[lit-ideas] Re: The nothing noths

  • From: Adriano Palma <Palma@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2015 05:33:08 +0000

Speranza???!!!! Ke kazzo dici???

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Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: The nothing noths

I know it was O. K. who raised the topic of the references, so I did check with 
D. P. Henry and his treatment of the Heidegger

i. The Nothing noths.

Henry provides a symbolisation of the above, and notes that it's a logical 
truth, or what I would prefer, a tautology. Henry is into mediaevalism, and not 
 really into Heidegger, and he does not quote from Ayer, or Grice, for that  
matter. He would occasionally quote from Austin.

But notably, indeed, Henry is criticising Carnap's take, so I will concentrate 
on the remaining of this post to comment on McEvoy's point about Carnap.

Henry seems to think that Carnap, and Whitehead/Russell for that matter have a 
restricted view of what constitutes a language, and in their conception  indeed

i. The Nothing noths.

comes out as a piece of nonsense.

Henry focuses on the 'the' of (i) and considers Russell's

ii. The king of France is bald.

Since we do allow for the use of 'the' when it comes to 'vacuous'
expressions, the same applies to Heidegger's (i).

Henry also then goes on to point out the uniqueness (or 'singularity', as Henry 
prefers) of "Nothing", thus capitalised. It's not

iii. Nothing noths.


even as the subject header goes

iv. The nothing noths.

but what Heidegger's translator has, i.e.

i. The Nothing noths.

So basically, while mainly interested in mediaeval material, Henry goes on to 
note that there is a way to defend Heidegger as

-- not having uttered any kind of nonsense
-- having uttered some logically true utterance

This is what Henry refers to as the 'metaphysical bearing'. He suggests that 
according to the choice of the language one makes, one will have a metaphysical 
bias towards this or towards that.

Now onto McEvoy's further references to Popper and Witters.

It should be pointed out that Henry does not GRANT that Heidegger would be 
happy with HIS (i.e. Henry's) analysis. Henry suggests that there is indeed 
more  to "Nothing" than (i) and to evaluate Heidegger's claim (i) one may have 
to  explore further onto "Nothing".

In a message dated 2/19/2015 10:03:19  A.M. Eastern Standard Time, 
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx<mailto:donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx> writes:
I suggest it is  a cul-de-sac to frame the discussion in terms of Heidegger vs. 
Carnap [Heidegger  vs. Wittgenstein or H vs. Popper would be more fruitful, for 

From what follows, McEvoy's idea is that Carnap is into the 'unity of science', 
and that the only possible language is the language of science.
KEYWORD: Scientism.

From the Henry discussion, I learn that Carnap (like most logical
'positivists') is intebted to Russell/Whitehead, so I'm not sure a validation 
of _science_ per se is what we have to deal with. Rather is the choice of a 
vehicle  for formalisation, Henry seems to suggest.

McEvoy goes on:

"Carnap is too poor an enemy against which to pit Heidegger: Carnap's 
strictures as to meaning are mistaken and they are mistaken even in relation to 
the 'language of science' that Carnap wishes to take as the be-all and end-all  
of "sense"."

Here McEvoy makes a distinction between

i. Carnap's conception of language in general.
ii. Carnap's conception of the language of science.

I would need to double-check here, but it seems Carnap's constrictions,  or 
'strictures', to use McEvoy's phrase, are Whitehead's and Russell's -- which  
are indeed Grice's! (Vide Grice, "Definite descriptions in Russell and in the  

I write "Whitehead's and Russell's" because we are referring to "PM"  (or 
Principia Mathematica for long) and Whitehead is the first author.

(OTOH Henry's choice of a language is NOT PM, but rather the Polish school he 
learned from Geach -- and that J. L. Scherb also quotes.

McEvoy goes on:

"The fundamental flaws in Carnap's approach do not validate Heidegger's 
metaphysics, of course: but we should not be misled that the fundamental 
question with Heidegger's metaphysics is whether it is nonsense (as Carnap
contends) but whether it is mistaken or wrongheaded."

This is what Henry, being a mediaevalist, but having a GREAT sense of humour, 
calls the 'quaestio subtilissima', or 'quæstio subtilissima', and how these 
apparent sophismas have a 'metaphysical bearing'.

