Logical Atomism in Plato's Theaetetus

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Logical Atomism in Plato's "Theaetetus" Author(s): G. Ryle Source: Phronesis, Vol. 35, No. 1 (1990), pp. 21-46 Published by: BRILL Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4182346 . Accessed: 18/04/2013 13:25 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

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Logical Atomism in Plato's Theaetetus t G. RYLE

Foreword' A meeting of the Oxford Philological Society was held on Friday, 16thFebruary 1952 at 8.30 p.m. in Magdalen College. There were present: The President, Professors Dodds, Fraenkel and Price, Mrs Kneale, Miss Murdoch, Messrs Andrewes, Cox, Cross, Dummett, Falke, Hamlyn, C. Hardie, W. Hardie, Hart, Kneale, Mabbott, Minio-Paluello, Nowell-Smith, Quinton, Russell, Stanier, Toulmin, Walzer, Warnock, Wood, the Secretary and three guests. In private business: Dr. Atkinson, and Messrs Ackrill and Chevenix-Trench were elected Members of the Society. Dr. Dorm was elected an Honorary Member. Mr R. G.M. Nisbet of CorpusChristiCollege was proposed as a Member. In public business: Professor Ryle read a paper on Logical Atomism in Plato's Theaetetus. These minutes, written by Winifred Hicken as Secretary of the Oxford Philological Society and signed by Richard Robinson as President, record an occasion of historic significancefor ancient philosophy in the English-speaking world. Many readers of this journal will know about the existence of Ryle's unpublished paper on the Theaetetus,because it has been discussed in articles and cited in prefaces: e.g. R.C. Cross, 'Logos and Forms in Plato', Mind 63 (1954), 433-450, repr. in R.E. Allen ed., Studies in Plato's Metaphysics(London & New York 1965), Chap. II; Winifred Hicken, 'The character and provenance of Socrates' "dream" in the Theaetetus',Phronesis 3 (1958), 126145; John McDowell, Plato: Theaetetus(Oxford 1973), Preface. Some may have been intriguedby a footnote in I.M. Crombie, An Examinationof Plato's DoctrinesVol. II (London & New York 1963), 120: 'I suspect that I have learnt a lot about this part of the Theaetetusfrom the essays of pupils who have attended the lectures of Professor Ryle. How much of this discussion I owe to 1 By M.F. Burnyeat, to whom the Editor is indebted for the idea of publishing Ryle's paper and for undertakingthe negotiations which have brought it to fruition.

Phronesis1990. Vol. XXXVIJ (Accepted December 1989)

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him and how much he would repudiatewith scorn I do not know'. In one way or another it been evident to the outside world that Ryle's unpublishedviews on the Theaetetuswere extremely influentialin and throughOxford. We have also had tantalizingglimpses of his interpretationin a short section of his paper in 'Plato's Parmenides',Mind48 (1939), 317-321 = Studiesin Plato's Metaphysics, op.cit., 136-141; in certain portions of his 'Letters and Syllables in Plato', Philosophical Review 59 (1960), 431-451; and in the brief account of the Theaetetuswhich Ryle wrote for The Encyclopedia of Philosophy edited by Paul Edwards (New York & London 1967), Vol. VI, 326-8. It is therefore a cause for celebration that Hertford College, Oxford, has given permissionfor the famous unpublishedpaper to appear in print. Celebration is in order for several reasons. First, and most obviously, because scholarscan now study Ryle's interpretationof the dialogue in its entirety. The climax is his account of Socrates' dream in Part III of the dialogue, which turns out to be significantlydifferent from the account that has become attached to Ryle's name in the secondary literatureon the Theaetetus. A second reason for celebrationhas to do with the philosophicalbackground to Ryle's thoughts about Plato. The unpublishedpaper, with its lengthy quotations from Moore, Russell, and Wittgenstein,displaysmore clearlyand vividly than the publishedwritingshow much of Ryle's fascinationwith Plato stemmed from his reflections on early modern philosophy. No doubt the quotations would have been severely pruned had Ryle ever preparedhis paper for publication. But students of ancient philosophy will be glad to learn the ingredients that went into what G.E.L. Owen called Ryle's 'apparentlyinexhaustiblecask of new thoughtson Plato' ('Notes on Ryle's Plato', in OscarP. Wood & George Pitcheredd., Ryle: A collectionof criticalessays [London 1971], 341 = G.E.L. Owen, Logic, Science and Dialectic [London 1986], 85). The text was prepared from two sources: (A) a typed copy belonging to WinifredHicken, with two pages missingand squarebracketsadded by hand in a number of places - presumablyto markpassagesthat Ryle would omit at the reading; (B) a typescriptwhich John McDowell had made from a typed copy containingthe same squarebracketsbut differingfrom (A) in a few words here and there and a marginalnote dated 1959 (p. 42 below). The quotations from Moore and Russell have been checked, and some trivial corrections made. Readers will appreciatethat this is not a polished paper. But there is no doubt that it is vintage Ryle.

The problem discussed in the Theaetetus is What is Knowledge? Socrates makes it clear that what is wanted is not a list of things that people know or a catalogue of sciences and arts, but an elucidation of the concept of knowledge - not What is known? but What is it to know? Attention to this simple point might have saved Cornford from saying that the implicit conclusion of 22

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the dialogueis that "trueknowledgehas for its objectsthingsof a different order- not sensiblethings,but intelligibleFormsand truthsabout them." Even if Platohad hadthe Eidgfixesthathis commentatorsfatheron to him, he could not havebeen so sillyas to supposethata mentionof these alleged knowablescould be the answerto the questionWhat is it for someone to know something?However pious a man was, he could not think that the assertion,"Only God can be reallyloved" would be an elucidationof the conceptof love. Theaetetus'openinganswerto thisquestionis thatto knowis to perceive, or, if you like, to sense, namelyto see colours,smell odours, feel heat and cold, pleasure, pain and the like. Socrates argues conclusivelythat this equationwill not work. What I perceiveor sense is necessarilysomething contemporarywiththe sensingof it; but I canknowthatI haveseen or have heardsomethingand I can be at least a good judge of some futureperceptions. Converselywe can see thingsdimly,froma distanceor with one eye, but not the other, and we can feel thingsmore or less intensely, where it would patently not do to characteriseknowledge by such qualifications. Finally we can know that such things as sounds and colours exist, are differentfromone anotherand identicalwith themselves;we can establish whetherthey are similaror dissimilar.Knowingsuch thingsis not sensing. Knowledgethen is not in our impressions(na&gzaoLv)but in ourreflection uponthem(XVUXoyLURqp) (186d). Notice that Socratesis not sayingthatwe cannot,but ratherthat we can and do know facts about colours and noises. But knowing facts about colours and noises is not the same thing as seeing colours and hearing noises. Commentatorswho love to find Plato being rude about senseperception, construe his denial of the equation between knowing and sensingas sucha piece of rudeness.It is no suchthing. Incidentally(though Socrates does not mention the point) the argumentswhich blow up the equation of knowing with sensing would also blow up any equation of sensing with belief, opinion or guesswork.Knowingis not sensing, but, equally, being bamboozledis not sensingeither. Socratesdoes, however, seem to make what I regardas the very bad point that we cannot know anythingaboutprocessesor happenings,sincewhatis knownmuststayput, whileprocessesandhappenings,includingthiigs sensedandthe sensingsof them, do not stay put. He goes back on this view in the Sophist,but I am afraid he does champion it here. The fact that our weather is highly changeabledoes not entail that truths about showersand winds are also changeable.I have triedunsuccessfullyto construethe passage(181b-183c) as arguingmerelythatas the truthsor falsehoodsabouta happeningthatwe 23

