of words”: onto-logy." (Agamben, The Use of Bodies).

    Agamben's own take is that this modelling of Being upon language - and, implicitly, knowledge upon language - has massively overdetermined the trajectory of Western philosophy, and that what is needed is an entirely new approach to all of it. But regardless of that, the point is simply that it is unsurprising that, in the necessary recourse to language to expresses knowledge, we 'find predication': it is not unlike opening the fridge door and being surprised to find that each time, the fridge light is on.
  • tim wood
    1.1k
    Some predicate-less creatures are capable of drawing correlations between their own behavior and what happens afterwards. These are causal connections being made by a creature without language.creativesoul
    Without language? You're unacquainted with city squirrels. The entrances to The Public Garden in Boston are blocked in fair weather by squirrels who very clearly articulate their demand for tribute for the privilege of walking in their garden. And any owner of cats or dogs knows they both understand and communicate all sorts of amazing things. But I would not claim that their behaviours were or were not of any particular kind, especially when the kind in question has not been defined or explicated. Perhaps we need a working definition of language. Would you do the honours?

    All reporting... will consist of language.creativesoul
    I think this is the central point of your post. Language appears to be the sole artifact, and what lies behind is conjecture.

    "...[T]hought" must presuppose it's own correspondence and be meaningful.
    That's what all predication does.
    That's what all pre-linguistic and/or non-linguistic thought does as well.
    Ought this not be considered more basic than predication? Surely.
    creativesoul
    Um, no. If all reporting "will consist in language," then all we have is language. All we have is the predication. You and I can presuppose and infer all day long, but language is the vehicle. Is there something primordial to language? There must be, imo. But I don't know what it is. And the theories about what that is all seem to arrive at analogously the same conclusion that flight engineers come to with bumblebees: they can't fly.

    Let's return to predication and knowledge and try to keep it as simple as possible. "The book is on the table": let's call this P. I'm arguing that P is in itself without any meaning whatsoever. But obviously we treat it as meaningful. Maybe by very quickly accessing in some way an inner library of concepts and putting them together. Whatever it is, I'll call the process M. M, then, assigns meaning to P.

    Is this non-specific enough to forestall attack? Does anyone have a better non-specific description? The idea here - the question that arises - is if this non-specific model is essentially accurate, then exactly where and how do considerations of truth and knowledge come into it?
  • tim wood
    1.1k
    We look to language to find thought. There is no reason to believe that all thought must consist of language. All predication does.creativesoul
    You didn't, so I will. Thought, for present purpose, is mental activity that we are, or become, aware of. Mental processes and activity we are not aware of, for present purpose, are not thought.

    Language is a behaviour that expresses something.

    Is there language that is not predicative? Can you think of any expressive behaviour that does not predicate?

    .
  • tim wood
    1.1k
    Aristotle himself modeled his understanding of Being precisely on the structure of language:
    "Aristotle treats here [in the Categories] of things, of beings, insofar as they are signified by language, and of language insofar as it refers to things. His ontology presupposes the fact that, as he never stops repeating, being is said (to on legetai...), is always already in language.
    StreetlightX

    Key words: modeled, understanding, structure, treats, insofar (x2), presupposes. It accords, then, with his theory of the thing, that being is a creature of language. Or does it? It's not clear from what you've adduced here whether being is created in language, or (merely) expressed through and by language. We could recast the question as, Is there being absent language? But this requires a true understanding of what both being and language are. I would accept that being can and does irrupt into language. (As it irrupts into consciousness through perception.)

    I'm arriving at the image that language, defined above, with respect to knowledge, is akin to cheques and letters of credit. Worthless in themselves, but assigned value as they represent knowledge against which they can be "cashed."

