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VOLUME LVII, No. 19
STRAWS0N7S ONTOLOGY BOOK may be important because what it says is excellent. Or, provided it be competent, it may be important without being excellent because what it says is original. I n these two ways a book may be intrinsically important. Some books become historically important because of their impact on the course of events. The two kinds of importance need not go together. Of Gelher's Words and Things, which is right now making such a stir, one may reasonably judge or hope, as I do, that it will turn out to be historically important without, as I don't, judging it to be intrinsically so. Strawson's latest book I believe to be historically important in the same context as Gellner7s. But I also judge it to be competent and original. That makes it an unusual book. Unusual books deserve notices of unusual length, so-called special reviews. They also deserve intellectual courtesy. I shall pay my respects by attending first and at great length to what Strawson says and its dialectical context, and only at the end very briefly to the contemporary situation. Criticism searching enough to be worthwhile often requires some exposition of the critic's views. The latter, in turn, requires space beyond the limits of a standard review, the proper protagonist of which is always the author, never the reviewer. I n a standard review, therefore, criticism often and quite properly takes second place. A special review may preserve this proportion. Or it may try to achieve worthwhile criticism by using some of the additional space available for a more balanced exposition of both the author's and the critic's views. A special reviewer thus has a choice. This piece is a story without a single protagonist. So I shall first give three reasons why I believe that under the circumstances that is the proper choice. Strawson has written a treatise on ontology. About that no doubt is possible. Nor do I doubt, from what he says in this treatise, that, as to content, he considers ontology to be the heart of the philosophical enterprise. I agree. The agreement is funda-
1 Critical review of P. 3 ' Strawson, Individuals: A n Essay i n Descriptive . Metaphysics (London: Methuen, 1959), 255 pp.
Since he hails from Oxford. in spite of their kind. one must bring in the tradition. sometimes profound. One very economical way of bringing i t in is to confront his ontology with one almost diametrically opposed. deliberately of course. To bring out his cleverness. about language but. outside of Oxford . there is disagreement as fundamental as this agreement. At present. rather. too. am a linguistic philosopher in this sense. This is the second reason. The book is crammed full of arguments. Confrontation thus looks promising. among linguistic philosophers. I. Since he has imagination. that is what I try to be. are essential. Originality presupposes a thorough. simply because. outside of Oxford. Strawson is a linguistic philosopher in the good sense. from where I stand. I am tipping my hand. Strawson is a clever rearranger. Only that excellence which is most rare achieves more. often ingenious of their kind. It is also economical. He. therefore. he is often defensively prolix when. Nor would I. That is." Current fashion at Oxford frowns on all this. This is the first reason. from where he stands. For Strawson. I philosophize by means of an ideal language. that is what he tries to do. it is also rare. Strawson strains toward the schematic. At least. he does not philosophize. adding a pattern or two to the treasure. For it consists in a novel arrangement of the traditional dialectical patterns. that puts the rest of us a t a disadvantage. confrontation seems promising. Strawson is an ordinary-language philosopher. choose to use the additional space available for either exposition or criticism of even those detailed arguments from use which. by means of language. if that be the word. reputedly made by one of the leading Oxford extremists during a recent visit to this country. At least. I take it. that what he does and all he cares to do are "prolegomena to a future science of language" . Once more. For instance. he constructs "possible worlds. quite naturally tends to think too much of his associates. That is one of its more unusual virtues. while writing. As to method. Happily. But again. The arguments are always careful. would reject the claim.THE JOURNAL OP PHILOSOPHY mental. about the world. we are both moderates or even rightwingers. But the ontologies we propound differ so radically that our disagreement in this respect is almost equally fundamental. grasp of the dialectical tradition. though not necessarily a scholarly. just as I shrink away from those " formalists " who consider mathematical logic the heart of philosophy. I called the book original. quite rightly I think. Since he is by temperament a metaphysician. no defense is needed. away from the wrong kind of detail.
which affect all possible games. therefore. as pampering aspirations that make no sense. Taken the wrong way. or limitation. This is the epistemological predicament. The case or point I select is crucial for what is a t issue between author and critic.e. Taking it the right way. I n Strawson's world. Like all such points. Ontology tells us what there is (what exists).) Many philosophers. Some even object. There are not. physical objects . irrespective of whether or not we know it. I shall lay the ground for worthwhile criticism by attending to two matters. I am not quite sure whether Strawson would agree. This is the third reason. even their ontology falls as a limiting case under the formula. one sees that it really isn't. ontology and epistemology. for anything an expression may refer to. for instance. it seems impossible to disentangle Being and Knowing as radically as the formula requires.. as the case may be. The difficulty lies elsewhere. the obstacle. without ontological commitment. But I am very sure he agrees that if there be such flanking manoeuvres. the "obstacle " can be outflanked. to be sure. more light will be shed on their nature by proceeding to cases rather than talking about it in general. ontologically interesting kinds) of entities. First of all. What they tell us is. the point lies deep. I shall. before describing his game. But there are dialectical contexts which it makes perfect sense to call either ontological or epistemological. quite rightly. then the linguistic turn. though. as there are. So stated. just as I shall separate the exposition of his system ( I hope he will not take offense a t the word) from that of the arguments by which he supports it. say. That does not mean they all agree on which entities fall into which category. But I shall of course try to do justice to their gist. including author and critic. use 'particular7 and 'universal' to refer to two categories (i. (Sentences are counted as a kind of expression. first the epistemological predicament. who are the most likely ones to be excluded. that knowings are the only things there are. Let us agree to use 'entity' neutrally. to the very words. Speaking traditionally. Consider the absolute idealists.e. if one knows how.STRAWSON'X ONTOLOGY 603 such arguments do not carry conviction. One can only tell what he knows. i. Fortunately. the clause starting with 'irrespective' seems too exclusive. Since Strawson r e s h d e s the ontological deck rather thoroughly. one can reach it quickly by starting from a common fact.. Greek and precolumbian history. is indeed insurmountable. two things. roughly. Naturally. say a few things about how it has been played traditionally. Head on. 'obstacle' or 'limitation'. One more word about strategy.