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can know or believe, can be known or believed any when, where the perceivingof it cantakeplaceonly at one moment,thereforeperceivingit is not knowingor believingthem. But thoughthis wouldbe right,it does not tally with the Greek. Theaetetusnext suggeststhat knowingis thinking- or, rather,since we sometimesthinkmistakenly,that knowingis thinkingtruly.Knowledgeis true belief or true opinion. It had alreadybeen shownthat one important way in whichknowingdiffersfromsensingwas that to knowis to have got hold of the truth,for example,thatsomethingexists, or is differentfromor similarto somethingelse. The new suggestiongeneralisesthis point. It is now suggestedthat to know is to have got hold of a truth. Now a truth is something the verbal expressionof which requires a completedsentence. The sentence "7 plus 5 makes 12"tells a truthand so tells somethingwhicha personmightknow or trulybelieve or trulyguess. Correspondinglyit tells somethingthata personmightbe taughtor findout for himself;somethingthat he might forget, after havingonce knownit; somethingof whichhe mightbe ignorant;andso on. In oppositionto sucha completedsentence, an atomic expressionlike "7" or "12"or "Theaetetus" could not tell a truthor a falsehood,and couldnot thereforetell what someone believes or guesses, whether rightly or wrongly;or tell what someone has been taught or has discovered;or tell what someone has forgotten after once having known it; or tell what someone might be ignorantof, or, lastly,tell whathe mightknow. Let me here anticipateone or two pointswhicharebroughtout lateron in thisdialogueandarebrought out more effectively in the Sophist. A truth or falsehood always has a certaininternalcomplexity.At the very least it usuallymentionsone thing or person or happeningetc. and ascribessomethingelse to it or denies somethingelse of it. It need not misleadus too muchif we say that in even the simplesttrueor falsestatementtheremustbe, at the least, a subjectand a predicate.Two differentstatements,true or false, may share a subject, though their predicatesare different, or share a predicate though their subjects are different. The statement "Brutus killed Caesar" is partly different,in this way, andpartlynot differentfromthe statements"Brutus woundedCaesar","BrutuskilledPlato"and "SocrateskilledCaesar".So let us say that in every truth or falsehood there are, at the least, two ingredient "pieces", the first of which could, within certain limits, be replacedby another,the secondremainingthe same,or the secondof which could, withincertainlimits,be replacedby another,the firstremainingthe same. 24

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Furthermore,though this point, which is brought out clearly in the Sophist,is only hinted at in the Theaetetus,at least two of the pieces in a truthor falsehoodare (a) out of differentbasketsfromone anotherand (b) coupled or glued together in a certaindefinite way. There are three such pieces in "Brutuskilled Caesar", but this statement is not just a list or inventoryof "Brutus","murder"and "Caesar".A list states nothing,true or false. It only listsseveralthings;it does not tell one truthor falsehood.In the simplestsort of statement,one of the pieces must be a noun or name while the other mustbe a verb. A seriesof nouns, or a series of verbs does not constitutea statement,true or false. In a statementof the briefestsort there is a noun and a verb, and the two are not merelyside by side but in some importantway married. Socratesnow launchesout into what seems a digressionfrom the main argument.Shelving,for the present,the questionWhatis it for someoneto know that somethingis the case with something?,he raises the difficulty How can a personthinkfalsely, i.e. how can he thinksomethingto be the case, when it is not so? As it is sometimesput, "Howcan he thinkthe thing that is not?"But whatis this supposedpuzzle?The phrase"thinkthe thing thatis not" is suchqueerEnglish,if it is Englishat all, that we do not feel in ourvitalsthe tugof anyproblemabouthow a personcanthinkthe thingthat is not. (Incidentallythis queerphrase"thinkthe thingthat is not" mightbe construedequallywell to mean (a) think a negativeproposition,whether true or false, or (b) thinka false proposition,whethernegativeor affirmative.) We are, I think, saved by the English languagefrom one part of Socrates'puzzle. Forwe do not often or naturallyuse the verb "is"andthe verb"exists"interchangeably.The question"Whator whereis so andso?" and the question "Does a so and so exist?" strike us as quite different questions.To ask "Does SantaClausexist?"is not at all the same as to ask "Whoor whereor whatsortof personis SantaClaus?"Correspondingly we have no inclinationto construea negativestatementof the pattern"Theaetetus is not flying"as assertingthe non-existenceof anything.For us "is"is ordinarilya copula, and a sentencecontainingsuch a copulais not finished until the gap after the copula is filled in by some reasonablychunky predicate.But "exists"is quite different.A full-stopcan very well follow immediatelyafterthis verb. "Exists"is itself a chunkyverb. So we (unless committedto specialtheories,whichwe shallconsiderlateron) do not feel anythingof a puzzle in the question "How can a person think that somethingis so and so with such and such, when this is not the case?"- and we cannot easily construe the question "How can a person think the nonexistent?"anymorethanwe couldeasilyconstruethe counterpartquestion 25

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"How can a personthinkthe existent?"To us the latterdo not seem to be difficultquestions,sincethey do not seem to be realquestions;andto us the formerquestion"Howcan we thinkthatso andso is suchandsuch, whenit isn't?"does not seem to be a difficultquestion, becauseit seems to be an easy question.That this doublerole of the Greekverb "to be" was partof Plato'stroubleis shown, I think,by the factthatin the Sophisthe hammers out that very distinction between "is. . ." and "exists", which is handed out

to us on a tray by the English language. However this is not the whole trouble.If we were askedwhetherit is trueor false that the slithytoves did gyre and gimblein the wabe we mightreplythatit was neither,since there are no such thingsas toves or wabes, there is no suchthingas beingslithy, and there are no such thingsas gyringand gimbling.Or if asked whether Santa Clausis beardedor beardless,we mightreply that there is no such personas SantaClaus,or as SantaClausdoes not exist, it is neithertruethat he has a beardnor false that he has a beard. Even before we have any idea whethera statementis true, even, e.g. to understanda question,we mustbe aufait withits pieces. To understandan allegationabout a person, we must know of whom the allegationis made and what is being alleged of him; and to know this is to knowthat there is sucha personandthatthereis sucha crime.Even a false allegationaccuses a real personof havingcommitteda realcrime.Whatmakesthe allegation false is that the persondid not reallycommitthe crime- not that he is not there to have committedit or thatit is not thereto be committed.Now this seems to have an importantconsequence.(I give it for what it is worth. I don'tmyselfthinkit is worthmuch.)If I amto knowor believea truth,or if I am to believe, supposeor merelyentertaina falsehood,if I am even to ask or understanda question,I must,it seems, knowor apprehendits "pieces". But this knowingor apprehendingcannot in its turn be the knowingor apprehendingof yet anothertwo-piecetruthor falsehood.If I am to know or think that Theaetetusis sitting, or if I even ask whetherTheaetetusis sitting, I must, it seems, know my Theaetetus-pieceand know my sittingpiece in a sense of "know"quite unlike that in which what I know is the answerto a question. This point has been put thus. For me to know, believe or wonder somethingabout Theaetetus,say, I must know Theaetetusin the sense of the Frenchverb "connaitre"as distinctfromthe Frenchverb "savoir".Or for me to know (savoir)or even supposethatin the word"ceiling"the "e" precedesthe "i", I must know (connaitre)the letters "e" and "i". To say thatI know(connaitre)a person,a letterof the alphabet,a town, a numeral or a piece of music, I musthave met it enoughto recogniseit on meetingit 26