If they have a metaphysical bearing, it may mean that indeed, they should not 
be treated as nonsense, but as metaphysical claims with pretensions of truth  
and even logical truth and validity.

Henry criticises Carnap for not _seeing_ that.

McEvoy concludes his post:

"On the fundamental issue of whether there is any metaphysical reality beyond 
that expressible in scientific terms, we might say H is fundamentally right and 
C fundamentally wrong (and on this issue W and P are with H)."

I think Henry and Grice are with Martin Heidegger, too. After all, Grice said 
that Heidegger was the greatest living philosopher.

I'm less sure about Whitehead and Russell. They were perhaps not philosophers 
when they wrote "Principia Mathematica". I BELIEVE their  affiliations at 
Cambridge at that time were with the Department of Mathematics!
(Whitehead became a philosopher when he went to Harvard!)

But in any case, I don't think Whitehead and Russell were particularly 
interesting in either defending or debunking metaphysics!

Grice WAS, interested in DEFENDING it, seeing that Oxford, unlike Cambridge, 
has a full CHAIR -- the Waynflete Professorship of Metaphysical Philosophy.

And surely, as the Oxonian adage goes, if there is the Waynflete Professor of 
Metaphysical Philosophy, surely there is Metaphysical Philosophy.

McEvoy goes on:

"This leaves entirely open that H is fundamentally wrong in his attempts to  
metaphysise that reality."

Well, it's fascinating, I find, that it was Gilbert Ryle, who later became the 
[insert number]th Waynflete professor of metaphysical philosophy at Oxford  was 
the first (in Oxford) to find geniality in Martin Heidegger's "Being and  
Time". Even before the thing was published in English (cfr. Benedeto Croce,  
'traduttore traditore') he cared to review the German thing ("Sein und Zeit")  
for _Mind_.

Heidegger's metaphysics may be called 'nihilistic' as far as 'The Nothing 
noths' claim goes. Or not?

In logic, logicians speak of the


or tilde, which is negation.

"The Nothing noths" seems to involve negation -- although not necessarily for 
Henry, who relying on some Polish notation of some sort, seems to get away  
with a formalisation of Heidegger's claim that does NOT rely on


or its truth-tables.

So while KEYWORD: NIHILISM applies more to Sartre and his "le néant néantisant" 
as a description of conscience, the place of (i) The nothing noths, or 'The 
Nothing noths', if you must, in Heidegger's metaphysical system may be  
trickier to validate or even characterise!?



ps. The agenda of the explication project is set by a German  pre-war
debate between Rudolf Carnap and Martin Heidegger about  allegedly meaningless 
metaphysical statements such as "The  Nothing noths" ("Das  Nichts nichtet"). 
Within the mainstream of  20th century analytical  philosophy this statement, 
"The Nothing noths"  has come  to be regarded as obvious metaphysical  
nonsense. As we  all know, this  led to an unfortunate confrontation between 
analytical  and continental  philosophy. Despite the fact that this former  
judgement had been corrected in a  short remark by the Mancunian  philosopher 
Desmond Paul Henry in the 1960s,  which he  repeated more explicitly in the 
1980s, this unnecessary conflict  still seems  to  exist.
Unfortunately Henry's remark didn't find its way to  a  greater audience, 
perhaps because Henry didn't prove his claim in a  canonical  way, perhaps 
because it contains an ambiguity, which  may give rise to  criticism. However, 
the required disambiguation  together with the missing proofs  can and will be 
given here within  Lesniewski's ontology. Following Ludger  Honnefelder we can 
call the  Lesniewski systems, which were developed  roughly at the same time 
(1913-1939), the third beginning of  metaphysics.  They will  provide the still 
missing bridge between Carnap and  Heidegger, which  can be regarded as an 
ontological supplement to and a  partial  correction  of Michael Friedman's
brilliant background study on   Heidegger, Carnap and  Cassirer. The
hermeneutical conclusion to be  drawn  is that reconciliation between  the two 
types of philosophy  is not only  possible along Cassirer's ideas, but  also 
along the lines of broadly  logical form. In other words: there IS a more 
way for   reconciliation. The hermeneutical outcome is  as follows: one can
make use of  precise logic tools in a more general  way than Carnap himself 
without  declaring at least some  central  statements of Heidegger's
Fundamentalontologie to be pure    nonsense."

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