. This is the very common fact I mentioned. pieces of dialectics. making use of two (kinds of) criteria. during the last years. in isolation. K e n n e n ist wiedererkennem. I .) "Physical objects move in spatio-temporal orbits. having been presented to us once. So I shall talk about bodies. Wittgenstein's influence submerged everything else. Irrelevancies apart." Let this formula stand for a large and complex but also familiar group of facts (laws). or immediately. I t often fails. for instance. in mine. The epistemological predicament being what it is. tell my dining room chairs from each other. so that D is. it marks the deepest dividing line in the epistemological tradition. say colors. it yields two different. historically. although he can of course point out consequences and offer elucidations. I n sum. This illustrates the first criterion. as one says. is presented to us again. they aren't. if you wish.) The gambit is so fundamental that. Some philosophers explicate 'know' so that M is true.T H E J O U R N A L OP PHILOSOPHY (bodies) are particulars. while we do recognize universals as such. Not by chance. I know only what. We may recognize (as such) a combination of properties the chair exemplifies. The gambit also is so fundamental structurally that one cannot argue directly for his choice. Historically. The alternative is the starting point of the epistemological dialectic. though of course not unrelated. we do not so recognize particulars. I n a sense. both historical and philological. (The appropriate sense of 'being presented' is not here under consideration. Roughly again and much complexity apart. I also recall Schlick's formula. divides author and critic. one epistemological. chairs. I n applying the second criterion we draw (consciously or unconsciously) upon our knowledge of this group. we recognize only mediately. I know what is (has been) presented to me. Differently exploited. directly. when a universal. without having to resort to a "criterion. Strawson opts for D . some others. D. (I cannot. which played such a large role not only in Allgemeine Erkenntnislehre but also in his lectures until. or as such. are universals in his world as well as in mine. for M . this line. too. remember the powerful tradition according to which the only things the mind (intellect) can grasp (know) are . that is not surprising. we recognize it. if it has been presented to me. Philologically. this essay is nothing but a study of the consequences of Strawson's choice. A t the moment. one ontological. think of 'cognoscere' and 'recognoscere' and recall that 'to know' is a very accurate translation of the former." Particulars we do not recognize as such. physical) properties of bodies. M. therefore. I can recognize when it is presented to me again. partly because the perceptual (or. the difference makes no difference.
their diversity is not presented to me as such. let alone its significance. entities which in fact are directly recognizable. in the second (we know)." The analysis of identity. and I shall. Few philosophers. elucidate and point a t consequences. epistemological. as in 'This is the same desk'.) Yesterday I sat at this desk. I mention it merely to avoid misunderstandings.STRAWSONSS ONTOLOGY 605 universals. For my point it does not matter . nondiversity and diversity (sameness and difference) are primary. I n the first context (they are). the gambit is too fundamental for direct argument in its favor. Remember the related dualism of sense and intellect and the rather pretty metaphor of the two eyes that goes with i t : the mind's eye which "sees7' the "concept" and the eye of the senses which.. (The letters M and D are of course taken from 'monistic' and 'dualistic'. as I sometimes do when introspecting though of course not when perceiving something. is to perform one of those flanking manoeuvres the epistemological predicament forces upon us. the epistemological. The ontological use of 'same' corresponds to direct recognition. i. of sameness. To emphasize this distinction. a question. I might have said "This is the same desk. Rather. as I do and Strawson doesn't. I distinguish three uses of 'same ' . Whether or not we know it is another thing. if any. When I "have" such a field. 'Red or blue' and 'not-(not-red and not-blue) ' are analytically equivalent. On the other hand. to themselves. Their referent($) are not two but one (the same). or can be. since I embrace M) of the different pitches they exemplify. Consider a phenomenal field consisting of two simultaneous tones differing in pitch. Strawson is in excellent company. for instance. or. Being a D- . as it were. one can." is really blind. Whether or not "two" things are really one (the same) is one thing. I am directly aware of two particulars (as I use 'particular'). call them logical. they must be two for there to be anything in which they differ. in addition. Again. Where there is a criterion. Strawson wants us to know (be acquainted with) bodies. there is. recognizing it when entering the room. 'same' is used ontologically . is realistic. not surprisingly. About what is primary. to recognition by criteria. know that they are two and not one merely by virtue of my also being directly aware (in exactly the same sense of 'aware'. as much as saw the monistic alternative M. and ontological. This illustrates the logical use. Today. Let me unpack this formula. as I would rather say. His intellectual motive. Ontologically. is the ontological piece of dialectics involved. But again. I do not. there is not. as are their pitches.e. "seeing" only the "particular. epistemologically.
We observe something for a while. (He says so himself. ((Acts. As long as this use itself rests. So it makes sense that. as a consequence of his opting for D. as it does.e Indian Journal of Philosophy (August and December 1960). pp. I think. sensa) are all momentary things." I t follows that "it" existed while we did not observe i t . as we shall see. He even rubs it in by a historical allusion. hence it existed independently of our observing it. At this point the very idea of a criterion smacks of constructionism! All this is only too familiar. he must hold that the unrecognizable is also the unknowable. I believe that an adequate "realistic" argument can and must be made. again.. Fourth: I read not long ago what Thomas Reid has to say about (personal) 2 See "Dell'Atto. As a consequence his argument for realism fails. This is the gist of the argument. not the place. For argument in its favor this is. are not just constructions out of what we observe." Rivista di Filosofia. observing it again. Since we can in fact not even recognize bodies as such. They are. Strawson also accepts the root idea of all substantialism-with a modification. If it did.606 T H E JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY theorist. This is not the place for it. 51 (1960). ontologically. and. . 210 fn.g. they could not be recognized as such. Bodies. since the notion of a substratum is typical of D-theories. Vol. then we don't. the very modification in which his originality consists. puts the full burden of the ontological use on the 'same' in 'This is the same desk'. So he plays down.2 I merely wanted to show that. as it were. So I turn to four brief comments. Even so. 3-51. Second: I t is a consequence of my option M that the ontological 'same' is merely a "lazy word" and cannot without either futility or at a prohibitive price be introduced into the ideal language. I t would be better than it is if the use of 'same' on which it rests were ontological. rather ironically. Third: Since my particulars (e. of bare particulars are substances. bare particulars. though. First: Like Strawson." is now being published in Th. I am convinced that only one who recognizes the significance of M can make this choice without getting into trouble. I wish to leave no doubt that I accept this consequence. his major argument will not do. the constructionist (phenomenalist) can account for it as convincingly as anyone else.) But bodies are in fact not recognizable as such. the question of recognition does not arise. The English original of this piece. then. as we shall also see . we say "This is the same. to conclude this crucial topic. The opposite. epistemologically. the distinction between the two kinds of recognition. speaking of an unknowable substratum. on a criterion. p. therefore. as one says. my choice of particulars is perhaps not as wild as some think.