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again and to distinguishother thingsfrom it when I meet them. It is to be well enough acquaintedwith the thing both to recognise it and not to mistake other things for it and it for other things. Russell's well-known distinctionbetweenknowledgeby acquaintanceandknowledgeby description was an attempt,largelyunsuccessful,both to bringout the distinction between"connaitre"and"savoir"andto propup a specialsortof theoryby means of it. Now it is debatable whether in this dialogue Plato was alive to this distinctionbetween know (savoir)and know (connaitre).It can be argued that some of his troubleswere due to his failureto recogniseit; or it can be arguedthat his mode of presentingand tacklingthese troublesshows that he was becomingalive to it. At least, however, we have to notice that he develops his problem"How can we thinkthe thingthat is not?" over such instances as "Can I think that Theaetetus, whom I know, is Theodorus, whomI also know?"or "CanI thinkthat 11, a numberwhichI know, is the number 12 which I also know?" He uses the verbs EvaL

and yLyvd)-

oxewv,though not, of course, btotrcaOa, both for knowing(savoir) that somethingis the case with something,andfor knowing(connaitre)people, letters of the alphabetand numbers.His difficultynow is this. If I know (connaitre)neitherof two people or numbers,or if I know one but not the other, than I cannotmistakethem for one another- since I have no pieces to confuse, or only one. But if I do know (connaitre)both, then I can't confuseone withthe other,sinceto knowthemis, amongotherthings,to be able to distinguishthem. It is naturalto object that I can think that someone whom I see in the distance,and do not recognise,is Theodorus,thoughin fact it is Theaetetus, whom I do know and would, therefore, in more propitiouscircumstancesrecogniseand distinguishfromTheodorus.The fact that I can and normallydo recognise Theaetetus when I see him does not exclude the chance of my seeing him withoutrecognisinghim; any more than the fact that I can and normallydo go up my stairswithout trippingexcludes the possibilitythatI tripon thisor thatparticularoccasion.To do justiceto this, Socratesproducestwo models,thatof the piece of wax, a sortof psychological storyof impressionsand ideas; andthat of the aviary,in whichhe very efficientlymakes the importantthreefolddistinctionbetween (1) getting knowledge(2) possessingit and 3) applying,handlingor employingit. It is logicallypossible for a person not to recognisesomethingthat he knows (connaitre),since to know (connatitre)is to be able to recognise, and one may indeed fail to do what one is able to do. But this does not abolishthe originaldifficulty,which was not How can I fail to recognise something 27

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whichI know (connaitre)?but How can I positivelythinkwhatI see to be Theodorus,whenit is not TheodorusbutTheaetetus?How can I substitute a piece whichI do not recognisesinceit is not thereto recognisefor another piece whichI havefailedto recognise,thoughit is thereto recognise?Even if thinkingthatsomethingis the case with somethinginvolvesour knowing (connaitre)the two or more pieces, and even thoughwe can fail to recognise what we are equipped to recognise, still makinga mistakerequires somethingnot yet provided- some sort of swap or substitutionof somethingfor somethingelse. The positivenatureof this substitutionis not discoveredin thisdialogue. But an importantnegativepointis established.I cannotthinkor significantly say that 11 is 12 or that Theaetetusis Theodorus;but I can thinkthat 7 plus 5 is 11 and that yonderfigurein the distanceis Theodorus.A mistake cannotbe the misidentificationof a subject-pieceA with a predicate-piece B; nor by implication,can a truthbe the identificationof a subject-pieceA with a predicate-pieceB. Truthsare not identicalstatementsof the pattern "Theaetetusis Theaetetus",nor are falsehoodslogical absurditiesof the pattern"11is 12".None the less, a falsehoodmaybe in anotherwaya piece of misidentification,as in "Yonderdistantfigureis Theodorus",anda truth maybe a piece of correctidentification,as in "thenumbergot by adding7 to 5 is the same as the numbergot by addingI to 11".A false statementis not one in whichit is statedthatS is P, insteadof S is S. Rather,it is one in which it is statedthat S is P1insteadof S is P2. But this is not establishedhere, but only in the Sophist. Socratesand Theaetetusnow returnto their originalquestion, and the simpleequation"to knowis to thinksomethingwhichis true"is swiftly(and conclusively)disposedof. Beingconvincedis differentfrombeingtaughtor from findingout; a personcan be merelypersuadedthat somethingis the case, whichis actuallythe case. The jurymenare persuadedthatsomething happened, which did indeed happen, though only an eye-witnesscould know that it had happened.The jurymenthinkbut do not know what the eye-witnessknowsand does not merelythink. So theirthinkingfalls short of his knowing,even whenwhattheythinkis the sameas whathe knows.(It is worth noticingthat Socratesdoes not hint, even, that eye-witnessesdo not know. Commentatorswho only want Formsto be knowableought to notice that Socrates here allows the occurrenceof such things as road accidentsto be knowable.I do not see how Socratescan reconcilethiswith his view that we can't know truthsaboutwhat doesn'tstay put.) So Theaetetusnow amendshis equationto "knowledgeis true opinion tRn X6yov" - the jurymen have a true opinion; the eye-witness has got


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hold of the same truth, but with a differenthold. His hold is saa )oyou where theirs is &Xoyov.What does pxr&X6yov mean? Philosophically minded persons are apt to assumethat it means "with reasons"or "with premisses"- indeedthereis quitea vogue nowadaysfor sayingthatto know is to believe somethingwhichis trueandto havereasonsfor it. Whetherthis is good philosophyor not, at leastTheaetetusandSocratesshowno signsof havingheardof it. The phrasewas obviouslyprettyvague andequivocalin the Greek, since Socrateshimselfsuggeststhreedifferentinterpretationsof it, none of which has anythingto do with the possession or provisionof premissesor reasons.He saysthatfor a personto have a logos mightbe (1) to be able to expresswhathe thinks,i.e. to be linguisticallyarticulate;or (2) to be able to give a tale or inventoryof the partsof something;to be able to tell its parts, in the sense in which we speak of telling beads, i.e. give an analysisof a complex,or (3) to be ableto tell or distinguishTheaetetus,say, fromSocratesor Theodorus,or the sunfromthe otherheavenlybodies. So we mightpreservethese equivocationsin Englishby sayingthat Theaetetus' new view is that to know is to have a true belief, plus being able to tell something,in some sense or other of "tell"or Xty&v.We ourselvesoften use the phrase"can tell" as a synonymof "know",so we mightfeel some sympathywith the suggestionthat the differencebetween the eye-witness and the jurymenis that he can tell what occurred,where they only think what occurred.Of course, they can put into wordswhat they think, but in doingso theywouldnot, in the requiredway, be showingthatthey couldtell what had occurred. Cornfordgives a varietyof over-weightyrenderingsof k6yogand XtyEFv such as "account","description","formula","explicable"and "inexplicable"- but these are glosses, and, I think, completelymisleadingglosses. So are Jowett'srenderings"reason","rationalexplanation"and "definition". He seems to treat these as interchangeable.Yet obviously what definitionsare of are terms and not propositions,while what reasonsand explanationsare for are propositionsand not terms. It is unfairto Plato's intelligenceto construehimas sayingeitherthatpropositionsare definable or that there can be reasons, explanationsor premissesfor terms. I am going to renderthe noun logos and the verb X6yELv by such expressionsas "tell", and "statement".I dare say this renderingis not weightyenough. I shall now read Socrates'"Dream"with what I think are the required alterationsin Cornford'stranslation. I am not going to debate whether any Greek thinker, Antisthenes for example, ever taught this doctrine;whether Plato invented it; or if so, 29

