[Wittrs] Re: Dualism Cooties: Ontologically Basic Ambiguity: Basicality

  • From: "SWM" <SWMirsky@xxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 22 Mar 2010 13:25:44 -0000

--- In Wittrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Joseph Polanik <jPolanik@...> wrote:


>  >"Basic" is an adjective. "A basic" is a noun.
> in colloquial speech where a sentence doesn't always express a complete
> thought, 'basic' sometimes appears in the position where a native
> speaker of english expects to find a noun; meaning that, 'basic'
> sometimes looks like it is functioning syntactically as a noun.
> nevertheless, 'basic' is semantically an adjective. this is shown by the
> following procedure.

>  >>when we ask 'ontologically basic what?' we can recover the implicit
>  >>noun subject of the phrase 'ontologically basic [noun here]'.
>  >Whatever underlies what we encounter in our experience and what we
>  >encounter in our experience is very broad.

> how does that vague generality clarify the syntactic/semantic confusion
> as to basicality?

We don't always know what we are referring to when we're referring to it. Think 
of the ordinary English usage of "substance". The guys who steps on something 
gooey and foul smelling looks down at his show and says, "yikes what's that 
substance on my shoe?" and then he checks to see if it's some kind of 
relatively inoffensive stuff or something else. Once he knows what it is he no 
longer needs to call it a "substance" but can just refer to it by the term for 
it as in "yikes, it's dog shit".

In the case of "a basic" I am saying that we get to a point where we have no 
names for things and, indeed, no way of even discerning what's there. 
Nevertheless we presume something is. So now we're stuck linguistically. If we 
speak of "substance" at this level, it's misleading because modern physics 
tells us the universe at its deepest levels isn't substance-like. That doesn't 
mean we can't speak about such things, even if only in an abstract 
(non-specific therefore non-concrete) way. In the past Western philosophers 
have used "substance" whereas today it's better, on my view, not to for the 
reason already given.

> in your use of 'ontological basic', are there any circumstances under
> which one may not ask 'ontologically basic *what*?' to recover the true
> noun subject of the phrase?
> Joe

Sure. What is "ontologically basic" is whatever it is that underlies the 
physics of this universe.


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