Kimhi’s Thinking and Being – Introduction

24Mar19

Blake-Chariot-Painting

This will be a first in a series of posts as we read through Kimhi’s book.

I am going to write up some notes while reading through Kimhi’s Thinking and Being. I have written about it generally before here and here. Building off of Paramenides famous philosophical fragment Kimhi wants to (potentially) realign the entire enterprise of analytic philosophy. Central to this is the fact that Kimhi wants to deny that there can be any substantial divide between what is often separated as logical and psychological thinking.

Kimhi argues that the standard reading of Paramenides claim in analytic philosophy is to read the statement that being and thinking are one as an epistemological claim, as a kind of correspondence theory. To say something is is to say that it is the case ie that it is true and thus oneness has nothing to do with existence or with essence and furthermore that it becomes a statement between states of affairs (what is the case) and what is veridical (what is true about what is the case).

Kimhi claims that this retrojects distinctions that were completely alien to Greek thinking and for him the only way to interpret Paramenides’ claim that being and thinking are the same is to see the equation on the side of thought but in a different manner, namely that nothing outside thought determines what being is for it. Kimhi follows Peter Geach in claiming that in terms of thought there can be no distinction between judging something to be the case and judging it is true (hence why Kimhi thinks the age-old division between logical and psychological thinking can no longer be maintained – the same type of thinking thinks there is a bird in the tree and that it is true that there is a bird in the tree.

The trouble arises given the fact that we seem to be able to contain that our thinking is true inside the specific thought it expresses but also we are able to determine things are false and understand the logical equivalency of double negations and true statements. But as Kimhi points out the goddess encountered in Paramenides’ poem tells us the path towards negation is a false one (8). Kimhi wants to ask how we can be within thought and understand negation without either relying upon a brute external world (correspondence) nor in recollapsing thinking and being (in terms of an identity theory of truth).

Furthermore, Frege becomes the main target of Kimhi’s critiques in what follows since he (at least according to the traditional reading) tries to hold these two worlds together while maintaining a distinction between sense and reference. The degree of Frege’s purported Platonism and the editing of his thought (as well as a reading of Frege’s diagrammatic thought such as in Danielle Macbeth’s work) show the centrality of the problem of the initial conditions of the logic as mediating thought and being (mind and world).

As Matt Hare pointed out – Kimhi restricts Frege’s understanding of the context principle to a particular use of a phrase that ignores the larger structure of language as such. Kimhi wants to critique those who use logical consistency as an unacknowledged presupposition of the ‘necessary’ division between a statement and a belief about the statement. In particular Kimhi thinks that using logical consistency as a crypto-unacknowledged conditions means that there is no proper explanation for how a thought takes places in the form of an act or activity.

Kimhi makes a distinction between categoramic and syncategoramic expressions where the former can be expressed in predicative form while the latter cannot be. For instance, Kimhi claims that the difference between consciousness and self-consciousness is syncategoramic and cannot be expressed in any play of signs. This in turn touches back about his two-way reading of Paramenides – namely that the stating of ‘p’ and ‘not-p’ are asymmetrically related because the former’s positing is still required in the negation, i.e., it is two acts of the same type of thinking and not two opposed states of affairs.

How Kimhi will play this out is not altogether clear though his references to Peter Geach, Wittgenstein, and against Frege give some hint of his trajectory for the rest of the book.



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