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whetherhe had at one time felt sympatheticwithit. Whatmattersis (1) that Platothoughtit worthdiscussing,(2) thatit is worthdiscussingand (3) that the doctrinehas quite recentlybeen re-invented.In whole or in part, and withoutor withqualificationsin principle,it is to be foundin Meinong;in an early article by Moore; in Frege, Russell and Wittgenstein.It has been labelled "LogicalAtomism". It is not meantto be a sortof physicaltheory,e.g. anhypothesisaboutthe compositionof matter.It is a logician'stheory, namelya theoryaboutthe compositionof truthsand falsehoods. As we have seen, it seems naturalto say that a truththatwe know(or do not know)or a falsehoodthatwe believe (or mightbelieve) has an intemal complexity.We can distinguishin it at least two pieces either of which it mightshare,withoutthe other, withsome othertruthsandfalsehoods.The truthor falsehood can be told or stated in a completedsentence; but its pieces cannotthemselvesin theirturnbe told or stated, but only, it seems, named. In the statement"Theaetetussits" there is a subject-pieceand a predicate-piece;but in "Theaetetus"by itself or in "sits"by itself, there is neither subject nor predicate.In contrastwith the internalcomplexityof statements, the pieces of statementsare simple, unanalysablelinguistic atoms or names. It follows that it makesno sense to speak of these pieces being believed, disbelieved, supposed, entertained, known (savoir) or unknown;or, of course,of theirbeingtrueor false. Theycannotbe answers to questions,and they cannotthemselvesbe asserted,queried,or, what is very important,negated. So a sentence, being built up out of two or morewords, signifiesapparently some sort of complex or molecule of the atomic objects named by these words.Wherethere is a statement,trueor false, therewe havesome sortof combinationof simplenameablescorrespondingto the combination of wordsthat is the sentence. These simple, nameableobjects cannot, as I said, be what anyone believes, disbelieves, knows (savoir) or does not know; or what he forgets, discovers,is taught,or teaches. But he can meetthem and so he can know them (connatitre).In Russell's lingo, we can be acquaintedwith these of simple nameables. In Plato's, we can perceive them (have ataOvjoL; them). They are dkoya in the simplesense thatwhatis conveyedby a single namecannotbe conveyedby sucha pluralityof wordsas a sentence.It can be mentioned,but it cannotbe stated, told, asserted,negatedor queried.It mightbe said that some single wordsare definable,and thereforereplaceable by their many-wordeddefiningphrases.The word "uncle"for example is equivalentto "brotherof motheror father",andshouldthereforebe 30

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treated not as an atomic name but as an analysablemolecularname. The real atomic names would then be those reached at the termini of such analyses;and wouldnot be analysable.Plato seems to be aliveto this point both in the Cratylus(421d9-2a3)and here; Russell makes a lot of it. Thiscontrastbetweennamesandsentencesis shownup by Plato against the model of lettersandsyllables.(Russell, I thinkindependently,uses the same model in chapter* ** of Inquiryinto Meaningand Truth.)2"CAT" can be dividedup into C andA andT; these are the three lettersof whichit is composed.It is just a certaincombinationof them. But to askwhat"C"is in its turncomposedof is to ask for nothing.The lettersof the alphabetare the ultimateatoms of spelling. They can be exhibitedbut they cannot be spelled. Somewhat as the syllable CAT can be pronouncedthough the letters C and T, at least, cannot, so a sentencecan be asserted,or denied, but its constituentwordscannotbe eitherassertedor denied. Thismodelof syllablesand their constituentletters seems to have been of great importance for Plato;it is also employed,for differentthoughconnectedpurposes, not only in the Sophist,the Politicusand the Philebus,but also in the Cratylus- a fact whichstronglysuggests,as do some other considerations, that the Cratylusbelongs to the same period of Plato's development.The Cratylusis, of course, a discussionpartlyphilologicalandpartlyphilosophical of the natureof names. Socratesnow pressesthismodel a bit further.Whenlettersare combined into a syllable, are we to say that the resultantsyllablejust is the letters composingit, or thatit is a new, emergentunit- a unitof a higherorder?By analogythe correspondingquestionis this;arewe to saythata sentencejust is the wordsinto whichit canbe dissected,or thatit is a newlinguisticunit, a unit of a higherorder?Is the true or false statement"Theaetetussits"just the couple of words "Theaetetus"and "sits", or has it a unity of its own based on but not reducibleto its two constituentwords? The troubleis thatwhicheverwe say, the originalview breaksdown, the view namelythatwhatis knownor believedor told is whatis conveyedby a sentence and not what is severallyconveyedby its severalwords. For if a syllablejust is its letters, then to know the syllablewould just be to know each of its letters,whereasthe view wasthatthe letters, not beingspellable, couldnot be whatis known(savoir)or thoughtor told. On the otherhand,if a syllable is a new molecule, emergent in some way out of the letters composingit, then it, at its higherlevel, is no more analysablethanthey on 2 No Chapternumbergiven by Ryle. "CAT" is an example Russell uses in Chap. 24 (pp.

335-6; p. 317 in the Penguin edition).


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their lower level. By analogy, if a sentence is a simple, i.e. undissectible unit, then the same reasonswhichdisqualifysinglewordsfromexpressing what can be known (savoir) or thought or told also disqualifysentences from doing so either. Thispointneedssome amplification.Firstin termsof the model.The fact thatCAT is a complexof "C""A" and"T"should,accordingto the theory, make CAT knowable because dissectible, where C, A and T should, accordingto the theory, be unknowablebecauseundissectible.Now "dissectible" might mean two things. (1) CAT might be supposedto be dissectible into C, A and T, simplybecauseCAT is nothingbut C, A and T, nothingover and above or alongsideof these components.But then if they are not knowable,there is nothingleft in it to be knowable.And, as every school-childknowswell, the lettersof the alphabetare known(connaitre) earlierand more easily than writtenor printedsyllables.(2) But probably we shall want to say that CAT is a different word from ACT, though composedof the sameletters. It is a speciallyorderedassemblageof them, and is thereforea higher-orderunit of some sort, a pattern,and not just a congeries.If so, thoughit containsthe letters, it is not dissectiblewithout remainderinto them; it is an atomicor unitaryfabricof some sort, i.e. a simpleentity, thoughone of a higherorderthanthe simplesit contains.But if it is a simple entity of any sort, it will be unknowable(savoir), for the reasongiven whichmade all simplesunknowable. Apply this now to words and sentences. A word, we said, could not conveya truthor falsehood.It namessomethingbut it does not tell or state anything.It does not thereforestate somethingknown or unknown,believed or doubted, learnedor forgotten,but merelynamessomethingmet or sensed. A sentenceis a complexof at least two wordsand usuallymany morethantwo. Now eithera sentencedoes nothingbut conveythe congeries of thingsconveyedby its severalwords,in whichcase it cannotexpress knowledge (savoir) or belief, since they cannot do this. Or it conveys somethingunitary,resultantin some wayuponwhatthey conveyseverally. But if so, this unitarysomethingmustbe simpleand undissectibleand the sentence will stand to this simple somethingjust as a name standsto the simple that it names. And then the sentencewill no more expressa falsehood or a truth than an ordinaryname does. It will name a structured complexor logicalmolecule, but it won't answera question.We saw that school-childrenin factget to know(connaitre)theirlettersearlierandmore easilythantheyget to knowwrittensyllables;somewhatso we haveto know whatwordsmean before we can knowwhatthe sentencesmeanwhichare composedout of these words. 32