    Agamben's own take is that this modelling of Being upon language - and, implicitly, knowledge upon language - has massively overdetermined the trajectory of Western philosophy, and that what is needed is an entirely new approach to all of it. But regardless of that, the point is simply that it is unsurprising that, in the necessary recourse to language to expresses knowledge, we 'find predication': it is not unlike opening the fridge door and being surprised to find that each time, the fridge light is on.StreetlightX

    I like this. And for me it's not a matter of being surprised that the fridge light is on, but rather that I've come to question just what it means that the light is on; and wonder that it is, apparently, the only light there is.
  • creativesoul
    3.1k
    Um, no. If all reporting "will consist in language," then all we have is language.tim wood

    This is a specious claim. It is borne of sorely neglecting to draw and maintain the meaningful distinction between a report and what is being reported upon.

    We have both. The latter does not necessarily consist of language. The former always does.
  • creativesoul
    3.1k
    Thought, for present purpose, is mental activity that we are, or become, aware of. Mental processes and activity we are not aware of, for present purpose, are not thought.tim wood

    This is self-contradictory on it's face. Thought - if something that we can become aware of - must exist prior to our becoming aware of it, lest there would be nothing to become aware of. So, the first claim contradicts the second. If either is true, then the other cannot be. That is to say that they are negations of one another.

    That's completely unacceptable.


    Language is a behaviour that expresses something.

    Are you prepared to admit all of the absurd consequences of this definition? Books do not contain behaviour. Following your 'logic', books do not contain language.

    You'll have to do better than this...
  • creativesoul
    3.1k
    Is there something primordial to language? There must be, imo. But I don't know what it is.tim wood

    We agree here. I'm trying to show you how you can know. You began in the right place, by looking towards known examples of thought. It is a particularly good move to look for the common denominators. You found and focused upon only one; predication. You then drew a conclusion that neglected to draw and maintain a distinction that is crucial to understanding the basis of all thought, including all predication. And you've ignored relevant arguments hereabouts. Not a good start.
  • creativesoul
    3.1k
    There are some simple things that we can know and work from there.

    All language consists of shared meaning. Whatever shared meaning requires, then so too does language.

    Follow me so far?
  • creativesoul
    3.1k
    Is there something primordial to language? There must be, imo. But I don't know what it is. And the theories about what that is all seem to arrive at analogously the same conclusion that flight engineers come to with bumblebees: they can't fly.tim wood

    Gotta love those foregone conclusions...

    I put it to you that the flight engineers aren't considering all of the relevant facts. The same is true of your method and any other that ends without knowledge of what all thought is.
  • creativesoul
    3.1k
    Can you think of any expressive behaviour that does not predicate?tim wood

    My ducks, the wee ones that is, express their hunger by virtue of partially opened mouthes and walking back and forth between my chair and the food bin, all the while looking up at me.

    No predication necessary.
  • StreetlightX
    2.9k
    It's not clear from what you've adduced here whether being is created in language, or (merely) expressed through and by language. We could recast the question as, Is there being absent language?tim wood

    Not quite any of these; to put it more simply, for Aristotle, the 'characteristics' of Being are the same as the 'characteristics' of language. Aristotle's ontology is not an 'expression' of language nor 'dependent' on it or whatever; it's simply that it shares the same structure (so just as one speaks of subject and predicate, for example, in Aristotle Being is articulated by essence and accident, the one reflecting the other); it's a matter of an 'isomorphism' between Being and language, if it can be put that way. Or in the words of the linguist Emile Benveniste, who first drew attention to this:

    "Aristotle thus posits the totality of predications that may be made about a being, and he aims to define the logical status of each one of them. [However], these distinctions are primarily categories of language and that, in fact, Aristotle, reasoning in the absolute, is simply identifying certain fundamental categories of the language in which he thought. ... He thought he was defining the attributes of objects but he was really setting up linguistic entities; it is the language which, thanks to its own categories, makes them to be recognized and specified. No matter how much validity Aristotle's categories have as categories of thought, they turn out to be transposed from categories of language.

    It is what one can say which delimits and organizes what one can think [in Aristotle]. Language provides the fundamental configuration of the properties of things as recognized by the mind. This table of predications informs us above all about the class structure of a particular language. It follows that what Aristotle gave us as a table of general and permanent conditions is only a conceptual projection of a given linguistic state." (Benveniste, Problems in General Linguistics).

    Again, the import of this is that of course you find predication every time you look for it: it's because the tool you're using for your search is language.

