[lit-ideas] Re: Movies without Guns, firstname.lastname@example.org
- From: Michael Chase <goya@xxxxxxx>
- To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 16 Sep 2005 18:18:11 -0700
Le 16 sept. 05, à 15:48, Robert Paul a écrit :
Michael Chase wrote:
Le 16 sept. 05, à 14:27, Eric Yost a écrit :
M.C. Was ist ein Ding?
[Eric's quip snipped.]
Thing, Ding—ils sont la même chose, n'est-ce pas?
Seriously, though, folks. When R. Paul says "When I say that I
don't believe (and surely, on reflection, neither do you) that every
noun has as its referent something that subsists by itself as a
separate and distinct thing, I'm trying to point out that just
because we can talk of knowledge, love, hope, and anger, these are
not independently existing 'things,'"
Instead of trying to define the English word 'thing' (which Mike knows
perfectly well how to use)
M.C. Implied here is the idea that to know what a word means just is to
know how to use it. This strikes me as rather reductionist, but I'll
let that pass, because I'm such a nice guy.
I'll suggest that instead of saying what
I did, I might have just said, 'these do not exist independently (of
the doings, feelings, and states of affairs which illustrate what we
mean by, e.g. 'fairness'). But this won't satisfy Mike, who then wants
next to ask what I mean by 'existence.'
M.C. It would have been a start, because then you would have answered
in the affirmative my question as to whether being a thing is the same
thing as being an existent, rather than merely dismissing the question
Then I don't know what he means, because I don't know what he
means by "thing". Is a thing equivalent to an existent? If so, is
there only one kind of existence ? I notice R. Paul uses the word
"subsist" on at least one occasion : is this different than "exist"?
Are non-existent things "things"? If not, why not? What about ideas?
Do they exist? Are they things? If not, why not?
I've said a bit about the Mike's first worry, above. 'Is a thing
equivalent to an existent?' I don't even know what this question
means, so maybe I could be let off trying to answer it.
M.C. 'Fraid not. I suspect Robert knows perfectly well what this
question means, phrased as it is in reasonable simply English. here's a
paraphrase : is "being-a-thing" coextensive with "existing" ? Here's
another version : Is it possible, yes or no, for something to be
non-existent and still be a thing?
'Subsist' means a number of things (see Webster) but I'll take it to
mean something like 'to continue to exist,' which one can take or
leave or dismiss as question-begging. It's usually thought that the
items in the list of examples hang around for awhile, even to the
extent that love (Love), and not just the word or concept 'love' would
be there even if no one were now or ever had been in love (and so with
Fairness, Anger, etc.)
This I deny.
M.C. Now we're getting somewhere. If a tree falls in the forest,
according to Robert, makes no noise if there is no one around.
If Mike likes, I'll give him the word 'existence,' with the
understanding that when I use it, I use it this way: To say that
ourang-outangs exist is to say that there are ourang-outangs; to say
that ideas exist is to say that there are ideas; and so on.
M.C. In other words, far from failing to understand the question, you
now affirm that "being a thing" *is just* "existing" : thingness and
existence are coextensive ; all things exist and all existents are
things; there are no non-existent things. Are any of these
illegitilmate inferences from what you've said ?
The last quarrelsome question, 'Do [ideas] exist? Are they things? If
not, why not?' is just silly.
M.C. Indeed? Well, so much for the history of philosophy, I suppose,
most of which, at least for the past 2300 years or so, has been
primarily about the debate between Plato, who, as Robert knows, claimed
that ideas exist, and Aristotle, who claimed they do not.
There are ideas. Are they things? Well, do you understand the
sentences 'There are, after all, such things as ideas,' and 'Ideas are
things which are implanted in us by hypnosis,' or do you only
understand them when the word 'things' is removed, as in 'There are
ideas'? ('And what sort of thing is an idea?')
M.C. Although I'm not terribly sure of my ground here (whatever
happened to answers like "yes" or "no"?) I'm going to assume Robert is
saying "yes, ideas are things" here. From what we've seen above, that
means ideas exist. And since Robert has not say anything different,
despite my request that he clarify whether or not there are different
types of existence, one has no choice but to conclude that, for Robert,
ideas exist in precisely the same ways as rocks, chairs, and the
current President of the U.S..
But now I'm confused. Let's return to the original comments that
inspired this conversation : "When I say that I don't believe ...that
every noun has as its referent something that subsists by itself as a
separate and distinct thing, I'm trying to point out that just because
we can talk of knowledge, love, hope, and anger, these are not
independently existing 'things,'"
M.C. : I took this to mean that Robert holds it is (fairly obviously)
the case that it is *not* the case that "knowledge, love, hope and
anger" are things. As we have now established - since existence is
coextensive with thingness - this surely must mean that knowledge,
love, hope and anger do not exist. Either that, or "knowledge, love,
hope and anger" *do* exist, but they have a different mode of existence
from rocks, chairs, and the current President of the U.S. Oddly, Robert
seems reluctant to embrace this conclusion, which seems painfully
obvious to this amateur *philosophailleur*.
When the child says, 'Something frightened me,' does the child have to
have an essentialist (or any other) kind of definition of the word
'something' before we understand what he or she is saying? Is this a
theory (of meaning, of existence, of reference)?
M.C. I suspect the child has no such theory, but I fail see how that's
relevant to the isues at hand. It was not a child, but Robert Paul who
chose to argue that things like love hope and anger are not things :
I'm still trying to understand the purpose of that statement, and, yes,
I think you owe me at least a few answers, Mike, and not just some
scatter-gun responses. I'd like to hear your own thoughts.
M.C. My own thoughts? I would say that there are, like the Greeks
thought, probably different types of existence. I would say that rocks,
chimaeras, the current King of France, and Justice, all of which the
Greeks could have called *pragma*, "thing" - all exist, but they exist
in *very* different ways than rocks and the current President. I
believe that the relations between thingness, existence and ideas are
extremely difficult and philosophically important, as is witnessed by
the entire history of philosophy in general and the thought of someone
Avicenna in particular. I also believe that Robert has not answered any
of my questions.
The questions remain, although they are easily dismissed as silly :
what does it mean for something to exist, or to be a thing? What is the
ontological status of non-existent and/or physical objects ? If they
are simply "no thing", then how can we make true statements about them
? Do universal ideas exist? Why or why not, and in what sense? What
precisely *is* the difference between the mode of existence of
something like beauty and that of a rock?
I don't claim to have the answers : all I claim is that the answers
are neither self-evident nor, at least potentially, uninteresting.
CNRS UPR 76
7, rue Guy Moquet
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