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It is clear that somethinghas gone wrong. For we know quite well that sentencesdo conveytruthsandfalsehoodsandso canexpressknowledgeor belief, in a way in which, as we also knowquitewell, separatewordsdo not ordinarilyexpressknowledgeor belief (at leastin uninflectedlanguages).It looks therefore as if the letters must stand to the syllable they spell in a differentrelation from that in which the words stand to the sentence composedout of them. To bringthispointout, I wantto expounda bit of fairlyrecentphilosophical history.At aboutthe turnof the 19thcentury,Meinongin Austria,Fregein Germany,and Moore and Russellin this countrydid hold a view aboutthe relation between the meaningsof words and the meaningsof sentences whichactuallywas on all fourswith Plato'smodel of the lettersin a word. Accordingto this view the sentence, say, "Brutuskilled Caesar"contains three names, a name for Brutus, a name for Caesar, and a name of a murderousact. But the sentence is not just a catalogue of three names, since "Killed BrutusCaesar"is not a sentence at all, and "Caesarkilled Brutus"meanssomethingdifferentfrom"BrutuskilledCaesar",thoughits constituentnames are the same. The view was held, therefore, that the sentence "Brutuskilled Caesar"is itself as a whole the nameof a new sort of object, an object of a higher order, a structuredcomplex, which incorporates,somehow, Brutus, Caesarand murder,but incorporatesthem in a special way - a differentway from the way in which "Caesarkilled Brutus"incorporatesthem. So a sentenceis a nameof a new sort of unitary object- if you like, the killing-of-Caesar-by-Brutus. The sentence "Caesar killed Brutus"would be the name of a differentunitaryobject; namely the-killing-of-Brutus-by-Caesar. An interesting difference remains of course between these two new higher-ordermolecules of meaning, the-killing-of-Caesar-by-Brutus, and the-killing-of-Brutus-by-Caesar, namely that the one is an historicalfact; the other is an historicalnon-fact.It was ratherunplausiblysuggestedthat Trueness and Falseness were just special qualities of such higher order complexes. It was hoped for a short time that this unplausibilitydid not matter. (Of course in fact it matters everything.)On this view, then, sentences are construedas names, and the only differencebetween them and expressionslike "Caesar"and "Brutus"is that we have to give a very elaborateandsophisticatedaccountof the queerstructuredcomplexesthat they are supposedto be names of. These supposedmoleculesof meaning receivedvarioustitles, suchas "objectives","propositions-in-themselves", "complexconcepts"and with certainrestrictions,"facts". 33

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Now if this view were true, certainconsequenceswould follow at once. We saw that since names are not statements,they cannot do what statementscan, namelyexpressknowledge(savoir)or belief;andthey cannotbe true or false. But now we are told that statementsare themselveshigherordernames, namesof unitaryobjectsof a queersort. But if so construed, then they in theirturncannotexpressknowledge(savoir)or belief. Uttering them would just be nominatingor mentioningthese queer complex objectsandso couldnot be trueor false telling- andthereforenot tellingat all. In other words, the view that sentences are eithermere congeries of ingredientnamesor themselvescompositenamesof higher-ordercomplex objectsresultsin justthe troublethatSocratessketchesin his criticismof his Dream. WhatI know (savoir)or thinkmustbe somethingstateable;and a statementcannotthen be construedin reverseas the nameof somethingof which I could at most have knowledge(connaitre).What a sentence says cannot be reducedeitherto what its wordsname or to somethingextra of whichit itselfis a name.Whatis saidor told in a sentenceis not justanother subjectof predication.Sayingor tellingis one thing, namingis another. Let me expandthis point. At the end of the 19thcenturyphilsophersof manydifferingschoolsweretryingto breakawayfromwhathasbeen called "psychologism",the theorythatwhatwe knowandwhatwe thinkconsists entirelyin our own ideasandimpressions.The revoltagainstpsychologism tendedto take this shape. Ourideas andimpressions,ratherlike the words and gestures that we use to express them, have meanings- and these meaningsare not themselvesfurtherideas or impressions,any more than they are furtherwordsor gestures. It is becauseour ideas have meanings thatwe can get on termswith the real world;and it is becausethe wordsin whichwe expressour ideascarrythese meaningsthatwe can conveytruths andfalsehoodsaboutthe worldto one another.The worldof objectivefact is not composed just of our private ideas, impressionsand words; it is composedof what these mean. The worldthat we know and that we have trueor false beliefsabout,is constitutedout of meanings,i.e. out of whatis or could be conveyed by our words and so of what are or could be the objective burthensof our impressions,ideas and judgements. Philosophers, at this stage, spoke withoutqualms,indeedwitha feelingof release and recoveredpower, of "meanings"as the ultimatestuff of things. The idiom jars badly upon us now, but to Bradleyand Brentano,to Husserl, Meinong,the earlyMooreandRussellit ranglike andin some waysworked like an "OpenSesame".(Platodid not enjoy the advantagesor sufferfrom


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the disadvantagesof havingat his disposala Greeksubstantivecorresponding to our substantive"Meaning".) At this stage it seemed obviousthatthe meaningsof ourcomplexexpressions, like phrases,sentencesandparagraphsmustbe compositeor molecular structures, the basic elements, parts or atoms of which were the meaningsof our individualwords- or, if some of these wordswere definable, of the meaningsof the words in which, in the end, our definitions would terminate. It soon became clear that the meaningof one complex expression,say the sentence"CaesarmurderedBrutus"was differentfrom anothercomplexof those same atoms, say "BrutusmurderedCaesar";and both were different from the mere list "Murder"(comma), "Caesar" (comma), "Brutus"(comma). A phraseor sentence has a specialform of unitywhich a mere list lacks;it is an orderedor patternedcomplexand its integralmeaningis thereforesomethingmorethanthe sumof the meanings of its individualwords. It is these atomicmeaningsspeciallyrelatedto one another. It is not just a batch of concepts, but itself an organic"complex concept" or an "objectiveproposition"or "objective".The meaningsof individualwords, it seemed naturalto say, were the things, objects or entities that they named. The meanings of phrases and sentence were, correspondingly,thoughtof as the higherorder,complexthings,objectsor entitiesthat they in theirturnnamed.As wordsare combinedin sentences, so the objects they name are linked together in the "objectives"or "objective propositions"or "complex concepts"or "facts"that our phrases and sentences are the namesof. Meinongstatesthe pointso explicitlythatit is a wonderthatno suspicions were arousedin him. Accordingto him, words,phrasesandsentenceshave meanings.The meaningsof atomicexpressions,namelywords,are objects. The meaningsof complexexpressions,like phrasesandsentences, are also objects, though objects of a higher order, what he calls "objectives". Apprehendingwhata word, phraseor sentencemeansis just graspingit or havingits molecularmeaningin mind(erfassen).I can graspwhatis meant by "a golden mountain"or "the murderof Brutusby Caesar",in the same general sort of way as I can grasp what is meant by "Caesar" or by "murder".But to graspwhatis meantby "themurderof Brutusby Caesar" is not yet to knowor believe thatCaesarmurderedBrutus- whichin fact he didn't. To know (savoir)or believe that BrutusmurderedCaesarI should have both to graspthis higherorderobject andalso to discoveror convince myselfthat it had the queerextrapropertyof beingFactual.And to say this is to say what Socratessaid; namelythat knowingor believing is not just


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being aware of or grasping an atomic or a molecular object. Nameables aren't truths or falsehoods or vice versa. With this sort of view of the import of propositions there really does arise Socrates' early question How can I believe the thing that is not? For, on this view, a false statement means something and so denotes a perfectly genuine molecular object and one which I grasp or have in mind when I make or understand the statement. It really is there for me to grasp. But if so, then what I grasp is a real object (though a molecular one). How then am I wrong or mistaken if I do not merely grasp it but accept or believe it? Conversely, if I am wrong or mistaken in believing it, it seems to follow that there must not exist the objective to be grasped. But how could I believe what isn't there even for me to have in mind? I propose now to illustrate the forms in which this view was expressed by G.E. Moore in his article on Judgement (Mind, 1899), though he has long since abandoned it, by Russell in his Lectures on Logical Atomism and by Wittgenstein in the Tractatus. For completeness it would have been a good thing to cite passages from Meinong and Frege who influenced both Russell and Wittgenstein. But I shall spare you these. My cullings are fairly sporadic and arbitrary; and I have altered the translation of some of my extracts from Wittgenstein. (1) In his article in Mind 1899, Moore began by chiding Bradley for not pressing far enough his true doctrine that an idea as a mental state is one thing, its meaning is quite another, non-psychological thing. He says "I shall in future use the term 'concept' for what Mr. Bradley calls a 'universal meaning'." Later he says When, therefore, I say "This rose is red" . . . what I am asserting is a specific connection of certain concepts forming the total concept "rose" with the concepts "this" and "now" and "red"; and the judgement is true if such a connection is existent .


