Tag Archives: meaningless

W.V. Quine: On What There Is

22 Oct

My apologies again for not writing for a long period of time. It has not really been that long, like a week, but for me, and this site, that is a long time. Last week I had school duties to take care of, so did I this week (with a midterm test), and still so I do next week as well, as I have another midterm test. I will try again to post more, but this month is just crazy, with the tests and papers, and I do not suspect November to be the same, and I will resume having 4 to 5 posts per week as usual.

Having not gotten into too much ontology here, I have been reading a lot of W.V. Quine’s essays. I would like to discuss today his essay On What There Is. One thing that Quine takes upon himself to do is to make it known to all philosophers that there is no meaning in the world, and all of it is reduced to grammar and semantics. He does this not only by starting with the riddle of Plato’s beard in On What There Is, but also starting with analytic/synthetic and reductionism in Two Dogmas of Empiricism.  In both essays he comes to the conclusion that all this striving towards finding meaning in everything is useless in that there is no meaning anyway. I will discuss Two Dogmas of Empiricism in a near future writing. Before even going into On What There Is I want to think about ontology’s distinction (or indistinction) from metaphysics. Ontology is understood as the metaphysical study of the nature of being and existence (Princeton). Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value (answers.com). Metaphysics is also taking up the understanding and proving of things not able to be understood or proven by science (all fields).  In lieu of these definitions, I would like to understand ontology as the core division of metaphysics, especially since ontology goes into what being and existence are.

My focus of Quine’s essay On What There Is is not the conclusion he comes to (that there is no meaning at all). My focus is thinking about the riddle of Plato’s beard of nonbeing, and what being and existence are as Quine questions them. This simply means that my opinion is different from Quine’s in that I see meaning in things discussed like Pegasus, the author of Waverley, or the round cupola on top of Berkeley (these are things ontologically defined in On What There Is).

Quine begins his essay discussing Plato’s beard. The riddle of Plato’s beard comes from Plato’s discussion of nonbeing. This refers to Plato’s beard back in Ancient Greece because of how tangled his beard was. The argument and discussion of nonbeing as to finding a meaning in it, and to ontologically define it is a tangled argument, much like Plato’s beard. What makes nonbeing such a tangled argument is that nonbeing is being in one way or another. Quine puts it perfectly: ” This is the old Platonic riddle of nonbeing. Nonbeing must in some sense be, otherwise what is it that there is not?” (Quine). Simply, if we say “Pegasus is not” how the hell did we say and understand Pegasus if it does not exist somehow? Plato’s beard kind of relates to Wittgenstein’s statement in the Tractatus saying that what cannot be thought cannot be said either. If we can think of Pegasus, it can be said also, and since we are saying it, how can we deny its being? This back and forth rambling is Plato’s beard. Quine confronts 2 arguments allowing nonbeing to still work.

The first argument allowing cohesiveness of nonbeing is the thought that nonbeings can be ideas of the mind. I can have an image of a flying horse with wings in my mind and think Pegasus. This argument allows a nonbeing (Pegasus) to still be just in a different manner. Quine refutes this by talking about the Parthenon itself (thing in itself) and the idea of the Parthenon. These, says Quine, are 2 different things and ideas of things being not the same as the thing in itself. This makes the nonbeing not able to be beings in that ideas of things are not ( when I say is, or is not  or are or are not, I refer to being or not being, just to clarify if you get confused in ontological discussion as I sometimes do). The second argument for nonbeing being something, is that nonbeings are beings unactualized with potentiality in space-time. Quine refutes this belief by saying that nothing can be understood or learned about unactualized beings in space-time, while also noting that logically contradictory things can’t be ruled out in this  belief, like a round square (specifically a copula). These two arguments are refuted by Quine simply because they are not being, and with other arguments he eventually concludes by saying that there is no meaning in anything. The meaning discussion is beside the point (my point anyway).

To understand nonbeing and what it represents, being and even existence need to be defined alone first. Quine viewed being as potential unactualized beings or actualized beings, and existence as purely actualized beings. Quine does this to state that the possible potential unactualized beings that are nonbeing in a sense  are not possible because of those logical contradictions and because we cannot find anything out about these possible unactualized beings or nonbeings. Using Russell’s theory of description he not only reduces everything to grammar and no meaning in anything at all, but he proceeds further. He also declares fallacious the ontological commitments to certain things besides something , nothing and other sure things. He finds fallacious the commitment to things such as the existence of Pegasus, blocks of cheese on Jupiter’s moons, God(s),  souls, or other specific things. Again, these things are beside what I want to discuss, as I keep saying that. I want to think about and know what is being (and existence) and therefore what is nonbeing (Plato’s beard)?