the method rests. What went wrong. on which ordinary and ideal language philosophers (OLP. they disagree on what is in this sense a "language" and what makes it "suitable. The method insists that we provide it. exemplification cannot be so represented. I t shows itself by juxtaposition of subject and predicate. Brooding over his argument. I felt that.STRAWSONST ONTOLOGY 603 identity in the third chapter of the third of his Essays on the I n tellectual Powers of Man. Extremists. The extremists of both camps hold that what the classical philosophers were above all anxious' to express is irremediable nonsense. T h i r d : Some things any conceivable language merely shows. wouldn't. the entities to which they refer. absurdity.) Recond: Much of the paradox. the proper (and safe) way of speaking about them is to speak about (the syntax and interpretation of a ) language. The prelinguistic philosophers did not make it. is the mark of moderation. the fundamental gambit as to method. they study communication. is that Reid recommends a criterion for the ontological use of 'same'. Not that these things are literally "ineffable" . That much for what is best said in connection with the epistemological predicament. he argues. or represent. which latter two stand for. being moderate and fairminded. or confusion. of either camp. ex- . The question is why one should. Identity. and opacity of prelinguistic philosophy stems from failure to distinguish between speaking and speaking about speaking. as one says a t Oxford. something had gone radically wrong. presupposes temporal continuity. (The qualification. On this distinction. Consider exemplification. one may execute the turn. More precisely. is harder to avoid than one may think. prima facie. Equally fundamentally. Strawson might not approve of the way I shall state them but. Except at the price of either futility or threatening paradox. Such failure. All linguistic philosophers talk about the world by means of talking about a suitable language. he probably would approve of their spirit. Prima facie such uses are unintelligible. Now for what must be said in connection with the linguistic turn. above all. hence the tag applied to them. ILP) agree. This is the linguistic turn. rather. Why is it not merely a tedious roundabout? I shall mention three reasons. OLPs talk about the language we speak (OL) . The method is the safest way of avoiding it." Clearly. First: Words are used either ordinarily (commonsensically) or philosophically. I submit. They require commonsensical explication. Yet they used words philosophically.
OL must therefore be a picture of the world and thus. Much more importantly. Talking about his marks on paper. in a minimal sense. Nor is it a schema of what some call the inner monologue. to vary the metaphor. or at least this ILP. ideal language ( I L ) . Thus he is in danger of talking merely about language.e. The extremists on the other side talk merely about calculi. it could not be used for communication. That is of course a psychological study. B e insists. it is nothing else. Literally. Rather. that just because its primary purpose is communication. though. E. to the extent an OLP ignores or rejects these three reasons. Moore. to communicate with each other by means of it. OL is most unsuitable as a tool for his purpose. is historical. it is a picture of the world. I n making this sort of picture of it. Think of the "prolegomena to a future science of language. is merely a metaphor. cannot be argued in general. One may indeed wonder why such a picture or schema has ever been called a "language. or perhaps because it is so decisive. This point. the I L P is in an excellent position to observe the three injunctions which correspond to the three reasons.THE JOURNAL OP PHILOSOPHY ploring how we manage to learn OL and. having learned it.. Presently I shall. The extremists among the OLPs have succumbed to the danger. Remember the three reasons. decisive as it is.'' The fact" remains that. in a specific and specsable sense of 'picture'. The other is structural. one must proceed to cases. That. acknowledges that. The I L is merely the skeletal schema of a language. is a misnomer. Once more. as a "language" by means of which (not: in which!) to philosophize. including even OLPs outside of their studies.) One large part of the explanation. a "suitable" language. all of which have something to do with real languages. I n some entirely noncommittal and nonspecific sense of 'picture'. we all communicate about the world.. A t times I do not know which bores me more. I shall now indicate in what sense I L is a picture by presenting . the marks the I L P makes on paper are as much a part of the world as is OL.e. Logically. we are stepping outside of the world. in this following G. which I gave for the linguistic turn. these marks are nowhere. i. The very phrase. i. however. of course. he acknowledges it by explicating all philosophical uses commonsensically. he is left without any good reason for the linguistic turn. The ILP. that part of it which is not language. with which I shall not tarry. More technically. As the extremists pursue it. I should like to add that." (I by now often wish it hadn't. I n a general way. he acknowledges it by taking common sense for granted. even if it were not just that.
