Kimhi’s Thinking and Being – Chapter 1 (Sections 3 and 4)



In the closing sections of the first chapter Kimhi begins to outline what is Psycho/Logical monism is and why it is an important alternative to emphasizing either dualism or psychologism over logicism or vice versa. The monistic image that Kimhi wishes to defend is not metaphysical (at least not in any recognizable way) but rather has to do with thought as a form of action that is dualistic (or two-way) but only within a monistic structure.

As has already been mentioned, Kimhi levels the difference between consciousness and self-consciousness other than simply stating that the latter is an act of the later: “Consciousness so understood is an act of unity through the self-consciousness of that unity” (53). Kimhi advances using Kant (and self-consciousness as a formal mode of consciousness) against the dualism that he sees in Frege. One consequence of this is that, for Kimhi, why cannot think contradictory statements together because of the active self of self-consciousness in the togetherness of thought. The activity of thought in Kimhi’s view forces us to really think one as true in the sense that we believe one, we give our thought one direction while we still can think the possibility of another option but not in an immediate togetherness or simultaneity. Thus one cannot think something in an active sense and then claim not to believe it (‘it is raining but I do not believe it is raining) as this would break the necessary link between the monistic character of thought and judgments.

To push this claim even further Kimhi must assert that even an updated Fregeanism is not sufficiently monistic or does not give judgments their necessary weight because the structural character of the judgement does not affect the psychological (or self-conscious) character of the making of the judgment. That is, the weight of consistency need only apply to logical rules not to the utterance of statements. Here, on this point, I think Kimhi moves a bit too fast in dismissing alternative views of the weight of the judgement being held up by structural or functional devices (such as Frege’s sense).

For instance, Kimhi dismisses Carroll’s “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles” saying that the regress it outlines has to do with the separability of the psychological and the logical – the story has to do with whether one can force someone to accept a conclusion if it follows from premises they accept. The tortoise accepts two premises that logically imply a conclusion but rejects the conclusion because he claims that the force of the premises is not itself a logical rule (he is rejecting modus ponens) but for this to be mostly a case of the tortoise’s psychology, as Kimhi seems to suggest, seems too easy. Following James Trafford or Graham Priest the suggestion is that the problem of regress means that there is a separability of logical and general rules of thought ( or at least in terms of inference and implication). It would seem that Kimhi wants to collapse implication into inference (or needs to in the name of monism) but it is not clear how this stands up against Trafford’s alternative of a paraconsistent logic. The advantage of Trafford’s way is that it attempts to collectivize the notion of proof in arguments whereas Kimhi, who falls back into the structures of self-consciousness, does not leave much room for what it would mean to disagree.

But Kimhi uses the example of disagreement in the following pages to emphasize how a consciousness can hold an idea it doesn’t believe but not in the same way it asserts the idea it does believe. Thus I can disagree with someone about something because I can hold their idea (which is contradictory to me) as a gesture or a non-self identifying assertion (56-57). In essence actions of thought (what Kimhi calls operations) are gestures which are self-identifying and hence agreement or disagreement are operations of thought which is necessarily self-conscious onto gestures (‘I think this is true’ or ‘I do not agree with that etc’). In part this simply remphasizes  the fact that Kimhi wants to distance assertion from a question of states of affairs in the world but without falling into a form of psychologism.

As Kimhi puts it in the end of Section 3 he wishes to show how the contradictory pair (p, ~p) excludes one part by asserting the other without separating (in a general Fregean way) force from sense. For Kimhi negation cannot be a case of force (as he thinks is Descartes point) nor as neutral relation between contents (Frege’s point) instead he has to argue that the relation of contradictory is itself internal to the issue of truth and falsity  and that judgment is a two-way capacity in which negation is always secondary to assertion but that this assertion is accompanied by the action of I-think which is not fully tractable in logical terms (the internal difference and unity of the contradictory pair is syncategormatic).

Kimhi closes the chapter by recounting his critique of Frege and repeating the importance of the monistic character of judgment and that the unity of consciousness is required for the activity of thought but that this unity of activity (of the I think and the thinking) cannot itself be fully expressed in judgments though it is their necessary ground.


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