Kimhi -Thinking and Being (Ch 2 ,Sec 9-19)


I am sure no one will read this but I will keep writing because I am almost done for all that it matters.


In the second half of the book’s main chapter Kimhi focuses on the structure of assertions in Aristotle. Following Kimhi’s central division of categorematic and syncategorematic he argues that statements are divided by an asymmetrical emphasis on affirmation and that all statements are split two ways internally. In otherwords that I can say something is x means that I assert that it is that way while entertaining that it could be the other way – ie that my thought has a direction which does not easily confirm to a state of affairs or a psychological attitude. While Kimhi admits that this sounds odd he thinks that such a position has definite advantages over the Fregean functionalist approach (which we have already addressed) as well as the schematic conceptualization of the unity of the proposition. This schematic conceptualization reads sentences and their meanings as internal relations between the semantic and the syntactic which produce solid or sound arguments (90).

Moving onto contradictorary pairs Kimhi wants to show that the difference between affirmation and negation is not a straightforward relationship of asserting or not asserting or of corresponding or not corresponding to a state of affairs but rather about the particular act of thought of assertion. Kimhi appeals again to Wittgentsein’s point (aka the full context principle) and wishes to argue that affirmation and negation have to do with the unity of consciousness vis a vis language use.

To place statements or verb and name connective complexes in a larger context (such as the unity of consciousness) is also Frege’s strategy but, according to Kimhi, this universalist or functionalist approach is too internal or focuses to much on the neutrality of the type of context involved since it immediately appeals to normative rules of inference use. Furthermore, Kimhi thinks his view is an emended form of factualism (which puts emphasis on the role of names in a statement) but that such names cannot ultimately rest upon correspondence with a world of facts. Again facts, for Kimhi, do not arise from names properly relation to a state of affairs via names and expressions but must be syncategorematic in some sense. Kimhi’s priviledged example ‘Jane believes p, p, therefore Jane correctly believes p’ cannot appeal to facts in the sense of correspondence nor in the universalism of Frege’s functionalism.

Kimhi wants to endorse a factualism at the level of the proposition rather than a compostionalist factualism (the latter of which he seems to identify with a narrow reading of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and which Kimhi attaches to the work of Sellars). Compostionalist factualism claims that statement displays a nexus of relations (aRb) but that it does not properly display the judgement active within a proposition beyond being the force of assertion. Hence the difference between believing and really believing is not a question of force but is negated by the bidirectionality of thought and its connection to the non-propositional (or the syncategorematic). Without mentioning Sellars’ name, Kimhi spends some time critiquing the picture theory reading of Wittgenstein (something which is connected to compositionalist factualism and Sellar’s jumblese language) arguing the relations between language cannot be adequately expressed via spatial models (that writing a word under a word could express ‘under) since the activity of thought and its monistic syncategorematic character would be erased.

This has a peculiar consequence of claiming that a judgement’s correctness cannot be accounted for by any external measure – the force of belief for instance cannot be externally tracked. This of course shows why Kimhi must strongly reject Sellars’ form of understand mind by way of observation statements about other thinking acting individuals. If notion of self-reflection and judgement is modeled after empirical or pseudo behaviorist ‘readings’ of other people’s behavior and inferring they have something like inner processes giving themselves reasons for doing x, y, or z, (as portrayed in the myth of Jones) then this would deeply undermine the monism and non-gap between judgement and thoughts.

Kimhi’s approach has the advantage of placing positivity and negativity into the realm of the mind (as it appeals to the syncategorematic) and is about combination and separation but in a way that always privileges affirmation by which the negative or negation is always parasitic. One cannot, according to Kimhi, think something negatively or think negation without it being an operation on an already thought positive statement.

I cannot do justice to the depths of Kimhi’s Aristotelian wanderings but his use of Aristotle to argue for the dual nature of thought and of the logos is quite striking to say the least.

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