The case involves another disagreement between author and critic. logically proper names. The example indicates why and how I use 'picture7. . I n a phenomenal field consisting of a colored spot and nothing else I am presented with two entities. universality. I t follows that on this ground alone I L could not be used for communication. too. I do not wish to prejudge what is indeed a third fundamental disagreement between author and critic. I dislike the phrase very much. and (2) their place in the I L is fully justified and their meaning. respectively. My I L represents the two entities by two syntactically primitive marks. to say the same thing differently. Surely. of the kind called undefked descriptive. I t is also very familiar. and it has been used widely. so fundamental that it. is by now on every likely reader's lips. namely. But I prefer first to present it on its merit and only then apply the familiar tag. for the purposes of communication the meaning of these crucial marlrs would not be completely specified. must be brought out into the open. in one of the several meanings of 'meaning'. So I shall for the moment use it. they could not be correctly "reattached" on the basis of direct recognition. Strawson uses it. Now for three comments. Since their shapes show the ontological categories of the entities they represent. I express this by saying that OL does not essentially contain labels. completely specified by their having been "attached" to what they are to represent. whether or not when having such a field I am presented with two entities or with only one. particularity. and three logical features. the color.STRAWSON'S ONTOLOGY the case I shall also use to show that while an I L is. it makes no difference for what I am now discussing that I "attach" some of my primitives to sensa rather than to chairs." Yet they are labels in that (1) they tell (or show) absolutely nothing else about the entities. OL is not a suitable tool. and exemplification. they are not "pure labels. by the shapes of these marks and their juxtaposition. Or. too. this further disagreement does not affect what is now under discussion. and the fact of the former's exemplifying the latter. even though in ease the entity represented is a particular (sensum or chair). But we can communicate by means of 'John' only because both speaker and hearer would recognize John-indirectly. OL contains what grammarians call proper names such as 'John' and 'Venice7. The labels are of course the two marks. the familiar tag. I t also shows that the I L essentially contains labels. But again. the three logical features. On the other hand. the spot and its color. shown by the spot. though.. Since neither chairs nor sensa are directly recognizable.
the question of truth or falsehood does not even arise. in the sense in which bodies are . one must state commonsensically what the philosophical use stands for. That does not disturb the OLP.) Second. Again. 1950) knows that i t contains a lucid and forceful presentation of the two groups of ideas. do not pursue too many ideas. numbers. facts. As the ontological game has been played. that is high praise. S. To me. Or we say. Strawson. About the first group we are told a good deal. As a second step. All "existents" are in space and time. T h i r d .610 THE JOURNAL O F PHILOSOPHY i s . which I just attributed to the OLP. it is sometimes true. Rather. we say that there are bodies. some philosophers have denied that the instances of some of these kinds "exist. the second is more or less taken for granted. Good philosophers. F o r sentences as such. thoughts. I. Everyone familiar with Strawson's "On Referring" ( H i n d . What "exists" is simple. this shows as clearly as anything in what sense the I L is and OL is not a picture of the world. he tells us. rejects the idea of a n I L on this ground alone. sometimes false. then they immediately part ways. whatever else there is (exists. not : "exists" !) consists of simples. synonymously. Depending on what is the case. and so on. 'John smiles' is a wellformed sentence of OL. prompted by my desire for a suitable picture. or. On this author and critic agree. The I L contains essentially logically proper names. which they ponder ever more deeply and know how to elaborate ever more richly. The same ideas doininate Individzcals. One could even say that the book is merely a n elaboration of the essay. would be by definite description. reject on this ground alone OL as a suitable tool. The tradition has been dominated by three major ideas: I. OL doesn't. Depending on whether or not John smiles while it is asserted. that these entities exist. dominated by his concern with communication. they are pursued by a few. I am convinced." To rid such talk of the flavor of absurdity that clings to it. as I just used 'direct'. C. When we speak commonsensically. ) . one must first of all realize that in it 'exist' is used philosophically. on logically proper names and on truth. every well-formed sentence of the I L is either true or false. I t arises only when a sentence is uttered in accordance with the rules for its use in order to make a n assertion. I L is suitable (in this respect) because I know of no better (and safer) way to speak of some crucial ontological matters than to point out that certain entities could not in any conceivable l 'picture ' be directly represented except by logically proper names. a t least. ( A n indirect way of referring. What "exists" exists independently.
The idea which guides philosophers who shun this gambit is best understood when one considers that we are never presented either with a particular that is not qualitied or with a universal that is not exemplified. not unnaturally. no fact can be as "simple" as a thing may be. S. one inevitably ends up an extreme ontological monist. or at least some facts. 'simple'. But a particular's exemplifying a universal is a fact. reduction. (b) An entity "consists" of certain others if and only if the expression directly referring to it (in I L ) is definable in terms of the expressions which so refer to those others. The use of 'fact7 and 'thing' in it is commonsensical. (b) implies the claim that whatever is not itself a simple consists of such. The crucial point is that with this most natural explication T and S clash. and 'concrete '." by a nonsentential (descriptive) expression (of I L ) . I marked the philosophical use of 'exist' by double quotes. These are the three ideas. also for other ontological key terms.) "Reductionism" is the tag for this claim. that while facts. which are things. no thing is. the three letters being taken from 'independent7. are independent. Thus one may say. I would so explicate it that a "fact" is referred to by a (true or false) sentence. That shows a connection. I drop the quotes. this use is not necessarily philosophical. Concerning S. more or less directly. I shall continue the praxis whenever it seems necessary. in an obvious sense. All OLPs are antireductionists. not a thing. referred to by subject and predicate. Thus. But one must be prepared to specify what the phrase is made to stand for. speaking of definitionalism and antidefinitionalism instead. is from a long history burdened with derogatory connotations. The words italicized in I. referred to by a subject-predicate sentence. a "thing. Jointly. Concerning C. ( a ) An entity is "simple" if and only if it cannot in any conceivable language be directly referred to except by labels. thing . however briefly. So I shall henceforth avoid it. Concerning I. it lies a t the border between the two uses. (Once a use has been explicated. ( a ) and (6) indicate the drift of the ILP's explications. C are themselves used philosophically in these propositions. Their rejections of logically proper names and of reductionism reinforce each other. I must comment. has two constituents. those with whom S prevails. At most. Even the "simplest" fact. If I were challenged nonetheless.STRAWSON'S ONTOLOGY they can be located there. Those in whom I wins out become fact ontologists ("only (simple) facts exist") . The tag itself. Taking 'independent7 causally. Thus. That gives the idea of the explication. Even though I italicized 'more or less directly'.