    And for me it's not a matter of being surprised that the fridge light is on, but rather that I've come to question just what it means that the light is on; and wonder that it is, apparently, the only light there is.tim wood

    It is not the only light it is. There are other ways to approach ontology that are not simply confined to Aristotle's equivocations between language and Being. Agamben, who I cited previously, for example, advocates for what he refers to as a 'modal ontology' where (following Spinoza), Being is expressed modally, in terms of its manner or 'way' of Being, and not, as per the Aristotelian model, in terms of the distinction between substance and accidence (and hence subject and predicate: an ontology of 'possession' as distinct from an ontology of 'expression'). Deleuze, elsewhere, suggests speaking of Being according to the grammatical category of the infinitive, such that we do not say 'the tree is green' but rather 'the tree greens' (this is not a great way to communicate of course, but that's the point - the needs of communication are idiosyncratic and hardly generalizable, so we should not expect that the world is simply structured like our language).

    I mention these two examples obviously only in their most bare-bones form, but the point is that ontology - and in its wake knowledge - is not exhausted by the subject-predicate articulation, and we should be incredibly suspicious about any approach to knowledge which simply sees in it what it is put there to begin with. Not only is it circular, but it is highly inattentive to other ways of looking at things which are out there.
  • tim wood
    1.1k
    This is a specious claim. It is borne of sorely neglecting to draw and maintain the meaningful distinction between a report and what is being reported upon.

    We have both. The latter does not necessarily consist of language. The former always does.
    creativesoul
    In what sense do we have both? Are you sure we have "what is being reported on" prior to any report? Is it as simple as returning to the store to get something we forgot? We have hopes for the ability of science to recover the substance of lost reports, but that's not guaranteed. And to be sure, if you're the original reporter, how do you report it? In language. Unless like Cratylus you're content to just point, you're stuck with language.

    Are there things - objects - that we talk about? Sure, but how do we access them unless we either talk about them, or have a direct non-language experience with them?
  • tim wood
    1.1k
    Thought, for present purpose, is mental activity that we are, or become, aware of. Mental processes and activity we are not aware of, for present purpose, are not thought.
    — tim wood
    This is self-contradictory on it's face. Thought - if something that we can become aware of - must exist prior to our becoming aware of it, lest there would be nothing to become aware of. So, the first claim contradicts the second. If either is true, then the other cannot be. That is to say that they are negations of one another.
    That's completely unacceptable.
    creativesoul
    How do you know that what you are not aware of is thought? Perhaps it becomes thought in the act of your becoming aware of it. And you skipped over "for present purpose." It seems you're making assumptions about what thought is that are unwarranted - they're certainly unsupported.

    "Language is a behaviour that expresses something." - timw
    Are you prepared to admit all of the absurd consequences of this definition? Books do not contain behaviour. Following your 'logic', books do not contain language.
    You'll have to do better than this...
    creativesoul

    Well, the writer "behaved." The book is an archive. Are you prepared to assert that the book is language, in itself? It seems to me that to be language the book has to be in the process of being read.

    You don't like how I define thought or language? You define them.
  • tim wood
    1.1k
    Is there something primordial to language? There must be, imo. But I don't know what it is. And the theories about what that is all seem to arrive at analogously the same conclusion that flight engineers come to with bumblebees: they can't fly.
    — tim wood

    Gotta love those foregone conclusions...
    I put it to you that the flight engineers aren't considering all of the relevant facts. The same is true of your method and any other that ends without knowledge of what all thought is.
    creativesoul
    The "foregone conclusion" sums up the very good article you listed (thank you), part of the substance of which is that there are a lot of theories, but all are flawed and none work entirely. We do think; meaning is something. Apparently we can't define them or understand them perfectly and entirely. But nothing prevents us from using approximations that are good enough to use.

    The object you sit in is a chair. To a nuclear physicist, it's mostly profoundly empty space. So which is it? If you want a new one, do you go to a furniture store, or a profoundly empty space store?
  • tim wood
    1.1k
    I'm moving my attention to StreetlightX's thread, Ontology: Possession and Expression. Why don't we all go there.
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