. If the judgement is false, that is .


. because such a conjunction of

concepts is not to be found among existents. With this, then, we have approached the nature of a proposition or judgement. A proposition is composed not of words, nor yet of thoughts, but of concepts . . It is of such entities as these that a proposition is composed. In it certain concepts stand in specific relations with one another. And our question now is, wherein a proposition differs from a concept, that it may be either true or false.

After some argumentation he gives this answer. ... a propositionis nothing other than a complex concept. The difference between a concept and a proposition in virtue of which the latter alone can be called true or false, would seem to be merely in the simplicity of the former. A proposition is a synthesis of concepts . .. A proposition is constituted by any number of concepts, together with a specific relation between them; and accordingto the nature of this


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relation the proposition may be either true or false. What kind of relation makes a proposition true, what false, cannot be further defined, but must be immediately recognized.

Shortlyafterhe says "Existenceis itself a concept;it is somethingwhichwe mean . . ." He concludes this stretch with "All that exists is thus composed of concepts necessarilyrelated to one anotherin specific manners, and likewise to the conceptof existence."Notice thathe saysthatthe words"this", "now"and "exists"signifyconcepts (cf. Theaet.202A). Then he says ....[it] appears to me perfectly obvious, that the concept can consistently be describedneither as an existent, nor as a part of an existent, since it is presupposed in the conception of an existent

and Truth . . . would certainly seem to involve at least two terms, and some relation between them; falsehood involves the same; and hence it would seem to remain, that we regardtruth and falsehood as properties of certain concepts, together with their relations - a whole to which we give the name of proposition. It seems necessary, then, to regard the world as formed of concepts. These are the only objects of knowledge . .. A thing becomes intelligible first when it is analysed into its constituent concepts.

Laterhe says ... a proposition is here to be understood ... as the combination of concepts which is affirmed. For we are familiar with the idea of affirmingor "positing" an existent, of knowing objects as well as propositions; and the difficultyhitherto has been to discover wherein the two processes were akin.

At the end of the articleMoore says ... and thus, in the end the concept turnsout to be the only substantiveor subject, and no one concept either more or less an adjective than any other . . . The nature of the judgement is more ultimate than either [our mind or the world], and less ultimateonly than the natureof its constituents- the natureof the concept or logical idea.

Two points before leaving Moore, (1) his ToqX6Laor ultimate constitu-

ents are simple Platonized concepts, not percepts; i.e. the meaning of ordinarywords, not the immediatedata of sight or hearing.Nonetheless, being simple, they cannot be true or false, affirmedor denied. They are what everythingelse that can be known or thought, affirmedor denied, consistsof. The words"this","now"and "exists"signifyconceptsas much as any other words.


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(2) His entire distinctionbetween propositions,which are true or false, and concepts, which, being simple, are neither tums on his idea that the conceptssynthesisedin a propositionare relatedtogetherby some special relation. We naturallyask whether this relation is just another simple concept.It is at once clearto us, andI thinkto Moorelateron, thatit cannot be this, else an obviousinfiniteprocesswill begin. Yet if it is not this, then there is some essential feature of truthsand falsehoodswhich cannot be describedin terms of constituentconcepts. What metaphoricallymay be called the "syntax"of propositionscannotbe reducedto an extra item of their "vocabularies".This is to say that a proposition,a knowablefactor a crediblefiction, is not just a congeriesof conceptsor a complexconcept. It is to say, in consequence, that truth and falsehood are not just special propertiesof complexconcepts. Russell was alive to this difficultyfrom the time of the Principlesof Mathematics(1903) onwards. He formulatesthe main tenets of Logical Atomismin variousplacesin the Principlesof Mathematics,but I shalldraw my illustrationsfromhis Lectureson LogicalAtomism(givenin 1918,publ. in Monist1918-19).It will be noticed firstthat Russell is no longerchiefly concerned, as Moore had been, to find a way out of "psychologism"by postulatinga Platonizedconceptto be the meaningof every psychological idea andjudgement;he talksratherof "objects"as the meaningsof words and of facts as the meaningsof "sentences".He is more interestedin what words, phrases and sentences are the names of, than what ideas and judgements are the awarenessesof. It is worth recallingthat in 1904-5 Russell had only with great difficultyweaned himself from the view that descriptive phrases like "the present King of France", since they are obviouslysignificant,mustthereforebe namesof genuineif elusiveentities. For a long time afterwardshe still hankered to construe all indicative sentences, true or false, as names of objective facts or else of objective fictions. Notice how Russellis nowexercisedaboutthe differencesbetweennames and sentences, or between things and truths or falsehoods, and so, by implication,between connaftreandsavoir. He says ". . . I call my doctrine logical atomism because the atoms that I

wish to arriveat as the sort of last residuein analysisare logicalatomsand not physicalatoms.Someof themwillbe whatI callparticulars- suchthings as little patchesof colouror sounds,momentarythings- andsome of them or atoms of will be predicatesor relationsand so on." Russell'ssotoXELa meaninginclude both sensa and concepts;both what are reportedin Socrates'Dream and what are providedby Moore and by Plato'sRepublic. 38

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Russell now introduces the notion of "fact", which partly replaces Moore's "proposition" and "complex concept". When I speak of a fact ... I mean the kind of thingthat makes a propositiontrue or false ... when I speak of a fact, I do not mean a particularexisting thing, such as Socratesor the rainor the sun. Socrateshimself does not renderany statement true or false . . . "Socratesis dead" and "Socratesis alive" are both of them statements about Socrates. One is true and the other is false. What I call a fact is the sort of thing that is expressed by a whole sentence, not by a single name, like "Socrates" . the outer world- the world, so to speak, whichknowledgeis aimingat knowing - is not completely described by a lot of "particulars",but ... you must also take account of these thingsthat I call facts, which are the sort of thingsthat you express by a sentence, and ... these, just as muchas particularchairsand tables, are partof the real world.... a proposition [is] the thing which is going to be our typical vehicle of (?)3the duality of truth and falsehood. A proposition, one may say, is a sentence in the indicative ... A propositionis just a symbol. It is a complex symbol in the sense that it has parts which are also symbols: a symbol may be defined as complex when it has partsthat are symbols. In a sentence containingseveral words, the several wordsare each symbols, and the sentence composingthem is therefore a complex symbol in that sense.

Russell now draws attention to important differences between statements and names, differences which had largely eluded Moore, but were coming to the fore in Russell's Principles of Mathematics and came still more to the fore under pressure from Frege and especially Wittgenstein. As to what one means by "meaning",I will give a few illustrations.For instance, the word "Socrates", you will say means a certain man; the word "mortal"means a certain quality; and the sentence "Socrates is mortal" means a certain fact. But these three sorts of meaning are entirely distinct, and you will get into the most hopeless contradictionsif you think the word "meaning"has the same meaning in each of the three cases. It is very important not to suppose that there is just one thing which is meant by "meaning", and that therefore there is just one sort of relation of the symbol to what is symbolized. A name would be a proper symbol to use for a person: a sentence (or a proposition)is the propersymbol for a fact.... It is very important to realise such things, for instance, as that propositions are not namesforfats . . . I had never realisedit until it was pointed out to me by a former pupil of mine, Wittgenstein .. . the relation of proposition to fact is a totally different one from the relation of name to thing named.... You cannot properly name a fact. The only thing you can do is to assertit, or deny it, or . . . question it, but all those are thingsinvolvingthe whole proposition. You can never put the sort of thing that makes a proposition to be true or false in the position of a logical subject. You can only have it there as something to be asserted or denied or something of that sort, but not something to be named.


