Kimhi’s Thinking and Being Chapter 2 (Sections 1-9)

07Jun19

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The central chapter of Kimhi’s Thinking and Being wanders far into the Aristotelian weeds – arguing that consistent misreadings of the notion of being in Aristotle’s work has closed the possibility which Kimhi has attempted in the first half of the book to re-open – namely that thought must be considered as a two-way capacity for action. This two way split which is not strictly formal nor non-formal is meant to supplant the more common strategy of dividing thought into logical and psychological components which then become (at least functionally and methodologically) independent of one another.

I am not properly trained to say whether Kimhi’s engagement with the various interpretations of kuriotata, energia, and the apophantic is radical or not (I simply do not have such deep knowledge of Aristotle scholarship). But what is central to Kimhi’s claim (and which he notes certain sympathy with Hediegger’s reading of Aristotle’s metaphysics) is that in general the notion of logic and its relationship to action (energia) in Aristotle is smashed together too quickly. Kimhi wishes to maintain that logic (in Aristotle’s sense) should not be retroactively seen as about states of affairs (as Kimhi puts it even prayer has a logos) and in turn being (esti) should not be submitted to the reign of contemporary analytic correspondence (68)

Regarding action (energia) Kimhi argues that one cannot collapse the following three levels: (s1) – Mary thinks that p, (s2) – This human is thinking, (s3) Mary is thinking (74). For Kimhi there is something quite special about s3 and this is tied to the two-way split of thought as having a monistic character and yet being and not being predicative. This rides on the fact that affirmation is more than negation in some sense (negation is parasitic on affirmation and yet both contain the other but not in terms analyzable strictly in terms of predicate form).

One way Kimhi tries to cash this out is that connectors (says or believes) are syncategorematic, that is, they are predicatively expressed but they can only make sense to pointing beyond the predicative or categorematic understanding of thinking. Hence ‘Mary thinks’ or ‘Mary believes’ cannot be adequately understood as merely an instance of predication if we take seriously what thinks or believes means as a type of human action that is more affirmative or assertive then its form captures as part of a merely functional web of meanings. In addition this ‘more than’ aspect of the action of thinking ties assertion (which cannot be merely contextual contra Frege following Kimhi’s critique of Geach) to self-consciousness. When Mary believes something it is a form of judgment which much simultaneously be a self-conscious act and that Wittgenstein (of the Tractatus) was the first to point to a ‘full’ context principle (i.e. beyond Frege’s functionalist version of this).

While Kimhi claims that Wittgenstein’s full context principle comes from the Tractatus the direct reference he makes is from Wittgenstein’s notes on logic.  Given the highly messy nature of that text it is a little bit odd that Kimhi does not address the context of that statement. Following the statement which Kimhi quotes (which is the following):

“When we say A judges that etc., then we have to mention a whole proposition which A judges. It will not do either to mention only its constituents, or its constituents and
form, but not in the proper order. This shows that a proposition itself must occur in the statement that it is judged; however, for instance, „not-p” may be explained. The question „What is negated” must have a meaning”

Wittgenstein then writes (or really it is Moore or Russell’s notes?) the text reads:

“To understand a proposition p it is not enough to know that p implies „p” is true , but we must also know that ~p implies „p is false”. This shows the bipolarity of the proposition.
W-F = Wahr-Falsch To every molecular function a WF scheme corresponds.
Therefore we may use the WF scheme itself instead of the function. Now what the WF scheme does is, it correlates the letters W and F with each proposition. These two letters are the poles of atomic propositions.”

It is really not clear to me that Wittgenstein here is as sympathetic to Kimhi’s cause as he claims. It appears further down that Wittgenstein psychologizes assertion in a way far more sympathetic to Frege but, again according to many of the more recent readings of Wittgenstein, what cannot be said cannot be defined within the terms which means not a strict limit to the terms but to what the terms mean in predicative terms (and this would support Kimhi’s emphasis on the syncategorematic).



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