So I shall explain it later. which in turn controls his argument. I turn next to some comments that should help to penetrate its surface. I n one of the rare purple passages (p. it is a remarkably explicit fact ontology. That makes everything an individual. And of these very special facts everything ebe. so far unnoticed. This use is controlled by C. which ontologists tend to use synonymously with 'particular'. then a "consists " of b. to be sure. The way I am telling the story. which is even simpler than those facts with two constituents which we have so far thought were the simplest. Their disagreement marks the deepest dividing line in the ontological tradition. 212) set off against his enjoyably low-keyed prose. Substance ontologists t r y to have the best of both worlds. when presenting the gist of his argument. d . "consists". c. But a thing's exemplifying a character is a fact! That spots the tension. a "substance" is a thing which. by virtue of being this thing. If 'a' is definable in terms of ' b '. he even calls those newly discovered "simples" the true atomic facts.) Less basically. and the latter three are "simpler" than a. whether thing or fact. I am a thing ontologist. is narrower than the ordinary. consider that as 'substance' is used philosophically. Why not? Having paid the price one may as well enjoy his purchase. though. so I shall not grumble. Strawson so uses 'individual' and 'exists' that whatever may be referred to by the subject word or phrase of a true sentence (of OL) is an individual and exists. bodies. 'Particular' he also uses much more broadly than is usual. thoughts. His use of these two key terms is thus as broad as it is unproblematic. the reader may be ready with a shrewd guess as to the nature of that novel simplicity. as I would put it. except that it makes the book's title rather inexpressive. colors. facts. Basically. After this glimpse at the heart of the system. I can now at least before turning to detailed description characterize Strawson's ontology i11 one fell stroke. (Like every consistent ILP. "Facts and Particulars" would be more appropriate. I am not yet ready for the dhnouement. exemplifies certain characters. numbers. But I understand the lure of elegant one-word titles . The characteristic ontological use of 'exist'. though more narrowly than 'individual'. ' d'. To see that. The same goes for 'individual'. The central and original idea is that there is a kind of fact. it has many substantialist (Aristotelian) features. and so on.T H E J O U R N A L OB P H I L O S O P H Y ontologists ("only (simple) things exist ") . as we shall see. Having made so many preparations. That is the . that new expedient to relieve the tension between I and 8. ' c'. not Strawson. we saw.
In favor of this one issue I brush aside all others. Strawson's analysis is. It is a familiar formula that in philosophical analysis the appeal to "logical truth" is conclusive. so-called "conceptual truths. in turn. The less basic "unfolds" into what is more so. they affect the style of many current debates. " "logical truths. We can go that far and no further. are 'basic' and 'folding'. call it the first. or argument.) But he himself does not see that. definitional. call it the second. This illusion. Strawson shares with all OLPs. "folds up" into the former. The issue at the root is thus the nature of "logical truth. The formula I just called true enough so far as it goes is the last truth. as I shall point out. one is at the root of what was originally at stake. synonymously. ' ' ' ' analytic truths. the formula is true enough as far as it goes. there is thus an ontological hierarchy. His key words. the latter. analysis of the structure of our conceptual scheme. or. As the ILP explicates 'logical truth'. the formula spawns the illusion that when they appeal to what they call conceptual truth their analysis. is much subtler than the first. as he says. whatever difference there is makes no real difference. Among the few which are. including ." I am reminded of certain commonwealths in which all citizens are equal. before the rubrics themselves again became battle cries." because they are (in his sense) synthetic. On 'No body is at the same time in two places' they disagree. This illusion. having renounced and denounced the goal. Both sides agree that 'Either it is raining or it isn't' is analytic. is as conclusive as it would be if they had appealed to what the ILP calls logical truth. Strawson's alternative is conceptual analysis." Once more author and critic are in fundamental disagreement. are not. the extremists. (That is one reason why I admire him.STRAWSON'S ONTOLOGY 613 dehitionalist ILP's high road to the explication of S. a t least. Since dehitionalism and antidefinitionalism are now again battle cries. for the ILP it isn't. So he remains the victim of t w o illusions. As OLPs explicate 'logical truth'. "linguistic truths. For the OLP it is analytic. even though all its members "exist" and are "individuals. need no road that leads to i t . or. Where it most crucially matters. Conceptual analysis yields what OLPs call "conceptual truths " . Or. " The ILP 's explication of 'analytic' is narrower. Strawson shares it with all those. the moderates must look for an alternative. corresponding to 'simple' and 'consist '. For the I L P definitions are a proper tool of ontological analysis because they are (in his sense) analytic. The issues debated are of course not all fundamental. Among OLPs. except that some of them are more so. After a fashion.
who hold. 'Nontrivially' has to be added because every tautology can be trivially deduced from any premise. and. with an illustration simpler than anything I could cull from the book. For there is upon their account no criterion to separate "conceptual (analytic) " from "empirical (synthetic) " generalities. so. " OLPs notoriously hold this view. for 'having-a-certain-length'. since the concept length can be unfolded into the two concepts R1 and R2. 'R1' and 'R2'. 'equal-in-length'. Both (1) and (2) can be nontrivially deduced from D and G . Overtly or covertly guided by the psychologistic identification of the "contradictory" with the "unimaginable. first.g. some mentioning only R1.T H E JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY many ILPs. for 'length'. Strawson does not openly embrace this absurdity. they would have to maintain that all generalities are conceptual truths. It will pay if I support the generalities of the last paragraph. That is but another way . still more precisely. some only R2. that logic is the world's "form.. Add an equally familiar definition. which to me is absurd. 'Deduced' is used in the strict sense which goes with the strict sense of 'analytic'. the OLP must consistently hold that the members of G are in turn conceptual truths about the concepts R1 and R2. and 'length'. Consider 'longer-than'. more precisely. as applied to straight sticks. For criticism I separate (1) and ( 2 ) . second. This is the illustration. E. R2 is transitive and symmetrical. about conceptual analysis and the two illusions." in an inherently confused sense of 'form' which leaves logic without ontological grounding. Moving upward. replace them for the moment by two opaque marks. Concerning (2) : Being a property (or even: a property of sticks) is a conceptual property of the concept length. R1. call it G. The story is very familiar. transitive and asymmetrical. or could consistently hold. universality. Why bother with the familiar? Consider finally two propositions : (1) Lengths are linearly ordered. and so on. Since the two hyphenated expressions give away the "conceptual structure" involved. and exemplification are presented to us. are (1) and (2). I registered my dissent when I insisted that such logical features as particularity. to what is more basic. The ILP speaks about it as follows. But we shall see that he comes remarkably close to it in sentiment. a schema of definitions. D. some both. There is a small group of true generalities. one for each length. Strawson would have to say that. the latter are more basic than the former. Concerning (1) : Moving downward. all members of G are synthetic. therefore. That makes statements of individual fact the only "empirical" ones. (2) Length is a property (of sticks). (1) and (2) are conceptual truths about length.