Ryle's query. The word printed in Russell's text is 'on'.


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We could add the corollarythat it is not the sort of thing that we can connattre but only the sort of thing that we can savoir. The complexity of a fact is evidenced, to begin with, by the circumstancethat the proposition which asserts a fact consists of several words, each of which may occur in other contexts. . . . It is quite clear that in that sense there is a possibility of cutting up a fact into component parts, of which one component may be altered without altering the others, and one component may occur in certain other facts though not in all other facts.. . . there is a sense in which facts can be analyzed.. All analysisis only possible in regardto what is complex, and it always depends, in the last analysis, upon direct acquaintancewith the objects which are the meanings of certain simple symbols.... Those objects which it is impossible to symbolise otherwise than by simple symbols may be called "simple", while those which can be symbolised by a combination of symbols may be called "complex".... the word "red" is a simple symbol and the phrase "this is red" a complex symbol.

In Wittgenstein's Tractatuswe find, I suggest, the eggshell of the old LogicalAtomismof Frege, Meinong,MooreandRussellbeingdeliberately broken from inside.4We start with much the old notion of objects being linkedtogetherinto complexesof objects or facts, with the suggestionthat what is conveyed by a sentence just is what are denoted by its aTouXoLa, the individualwords,alongwithwhateverit is thatrelatesor organisesthem together in the complex. But before long we find that the significanceor nonsensicalnessof a sentence is somethingunlike and irreducibleto the denotatingnessof a name or of a congeriesor organiccomplexof names. A sentencemay be meaninglessthoughall the wordsin it are significant.The significanceof a significantsentencehas a logicalsyntax- and this involves that it is not somethingwhichconsistsof or even containsparts. In the way in which the written letters 'C', 'A' and 'T' are parts of the written word CAT, the respectsin which one truthor falsehood can be partlylike and partlyunlikeanothertruthor falsehoodarenot partsof it but featuresof it. Its complexityis not any sort of compositeness,and the significanceof a sentence is not a case of an expressionnamingor denoting anything.The workof a sentenceis not a piece of nominating,not even a piece of complex nominatingor of nominatinga complex. The world is the totality of facts, not of things. ... the totality of facts determinesboth what is the case and what is not the case. What is the case, the fact, is the existence of atomic facts. 4 This metaphor reappears, transferredfrom the Tractatusto the Timaeus, in G.E.L. Owen, 'Notes on Ryle's Plato', in Oscar P. Wood & George Pitcher edd., Ryle: A collection of critical essays (London 1971), 364 = G.E.L. Owen, Logic, Science and Dialectic: CollectedPapers in Greek Philosophy (London 1986), 99.


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An atomic fact is a combination of objects (entities, things). It is essential to a thing that it can be a constituent part of an atomic fact. If all objects are given, then thereby are all possible atomic facts also given. Every thing is, as it were, in a space of possible atomic facts. I can think of this space as empty, but not of the thing without the space. [An] object is simple. Every statement about complexes can be analysed into a statement about their constituent parts and into those propositions which completely describe those complexes. Objects form the substance of the world. Therefore they cannot be composite. In the atomic fact, objects hang in one another, like the links of a chain. In the atomic fact the objects are combined in a definite way. The way in which objects hang together in the atomic fact is the structureof the atomic fact. A propositionalsign consists in the fact that its elements, the words, are related to one another in it in a definite way. A proposition is not a jumble of words (just as a musicaltheme is not a jumble of notes). A proposition is articulated. Only facts can express a sense, a list or set of names cannot. States of affairs can be described but not named. Names resemble points, propositions resemble arrows;they have sense. In propositions thoughts can be so expressed that to the objects of the thoughts correspond the elements of the propositional sign. These elements I call "simple signs" and the proposition "completely analysed". The simple signs employed in propositions are called names. A name means an object. The object is its meaning. To the configurationof the simple signs in the propositionalsign correspondsthe configurationof the objects in the state of affairs. In a proposition a name deputises for an object. Objects I can only name. Signs deputise for them. I can speak only about them; I cannot assert them. A name cannot be analysed further by any definition. It is a primitive sign. ... Names cannot be taken to pieces by definition (nor any sign which alone and independently has a meaning). The simplest proposition, an elementary proposition, asserts the existence of an atomic fact. An elementary proposition consists of names. It is a connexion, a concatenation of names. It is obvious that in the analysis of propositions we must come to elementary propositions, which consist of names in immediate combination. The question arises how the propositional connexion comes to be. At first sight it appearsas if there were also a differentway in which one proposition might occur in another. Especially in certain propositional forms of psychology,


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like "A thinksthat p is the case" or "A thinksp" etc. Here it appearssuperficiallyas if the proposition p stood to an object A in a kind of relation. (And in modem epistemology (Russell, Moore, etc.) those propositionshave been conceived in this way.) The correct explanationof the form of the proposition "A judges p" must show that it is impossible to judge a nonsense. (Russell's theory does not satisfy this condition.)

In passageswhichI will not cite Wittgensteinmakesit clearthatthe logical formor formalstructureof whata significantsentencesayspermeateswhat is signifiedby its constituentphrasesandwords.Thougha particularphrase or word may occur in a rangeof otherwisedifferentsentences, the role it playsin one of them is the same as the role it playsin the others. It will not significantlyfit into any sentences save those the logical syntaxof which reservesjust the rightniche for it. Its sense is not a partbut a featureof the total sense of all the true or false sentences into which it can go. The significanceof a sentence, i.e. whatit assertsor denies, is not an amalgam. There is variety,but no compositenessin a truthor a falsehood.One truth or falsehood may be partlylike and partlyunlike another,but the partial likeness is not the incorporationof a commonpart. The different'terms' distinguishablein a truth or falsehood are not atoms but propositional functions- they are like the distinguishablesoundsin a spokensyllable,not like the separable letters of a printed syllable. But this analogy is not

I now urgethatit is prettyclearthatthe issuethatSocrateswas discussingis the same as or at least overlapswith the issue thatwas beingdiscussedfifty to thirtyyears ago by, amongothers, Meinong,Moore, Russell and Wittgenstein;andthatSocratesat least adumbratedcertainideasverymuchlike those whichwere renderednecessaryby some of the inherentdefectsof the theories of objects or concepts originallyput forwardby Meinong and Moore. But, if you prefer, I will moderatemy claim. I simplyask you to X6you'stretchat the suggestsome otherway of construingthe whole 'R.war end of the Theaetetus.If Socrateswas firstexpoundingand then criticising some quitedifferentissue, then I askyou to tell me whatthis differentissue was. In particularI ask you to considerthe pregnantpassagein the Sophistin which Plato says (262D) "A sentence (X6yog)does not merely name but TL)by weaving together verbs with gets you somewhere (XrQaLvEL names [or nouns?]. Hence we say that it says (XVyL) [or tells or states]


