[hist-analytic] Zeno's Epicheiremata -- The Oxford Revival

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Sat Jul 18 10:16:10 EDT 2009


S. R. Bayne comments interestingly on R. B. Jones's ref. to  Aristotle.
 
Jones:
 
>>We have these two kinds of predication (essential and  accidental)
>>which involve "terms", which, if Aristotle's syllogistic  logic
>>is to be sound cannot be empty. However syllogistic reasoning 
>>is not sound (it seems) for accidental (or inter categorial) 
>>predication anyway so its not clear how much weight one 
>>can place on Aristotle's logic when considering his  metaphysics.

Bayne: 
 
>the predication issue really goes back to Plato's 
>_Sophist_. Kneale and Kneale, actually,
>locate the origins of  the syllogism by going back to this. 
>_The Development of  Logic_.

Beautiful. I always enjoyed Kneale (a Rylean, I think!) having giving those 
 lectures in Oxford as -- to me the more euphonic title, "The _growth_ of  
logic_." 
 
I _think_ it may relate to Zeno's famous book, as per header, the  
"Epicheirema". Apparently, one of the oldest books ever written by a  philosopher.
 
Now, I don't know what Davidson would say of 'saying that' as applied to  
the Pre-Socratics, but all those 'disquotational' remarks don't do, seeing 
that  the Greeks didn't have a proper grammar full with quotation marks in the 
first  place.
 
So, I understand, what we do know is that "Zeno, in his epicheiremata  
[singular, epicheirema], suggest a "he eis to adunaton apagoge", _reductio_ not  
necessarily _ad absurdum_ but more exactly, to the 'transconsistent'. The  
standard 'indirect proof' that Grice uses in "Vacuous Names" for:
 
    (~, +)       p                           p
            If  ____        and    ________, ~p
 
                  q                         ~q 
 
-- If I'm correct, this may relate to Bayne's connection with 'predication' 
 in the Sophist. The issues involved in the subtleties of Greek grammar 
here have  been, in my view, _best_ treated by (my once correspondent) David 
Bostock, of  Merton -- the greatest logician that ever lived [in Merton! -- I 
love him]. In  "The Journal of Ancient Philosophy", I think the title of the 
journal is, he  wrote on "Plato on 'is-not'" and the essay is full of the 
classicist's delight  of chapter and verse.
 
Wiggins, whose portrait at the Ryle Group (shouldn't we have an "Austin"  
group -- it does look like a bit of a mixed bad --) one can see online -- 
very  handsome man --, did contribute to a Vlastos compilation on 'negation'.
 
When I was researching on Grice, -- and reading Chapman -- she notes, words 
 to that effect, he felt he was a DIS-senting rationalist. Indeed, as 
"Prejudices  and Predilections" has it, an 'irreverent, dissenting conservative" 
(or words to  that effect). And it amuses me that the FIRST ever publication 
by Grice that  remains is one entitled, "No!" -- almost! i.e. "Negation" 
(his account is  'verificationist' though but makes some good pragmatic 
points), i.e. a sort of  Zenoan 'epicheirema' -- with a vengeance. (Grice returned 
to 'Negation' early in  1961, etc.)
 
The topic of negation has a long history in 20th. Oxford philosophy  
starting with an infamous symposium by Mabbott (of St. John's) and Ryle, in  the 
annals of the Aristotelian Society. Mabbott recalls in "Oxford  Memories" 
that's how he met 'Witters' -- and a bit of a shock he gave him,  as I recall.
 
Diogenes's bio of Zeno is on the gossipy side, "He was a _tall_ man", he  
said with some reverence. And so was Grice, there! (Diog. adds: "And 
Aristotle,  in his Sophist [sic] says that he was the inventor of dialectics". 
 
Why predication and negation? Well, for  
Parmenides-Zeno-Plato-Aristotle-Grice etc. it is _true_ to say
 
        It is not the case that Pegasus  flies.
 
since, well, nodoby has ever seen him fly -- let alone _him_. For Strawson  
('terrific' as he was, I agree!) that's a presupposition-, ground-less 
thing to  say, rather!) -- And if _one_ thing motivated Grice to deliver the 
"Logic and  Conversation" lectures was Strawson's 'misunderstandings' (if 
that's the word)  of his (Grice's) teaching logic to Strawson back at St. John's 
before the  'Phoney' War. ('Phoney' very ironic and well meant seeing that,  
counterfactually, we should not be talking about them even as _unphoney_ as 
it  was). 
 
Cheers,
 
J. L. Speranza
 


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