Existing, I will agree with Quine’s definition for his argument, is being actualized and having actuality. I think existing is something used to define things tangible in regards to the universe. Tangible is of course physical things, but also living souls with or without nous. In writing Classification of Beings, I only discussed existing things, and nothing on that discussion included nonexistent things. Looking back on nonbeing and how this is Plato’s beard, I do not think nonexistence creates real problems like nonbeing does. All philosophers should create their own understandings of being and existence but the definitions Quine has presented in lieu of his present argument have little room for argument. Being can be looked at to be the same as existence, but I really do not think this is so. If nonexistence would be called into question, there could not be possible unactualized existences or mental existences because of the contradictions that would take place. Nonexistence is not existence simply, and refers to things potential.

A quick aside, all of this discussion of one meaning to the next makes me feel silly. I think as of now that there is meaning in everything, but know what Quine thinks about meaning, and while exchanging meaning for meaning, word for word, I feel this all becomes meaningless. I do not say that I think being and existence are meaningless words, but I just feel dumb throwing these words and meanings around, so hopefully I do not sound dumb, but I think the meaninglessness presented in Two Dogmas of Empiricism and On What There Is might be getting a hold of me. This was just a disclaimer in case I sound stupid or ignorant.

What was I talking about, oh, being. My understanding of being is everything. Quine would probably not have gone this far especially because he states that since we cannot determine anything really, being has a vague definition (not that vague definitions are bad since my and probably others’ definition of being includes everything, and I shall specify as I progress). Quine signified being as things actual and potential (unactualized things). Things in themselves in the world are actual (existent) or unactual/potential (possible potential things that could or may exist at one point or another). Things actual or potential include most of the beings of the world. There are certain things that are not potential or actual that are in different ways. Quine discussed in On What There Is the possibility of nonbeing being in the sense that there are ideas of the mind. Some of these ideas are potential (never actual because our ideas are different from actual existences) but some are not. Pegasus is an idea of the mind, but not potential because a horse being able to fly with large white wings is not a possibility. Our dreams, being so messed up and weird sometimes, are ideas of the mind but not potential. So, in being is included actualities (existences specifically), potentialities (possibilities of existence), and non-potentialities (ideas of the mind not possible to be or exist). These categories of ‘being’ (not really classifications) make up the definition of being, and mostly includes everything. There are things still that are not actual, potential, or non-potential, and this is what I would call nonbeing.

As I finally return to the nonbeing riddle of Plato’s beard, the riddle states that nonbeing can in a sense be being: 1) by being an idea of the mind, 0r 2) by being a potentiality. I believe to have given a solution (that some probably have given already, not really sure) to the riddle of Plato’s beard (at least to two common arguments for it). The ideas of the mind and potentialities are beings and should not ever have been included in nonbeing anyway. What I think nonbeing is is things that actually are not. Quine used as an example for logical contradictions (in a previous argument) when he introduced the example of a round square. A round square (impossible as it is) can never be actual, potential, or non-potential. This is an example of nonbeing.  An example I came up with, think about the colors: blue, black, red, green, yellow, orange, purple, pink, brown, white, gray and various variations between each color. (Aside from each variation between each color like burgundy, turquoise, hot pink, violet, indigo, frog green, forest green, cobalt blue et cetera) Try to think about a different color besides the colors on the color wheel. Can you do it? No you cannot. A new color besides the said colors cannot be perceived of and cannot be. This is another nonbeing. Or can you think of a black Caucasian person (Caucasian meaning white)? No you cannot. This is another nonbeing. These things not actual, potential, or non-potential are nonbeings. If you want to discuss nonbeings more please says so, you know how.

Is this a disentanglement of Plato’s beard? Who knows, yet… probably not….since someone probably already did this, so I am just a follower……probably.

I love ontology, I should talk about it more.

Thanks for the support.

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Rudolf Carnap’s Teavy and Toovy

23 Sep

I had a test today in my epistemology class, and studying for it, I studied deeply in the teavy/toovy part of Carnap’s argument from the elimination of metaphysics. Not appearing on the test, the concept remained in my mind. This use of teavy and toovy by Carnap is a way he exemplifies that metaphysics creates pseudo-statements and calls them truthful and consistent. Carnap only says so because a statement must be truthful only if it means something and has criterion of application.  In my movement to defend metaphysics, I felt this a necessary logical positivist truth to address if I want to further understand what it is I defend.

By using teavy and toovy, Carnap aims to show that we cannot just take a word and define it by whatever we want. He exemplifies this with teavy and toovy. If a word is being defined, it is subject to verification conditions, logical analysis, and criterion of application.