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somethingand does not merely name something, and in fact it is to this woven fabric (X yatz CL) that we give the name "sentence"(X6yo;)." My own view is, then, that Plato was in this dialogue discussinga real difficultyin the theoryof whatMillcalled"the importof propositions".He was tryingto solve certainproblems,whichhave revivedin our own time, aboutthe meaningsor significationsof atomicexpressionslike wordsandof composite expressionslike sentences. At least in the Sophisthe saw that whatit is for a sentenceto sayor tell somethingcannotbe explicatedmerely in terms of what it is for expressionsto be the names of things. I thinkhe saw, too, that even some linguisticatoms, namelyverbs,do not functionas the namesof things, as nouns, or some nouns, are the namesof things.He never, I think, describes a verb as "naming"or "being the name of' something.It is remarkablethathe realisedall this despitea speciallinguistic difficultythat he was under.The Greek languagewas very unhelpfulto studentsof linguisticproblems,whethergrammaticalor logical.Apartfrom the phrase"partsof speech"they had only the word6vo,a to renderwhat we renderby "name",by "noun"andby "word".It is easy for us to saye.g. that verbs are words, but are neither nouns nor names; and it is verbally easy for us to debate the question whether even all nouns are names. A child would understandus if we said that "Rest and be Thankful"is not a word, but four words; and yet that it is not four names but one name. It would be very hardto put suchpointsin Greek. The differencesbetween a X6yo; and an 6voita which go with the differencesbetween savoir and connaitre, were discerned by Plato through the screen of the Greek language. I shouldlike brieflyto drawattentionto anotherfeatureof Plato'smodel of the letters and the syllable. If by a syllablewe mean a voiced syllable (namelywhatyou heartwo of in "zebra"andfive of in "zoological"),then it is false to say that syllables are composed of letters of the alphabet. Letters are partsof the writtencomplexwhich correspondsto the spoken syllable. The monosyllabicnoise "Zed" does not occur in the noise "Zebra",norveryobviouslydoes the trisyllabicnoise "Double-U"occurin the monosyllabicnoise "Wit".The namesof lettersof the alphabet,like "Zed" and "Double-U"are the namesof writtenmarks,like the two zigzagmarks at the end of the alphabet, and these writtenmarksare, indeed, partsof writtensyllablesand writtenwords, but patentlynot of spokensyllablesor words. We cannotvoice zigzags.But nor are whatwrittenlettersstandfor parts of spoken syllables. Spoken monosyllablesdo not have parts as polysyllablesdo have syllablesfor theirparts.Lettersstandfor respectsin whichone spoken syllable, say "zeal"is like another,say, "prize",though 43

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these spoken syllables are in other respects unlike. They stand for independentlyvariablefeaturesof syllables,ways in which rangesof syllables, differing from one another in all sorts of ways, are still similar to one anotherin one way;the writtenletter "Z" standsfor whatis constantin the spoken words "zeal", "zoological", "prize", "crazy"and "fizz", though nothing else is common to them all. Now this applicationof the alphabet model to the theoryof the importof propositionswould have been productive of excellentresults.It wouldillustratebeautifullythe advance,inaugurated, I think, by Frege, upon the traditionaltreatment of the terms of propositions.So it would be nice to think that Plato had this point up his sleeve. It is likelyto be askedWhatthen of the Theoryof Forms?Is not this after all is said and done, to be read between the lines of this arid grammarchopping?SurelyPlato's interestin that Theory must have dominatedhis interest in these cruces of logical grammar?Well, I find no internal evidence that Plato was in this dialogue botheringhis head at all about that somewhatover-ripeTheory. Of course, he takes it that sentences have in them, besides (sometimes)propernames, suchwordsas verbs, adjectives, commonnouns and the rest. Who wouldn't?And of course two or twenty statementsabout two or twentyindividualsmay all have one and the same predicate-noun,-adjectiveor -verb. So if these grammaticaltruismsare all that the doctrineof Formsmaintained,then it is acceptedhere too. But if the doctrineof Formswasthe view thatthese verbs,adjectivesandcommon nouns are themselves the names of simple, if lofty, nameables, then Socrates' criticismof logical Atomism, is, per accidens, a criticism of the Doctrine of Forms, whetherPlato realisedthis or not. At least his readers could hardly have failed to make this application.If a Form is a simple object or a logical subjectof predication,no matterhow sublime, then its verbalexpressionwill be a nameandnot a sentence;andif so, then it will be not false but nonsense to speak of anyone knowing it (savoir) or not knowingit, of his findingit out, being taughtit, teachingit, concludingit, forgettingit, believing, supposing,guessingor entertainingit, assertingit, negatingit or questioningit. Oddly enough, Cornfordseems both to approveof Socrates'objections to LogicalAtomism, and to approveof the theoryof Formsas he construes this. Yet he, like Ross, does construethe theoryof Formsas the theorythat commonnouns, adjectivesand verbsare the namesof simplehigher-order objects. A Form, on this interpretation,is something nameable but not stateable. Whetherthis is the theory of Formswhich Plato had held, I do not wish to discuss.All I am sayingis that at least one of his commentators 44

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ascribesto him a special form of logical Atomism and, nonetheless, applaudshis repudiationof LogicalAtomism - and even goes on to say that this specialformof logicalAtomismis the veiled conclusionof the dialogue which winds up with a criticismof Logical Atomism in its most general form. I suggestthat a betterline for Cornfordwouldhave been this. He should have accepted the argumentof the Theaetetusthat what I know (savoir), like what I believe, find out, deduce, prove, remember,negate, forget, or tell is somethingstateableand not nameable;and thereforethat Formsare not the sortsof thingsthatwe can know (savoir)- or be ignorantof; whatwe canbelieve or tell. But he shouldhave argued,withRussell,thatknowledge (savoir) restson knowledge (connailtre),and that among the things I can know (connaitre) are Forms. So Forms would be at least a part of the alphabetof knowledge(savoir), thoughnever its syllables.He might have had to admit some other letters into this alphabetas well, such things as sounds,smells, people, dogs andrivers.If Cornfordhad allowedhimselfto say that Socrates'Dream was not a bad dreambut a good dream, then by merelypressingthe distinctionbetweenconnailtreandsavoir,he couldhave kept the Forms as some of the objects that we know (connaitre), while doingjustice to Socrates'argumentwhichmakesit quite clearthat it is not false but nonsense to speak of our havingor lacking?'nLGTfif of what we do or mightknow (connaitre).He couldhave saidthatwe mustconnailtreor EL EVat Forms if we are to EhtLXJTaaOaLanything at all or even believe or supposeanythingat all, andthis wouldhave been veryconsoling,as well as havingthe backingof Russell. I do not myselfthinkthat muchlong term good would have come of it. In the sense, the perfectlyproper sense, in whichwe do become slightlyor well acquaintedwith people, towns, tunes and letters of the alphabet, it rings falsely to say that we do or do not become slightlyor well acquaintedwith similarity,circularity,quintuplicity or murder.In other words, the sense in whichwe must know that there is such a crime as murderor such a numberas eleven if we are to suppose, trulyor falsely,thatCaesarmurderedBrutusor even to askwhether7 plus5 equals eleven, is not a sense in which "knowthat there is such a thing as" could be renderedby "connaitre".It is only to make the same point from the other end to say that at least such predicate-expressionsas verbs and adjectivesquite patentlyflourishsentential-strings.They are, by theirvery grammar,cast for roles in statements,questions,commands,etc., and not for roles in directoriesor inventories.Syntaxfrom the start controlstheir conductand their demeanour.Connected,though differentthings, would have to be noticedalso aboutconjunctions,particles,adverbs,andpreposi45

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tions and especiallyabout the word "not". And then the temptationwill largelyhave dissipatedto construeeven commonnounsas namesof widely, if thinlyspreadentities. My conclusionis this. Socrates'Dreamwas a first-rateprecognitivedream. Philosophershave, in this half-century,held views about the import of propositions,whichhave talliednot merelyin generalpattern,but often in actual phraseologywith the doctrine that Socrates expounded and criticised. This doctrinedid generatejust those consequenceswhich Socrates foresaw. The notions of true and false, assertionand denial, belief and knowledge(savoir)are not accommodatedbut exiled by the doctrinethat sentencesare namesof eithermoleculesor congeriesof atomicnameables. Answeringquestionsis not an affairof callingthingsnames.In particulara sentence is essentially something which can be significantlynegated, as "Theaetetus"and "murder"cannotbe negated. It is, I think, no accident that Plato'snext enquiryinto the importof propositionswas concentrated on the notion of negativepropositions.


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