types) of signs. But nothing comes through. or. just as what was said concerning (1) relates to the first. Into these entities everything else unfolds.) Clearly. What are these hidden simples? Is their single constituent a universal. not only of my story but of the age-old tension between fact and thing ontologies. I hear the words. as he also claims. But it is not all I have to say. one specifies the combinations making well) formed sentences. rather.STRAWSON'S ONTOLOGY 615 of stating (2).. then it is indeed the dhnouement. cannot be talked away. For me. all criticisms must start. I shall argue my case in three steps. The mistake is most easily spotted if we turn for a moment to calculi. in which case the nominalists would object? Is it a particular. I n the last step I shall argue that if one grants what Strawson claims to be their nature. they cannot. 'f (z) ' but not either ' f ( f ) ' or ' s ( ~ '. There are entities which are "facts" and yet so "simple" that they have only one "constituent. I take it to mean that from a word's being of a certain kind. then Strawson has failed.g. This kind of talk needs explication.. in which case the realists would demur? From these questions. this mistake relates to the second illusion. between term and sentence. If that criticism stands up. The purpose of philosophical analysis is not to confuse or perplex us but. an adjective. that the type rule is contained in the type distinction. ." Since so far no one has understood their nature I shall call them the hidden simples. to enlighten us in a commonsensical way. e. in Tractatus 3. That is why I call Strawson a fact ontologist. This is patently false. or like a universal. First. arguing that in fact they have two constituents. (Wittgenstein made the same mistake when he argued.. I n the first part one distinguishes several kinds (shapes. This is the center of my criticism. Both parts must be stated. one should think. or like a particular. e. the second cannot be deduced from the first. if you would rather have it this way. x-shapes and f-shapes.g. the rules by which it combines with others into well-formed sentences can be deduced. in the second. this alone is decisive.333. I n the next step I shall identify the hidden simples. If it stands up under close scrutiny. The so-called formation rules of a calculus have two parts. This is Strawson's central and original idea. e. The idea does not stand up. Yet there is one even more radical. be folded up into bodies.g. The commonsensical distinction between thing and fact. The idea of a single-constituent fact fills me with irresoluble perplexity. For it is part of the notion of conceptual truth that a concept's having a "conceptual property" is itself such a truth.
by ' Snow'. So I let it go at that. First. But the dialectic is complex indeed. So I ask dialectically how. I submit that he is mistaken. 'snow' is said to refer to a feature. have convinced myself that I am actually presented with two things. The 'This' he suppresses in 'This is snow' refers to what is as momentary as and no more recognizable as such than is my sensum. I should . the simplest among all the facts presented to me is. Remember now the disagreement I was careful not to prejudge when I insisted earlier that. Strawson. 169 fn. but it has been explored. redl. I t is. I could ever know it if a second spot. Third. later I had two. redl and redz. of course. p.. made its appearance beside the first. When I behold a white expanse of a certain kind. that for all that matters (since the realism-nominalism issue is not directly involved). so I shall limit myself to three comments. by means of the (presumably conceptual) truths about the spatial and temporal relations obtaining among features? Strawson's answer is Yes. Now I must judge. I am presented not with just one thing but with two. The problem is complex. of exactly the same shade. and the central idea of his ontology on the other. on the one hand. we see. I . adding instead a word about Strawson's intellectual motives.) Remember also what has been said about nondiversity and diversity being primary. though. for I am also convinced that a very major part of it is dialectical.e. or like a universal. I reply. correctly expressed not by ' This is snow' but. I add in dialectical support that after the appearance of the second spot the first is exactly what it was before. rather. That is why he suppresses it. if I were not also presented with particulars. that while a t first I had one red. equally simply. the indices have the logical force of particulars. This shows the close structural connection between his two most fundamental gambits. Yet I am loath to rest the case on this conviction. So used. Questions located where the structure rests on the base have a delicacy all their own. according to Strawson.. Can bodies be unfolded into features. is of course aware of the connection. i.616 THE J O U R N A L OF PHILOSOPHY Second. very simply. If an objector reminds me that I could say. (Indexed universals are a t least very close to the "perfect particulars" of the tradition. as we just saw. a particular ('this') and a universal ('red'). being presented with a red spot and nothing else. into unindexed universals. A feature is the single constituent of a hidden simple. his choice of a dualistic epistemology (D over M) and his identification of ontological and epistemological sameness. a universal. How should I proceed? Philosophy is a dialectical structure erected on a phenomenological base.
Like Strawson. Traditionally speaking. without making them inhere in anything. As he speaks. 'green to the left of red'. one must grasp the idea controlling his use of 'particular'. Next to its base we find his "particulars. must make his features cohere. This shows that the " structure " of the "spatial" relations among features is very different indeed from that of the relations ordinarily called spatial.STRAWSON'S ONTOLOGY like to point out that for all I can tell. I reject absolute space and time. I n an essay called "Russell on Particulars " (The Philosophical Review. Strawson. ( b ) A particular exemplses more than one universal. 'Green to the left of green'. upon Dl an unknown substratum. Let us now explore a bit . The ontological building stones of Strawson's world are the hidden simples. Nor is that the only reason why I reject Goodman's ingenious construction. 'red to the left of green' will all be true. I found no evidence that Strawson even noticed that. the latter coinhere in what is. though still very ditlicult. I n the matter just discussed Strawson was not as accurate as he might have been had he not been hampered by those two irremediably inaccurate notions. To understand their subhierarchy. Nelson Goodman has shown that in The Structure of Appearance. (c) Strawson rejects absolute space and time. green to the left of red to the left of green." On that base his ontological hierarchy rests. one might call them the only "existents. But I greatly admire the accuracy with which he has thought about some matters so subtle and so fundamental that in thinking about them accuracy and profundity are one thing and not two. can be solved. This we saw earlier. T h a t determines my strategy." Among the latter. Thus he cannot introduce a certain class of universals whose introduction amounts to accepting absolute space and time. in order to succeed. This is what I mean by his terms. To understand this use." Putting 'exist' to its traditional philosophical use. the bundling problem. there are no logically proper names. the way they actually do. As far as communication is concerned. 1947) I have shown that upon Strawson's terms i t is insoluble. conceptual analysis in general and his hidden simples in particular. I call this the bundling problem. some are more "basic" than others. (a) Consider a field consisting of three spots. If one waives them. one must in turn understand the gist of the arguments supporting the system. That is what I had in mind when claiming earlier that where it most crucially matters his analysis is definitional rather than conceptual. Strawson in the few passages he devotes to this crucial and complex problem proceeds as if the 'unfolded' I italicized could be replaced by 'defined'. they are most "basic.