In the case of teavy, Carnap states that if things can be stated to be teavy and not teavy. When inquiring upon the criterion of application of teavy, and the creator of teavy comes up with the fact that no things are empirically teavy. Carnap then states that if the criterion of application cannot be identified of a word, the use of the word is not legitimate. This is empty verbiage because the meaning of things teavy and not teavy is not every revealed and is too secretive. Emotion and feeling cannot be tied to a word with empty verbiage either because the word’s possible definition does not call for these relations. Teavy is something that has no criterion of application, no verification, and no checking logical analysis.

Toovy introduces another way that a word can be defined ambiguously with no criterion of application. If the creators of the word toovy define it as, by Carnap, quadrangular, but say they, by interpretation, intended something else by the definition quadrangular, there is no criterion for application for this, and it cannot be done. If the word has a definition yet, the definers state it is directed by interpretation to another meaning, and no criterion of application, verification, or logical analysis confirm this, it is just as empty in verbiage as teavy is. Even if there is a criterion of application for the interpreted sub-meaning of toovy’s definition of quadrangular, the initial definition of toovy makes a fixed meaning for it, and creates little room for verification of a sub-meaning that is to be interpreted from the fixed meaning.  Therefore the following is denoted from examples of teavy and toovy:

Definition of Words Proven not to be pseudo-statements

1) Criterion of application – the word must have the ability to be exemplified by application to real things in a versatile fashion

2) Verification Conditions – As I stated in my previous writing on Carnap, the logical positivist movement not only came with a justification of the system of science, but it came with a set of verification conditions to verify the truth and meaning of certain conditions:

Justification = Meaning =Truth

all = Verification

3) Logical analysis – does what is in question apply consistently to logic, and if so, how.

If a word or statement qualifies for one or more of the above, it can be questioned further as to its truth and consistency.

So would teavy and toovy qualify pass the non pseudo-statement conditions? No, they would not, but this does not justify Carnap’s rejection of all metaphysics just because his exemplification of teavy and toovy are not consistent with it. It is a philosophy of mine that any philosophy can exemplify and conventionally choose any science, definition, and observation (even protocol sentence) he wants to justly work towards his advantage and what he aims to prove. I think that Carnap exemplified teavy and toovy to show what most of metaphysics did and passed as truth, but this is a slight falsity in his exemplification.  Teavy and toovy do not pass any of the above tests to prove out of pseudo-statements, but it is my opinion that Carnap structuralized his theory against metaphysics with teavy and toovy to prove his point. Teavy and toovy are not what most metaphysics manifest its theories to be. Noumena ( Kant’s term, possibly could be exemplified as one of metaphysics pseudo-statements)  has justification, meaning, and verification, which with further discussion and study of Kant’s philosophy, could be proved true with even more proof of metaphysical theories. Noumena also has logical consistency, and does not fail there. The only thing noumena does not have in any form is the criterion of application. Carnap claims this criterion to be necessary to remove it from metaphysical meaningless pseudo-statements, but I believe this to be not as true as he says it to be.  Noumena almost passes truth by verification conditions, and with further philosophizing it could in the future by metaphysicians, and I think this could be done without prior proof of a criterion of application for it. I think  that a criterion of application is something that is to be stated after its truth has been proven, and its tenets have been established in justified metaphysics.

Not only do I say above that many metaphysical sentences and words can be removed from pseudo-statement status, but I say that Carnap excessively used the technique towards ones arguments that excessively works towards proof of his point. I do not say that the Sophist rhetoric tactics that Protagoras and Gorgias used are bad to use, but I say that Carnap did so too excessively by exemplification of teavy and toovy.  Teavy, explained as acertained with little empirical status, is something that Carnap says that a metaphysician would state to exist even if it does not even manifest itself. Teavy, in Carnap’s explanation, never even manifests itself as a property or being of the world, because in Carnap’s example, it never gets a chance to. Toovy only is another exaggeration of things metaphysics does and is the way that Carnap says that metaphysics exaggerates its fixed definitions. I will not argue that some metaphysics does not address some apparently fixed definitions, but I will say that with teavy and toovy, Carnap paints metaphysics as something it really is not.  Carnap’s teavy and toovy exaggerates metaphysics way way beyond its true status. If Carnap wanted to prove that his examples of teavy and toovy accurately exemplify all metaphysics, he should have used continuously implemented metaphysical statements or sentences and proven his point out from that.

Noumena is not characteristic with teavy. Noumena has justification, meaning, and some truth (some of which is yet to be proven), along with consistency with all logic. Teavy is a mere exaggeration.

By my argument just stated, I reject Carnap’s rejection of all metaphysics. Yes, some metaphysics are pseudo statements that must be shot down, but rejecting all of it by exaggerative examples is a false philosophical achievement. I state this as another step towards my whole defense of metaphysics ( not that others have not done so), and hope that other things can build off of this.

Thanks for the support.