who does not know Harry. Dick's using on another occasion. next to them. at an irrelevant further remove. a sensum. while talking with Dick. It is clear. expository and critical. Tom. That makes bodies the "basic particulars. Communicating about any of these entities.." (These are two of Strawson's key words. blond man just walking past and says 'This is Harry'. on that of Communicating. To speak as I did earlier. we try again by offering further descriptions for what some words or phrases in the first refer to. when he learned how to use 'Harry '. I myself just so referred to three of the six I mentioned. It makes bodies basic among particulars. commonsensical physical objects such as chairs but not. His is an order established by Communicating. Pursuing this descent as long as is necessary (for successful communication) we arrive if necessary at bodies. points at a tall. i. If a definite description fails to single out the entity for the hearer. since he does not even operate on the level of Knowing but. Tom would not have needed to point. As Strawson uses 'particular'. The principle of Strawson's hierarchy is not even Knowing. whether or not Tom pointed. say. say. (Since they unfold directly into the hidden simples.) This class is that of bodies. electrons. how this failure derives from his fundamental gambits. presupposes his being able to recognize Harry. What makes this hodgepodge into an ontological category? The answer lies in two ideas. not of Knowing. If so. I trust." This is the idea. Even worse. they are.e. the impending spring flood of the Iowa River are all particulars. he falls behind what so often has been achieved before. Now for a string of comments. at which level we necessarily succeed. Communication would be impossible were it not for a class of entities which speaker and hearer can thus "identify" and "reidentify. my beloved's last smile when I last saw her.T H E JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY further. the most . we "identify" them through definite descriptions. Remember the ontological predicament. An ontological hierarchy is an order of Being. the battle of Waterloo. the next day. Moreover. His hierarchy is thus ontological only after a fashion. I avoided them. because of what I had to say about sameness. he was presented with the fact (or facts) which made the definite description true and unambiguous. 'Harry' correctly and as far as communication goes successfully. a chair. he once more fails to execute the proper flanking manoeuvre. which in turn presupposes that on the first occasion. This is the first idea. Second. Assume that on this occasion (context) the definite description 'the tall blond man walking past' is unambiguous. an electron. deliberately of course. First.
This is so because of a class of generalities. and therefore. Strawson's particulars (and the hidden simples) should be the only "existents" of his world.e. that.STRAWSON'S ONTOLOGY basic. it is too "materialistic" and "Aristotelian" for my taste. however covertly. The entities of the hodgepodge category are all indirectly located in space and time through the location of the body or bodies mentioned in the definite descriptions to which theoretically we may have to descend in order to achieve "identifying reference. that for the OLP the adjectives 'conceptual'. I am merely analyzing the structure of a very complex argument. the less basic the particular. I t explicates a genuine ontological idea." Consider. . and 'necessary' all combine with the noun 'truth' into synonymous phrases. he is much too clever overtly to embrace nominalism. Strawson bolsters the ontological status of bodies by pointing out that in virtue of the supposedly conceptual truths G they necessarily produce the coordinate system required for communication. all "conceptual truths" about bodies." The longer the descent. 'linguistic'. third. 'logical'. Consider first the idea mentioned a while ago that an analysis is complete and conclusive in a special way if it has penetrated to the level of the "logical.. Have we then perhaps come upon one of the motives for that all-encompassing use? Be that as it may. Nor could he. call it again G. even though one of which I don't happen to think much. then. Now consider three things. say. of course. the less direct the location. Now remember C : what "exists" is what is directly or indirectly located in space and time. And. First. provide a "coordinate system" for unambiguous reference. of course. that Strawson considers the members of G to be as he consistently must. The second idea obviously is C. Third. The contrary belief is but an instance of the first illusion (i. Second. the members of Ci are synthetic. Presently we shall come upon two instances of the second illusion.) Bodies are directly in space and time. of course. G was mentioned once before. by thus bolstering the ontological status of bodies he bolsters his "realistic" sentiment. Bodies do. Consider. With these three things kept in mind two more become clear. the axioms of geometry are conceptual truths). as the body of fact (law) yielding the residual criterion for the indirect recognition of bodies. He himself doesn't say that. given his all-encompassing use of 'exist'. we shall soon come upon two outcroppings of this Aristotelian bedrock. of which 'No body is at the same time at two places' is as good a representative as any. second. If this diagnosis is correct. I have no quarrel with the sentiment. For the ILP. as one might expect. Nor is C just a matter of communication.
. also under the influence of Frege. rather than supports. does anyone still wonder why I called Strawson a remarkably articulate fact ontologist ?) An "empirical fact.. merely expresses. speaking of the natural determination "to wed the notion of existence to empirical fact-the ultimate stuff with which we have to deal-and hence to those items. Particulars. the designations of which necessarily presuppose empirical facts. viz. are in a special sense "linguistic. One who does not see that will argue as Strawson here does and as Wittgenstein did. we are told. the spatial and temporal relations (universals) which the hidden simples exemplify." What is this ultimate stuff? What are these empirical facts? (By the way.g." the context shows. a preconceived ontological asymmetry. is an individual fact in- . everything does. This is the idea. an adjective. ( a ) and ( b ) . Even this omission could be counted an outcropping of that Aristotelian bedrock. everybody is an empiricist.. is merely a part of a propositional function. of course they do . thus excluding what consistently I (and he) ought to have included. Where.333. particulars. those referring to particulars express "complete thoughts. which I mentioned earlier for this very reason. Both arguments. Replace 'complete' by ' independent '. For this alleged ontological asymmetry there are two elaborate arguments. A "name" of an "object"-I use the two words as Frege does-can stand by itself. concerning the world's "form"). remember I (' 'What "exists " exists independently") and you will in these two arguments recognize the two outcroppings. Two others are more conspicuous. Strawson. is green'. who uses it rarely.g. 'green'.THE JOURNAL O F PHILOSOPHY Fourth. once uses it emphatically (p. namely. confuses everything." A little reflection will show that they are both instances of the second illusion (the subtle one. I t clarifies nothing. more or less Oxfordish variations of Frege's ill-begotten idea of propositional functions. as he knows and tells.. though. in Tractatus 3. ' . What can be done with it can be done as well or better without it. Universals exist for Strawson. " The reasons Strawson gives for this claim are. I called the hidden simples the only building stones of his world. ( a ) Unlike the words and phrases referring to universals. e. are "complete" in a sense in which universals are not. just as everybody is against sin. SO I don't use the word anymore. . (b) As 'empirical' has been used for quite some time. e. I acknowledged that a while ago when. following Strawson. 238). do they have a place in his hierarchy? My answer is that there is no good place for them. That also shows where the illusion comes in.
Dick. I find this part of the book much less interesting and not at all original." Implication is a syntactical notion. Ordinary language analysis. the illusion helps to exalt the ontological status of bodies.e. for whom this transition is only too easy. I t is time that I confess an omission. but also that to be thus presupposed is to be "in a special sense. recall the story of Tom. which I illustrated by 'Length is a property'. ( 2 ) is not just a conceptual truth. characterize this part as briefly as in a standard review. The correct use of proper names ('Harry') or d e k i t e descriptions ('the tall blond man') referring to particulars presupposes the knowledge of "empirical facts. I made a choice. I t is supposedly a conceptual truth of that special kind. "logical" or "linguistic" in a special sense. Thus. Call this sentence ( 2 ) . since I had to select. His starting point is the supposedly conceptual truth 'I do not have your experiences'. rather. Strawson is in sentiment remarkably close to the absurd position that true statements of individual fact about bodies in space and time are the only nonconceptual truths. ordinary universals.. Once more. That has something to do with Strawson's analyses of the mind-body nexus and of our knowledge of other minds. I add. Here and there an insight shines brightly. The extremists among the OLPs either overtly or covertly embrace metaphysical behaviorism (materialism).STRAWSON'S ONTOLOGY 621 volving a body." Call the last sentence (1). As far as the argument a t hand is concerned. though. an overt reasoned rejection of this absurd doctrine. in the paragraph in which 'presuppose' is twice italicized. But I shall now. His goal is. as first practiced by the later Wittgenstein and following him at . about these two important problems. This is the cue as to where the second illusion comes in.g. Particulars (bodies) presuppose empirical facts.. implied. and he saps a good deal. By and large. Strawson is much too sensible for that. that 'presuppose' is here used exactly as in "On Referring. Passing from (1) to (2) is to pass from communication theory to ontology. This is the passage I had in mind when I claimed that even though he does not say so outright. e. though. the fact expressed by 'This is a tall blond man'. not just features) are not. and Harry. with apologies. now and then a comment intrigues in what he says. Strawson. I need not at this point explain why from where I stand the argument fails. Some of it I find quaint. argues from (2) that bodies are ontologically "complete" in a sense in which their properties (i." where we are told not only that (the correct use of) 'The king of France is bald' presupposes that there is a king of France. Bodies are not really the only basic particulars of the system.
1936). Strawson's book is more than just a sign. The price he pays is the doctrine that "persons" are particulars which are both basic and logically primitive. I am almost touched. Or perhaps it is just petering out. The Big Yawn. most recently. 1959). in the title of an essay. I n this country. There is that book I mentioned at the beginning. metaphysics. . provides the way by which he arrives from this starting point at that goal. in philosophy. more than enough. Strawson is charmingly eager to convince his readers that what he does is metaphysics. Eventually I was even excommunicated. Nor is it accidental that.3751" (Analysis. which the classical philosophers did. to have done as well as Strawson did. often no longer covered by a polite or diplomatic hand. More pertinently. most ominously of all. The signs add up. there is the recoil from those frankly professed "prolegomena to a future science of language. When introducing the alleged conceptual truth. the same thing. I had to make it clear that I judge him to have failed. who hasn't failed or doesn't fail eventually? I t is enough. metaphysics. One can of course not be sure what 'logically primitive' means in the mouth of an antidekitionalist. There have been quite a few signs lately that the Oxford movement is about to collapse. 'I do not have your experiences'. are more likely to listen to him than to anyone else. the very word. This reader is convinced. Nor am I just charmed." This doctrine I k d quaint. These I don't mention." There is. He need not have been so cautious.622 T H E JOURNAL OP PHILOSOPHY Oxford. It seems to mean that a person cannot be defined in terms of his body and his "experiences. was taboo. But then. Strawson very cautiously refers to Schlick's last essay "Meaning and Verification" ( T h e Philosophical Review. to say the least. there have been a few remarkable pieces in recent British journals. Schlick in another late essay anticipates some of the later Wittgenstein's ideas about the nature and function of linguistic analysis. I believe. I n magnis voluisse sat est. Strawson's fate. partly because of the way he says what he says. Now to conclude with a few reflections of a very different kind. The eagerness is most naturally explained by his long association with the Oxford movement. since a t Oxford for quite some time now and until most. as Allaire quite recently pointed out in "Tractatus 6. I t shows a way out to those who. remembering how sternly admonished I was by some high dignitaries of another movement shortly after I had first used that bad word. in spite of all the differences. partly because I do not wish to put the k g e r on anyone. will be less harsh (if that be the word). From where I stand.
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