BEING AND PREDICATES
Unless the subject were conceived as possessed of being, we could not attribute any predicates to it: for its predicates are so many determinations of its being. A thing which is not cannot be determined. It is non ens — a nonentity.
These relative functions of copula and predicate are clearly seen, if we consider the judgment in its primary form, viz, that in which the subject is a concrete singular substance, and the predicate a form apprehended as belonging to it, e.g. 'Socrates is a man’, ‘Bucephalus is black’.
In the first of these propositions the being of Socrates is characterized as human; in the second the being of Bucephalus is determined by the accidental form of a particular colour.
Again, if we wish to affirm that the subject possesses real being — that it exists — though without indicating how that being is determined, we use the same verb 'to be’, which is employed in the copula. We say, 'Socrates is’.
It will have been noticed that we said it was requisite that the subject should be conceived as possessed of being. We did not say that it must actually possess real being.
In fact there are many true propositions in which the subject has no real being: many in which the predicate is not a real form. Our words, as we have often said, are the expression of our thoughts: they signify things as mentally represented.
Hence the being of which the copula is the direct and immediate expression is being in the conceptual order: and the forms signified by the predicate are forms as they conceived.
In the propositions ‘Socrates is a man’, 'Bucephalus is black’, there is correspondence between the real order and the conceptual. But this is not always the case. We can give conceptual existence to things which have never actually existed, and many of our judgments relate, not to something which has really existed, but to some creation of the mind. Thus, when speaking of Greek mythology, I may say, 'A centaur is an animal half man and half horse’. The judgment is true because it corresponds with the object of thought. But that object only existed in the mind: it had no real existence.
The same principle accounts for those judgments in which the predicate is a second intention, e.g.'Man is a universal nature.' The nature 'man' viewed as universal, exists only conceptually.
It is thus manifest that the copula does not necessarily affirm the existence of the subject in rerum natura. Its essential function is to signify the objective identity of subject and predicate. This it does in every proposition without exception. For in every proposition its office is to declare that the term employed in the predicate signifies the same object which is denoted by the subject.
Just as the copula frequently expresses, not real being, but what is mentally expressed as being, so the predicate is often not a real quality, but something the mind expresses as a quality.
We saw when discussing Negative terms that we are able to conceive as real entities things which are in fact simply the negations of entities.
Our predicates are often of this kind, as e.g. in the proposition, 'The horse is riderless’. Sometimes both subject and predicate are of this character: for instance, 'Blindness deprives men of much happiness.' Here not merely is a privation conceived as if it were a real subject; but a purely negative result is conceived as a positive action.
J S Mill gravely informs us that his father was "the first among philosophers to notice that 'to be' in the sense of 'to exist' has not the same signification as when it means to be some specified thing, as 'to be a man'; and adds that "Aristotle and all the ancients believed it to have a common meaning wherever used."
He added: "The fog which rose from this narrow spot diffused itself at an early period over the whole surface of Metaphysics" (Logic, Bk. I. c. 4, sect; 1).
Mill frequently falls into error when criticizing the philosophy of Aristotle and his followers, with whose writings he was but imperfectly acquainted. Nowhere perhaps is he more astray than here. Not merely was the distinction carefully noted by Aristotle: but the various senses of 'Being' was one of the points most canvassed in the writings of the Scholastics.
It remains to be noticed that a judgment is a single act of the mind. No mistake could be greater than to represent it as three separate acts, corresponding respectively to subject, copula and predicate.
Such a view might seem to be implied, when it is said that in affirmation we have the conjunction, in negation the separation of two concepts. But it is manifest that a synthesis, in which we recognize a relation of identity, and a separation in which we judge that such a relation is absent, are alike single acts.
Certain points which remain to be considered in regard to the Scholastic theory of the judgment, must be dealt with later.2
The following two citations will be sufficient by way of illustra tion
"Sciendum est quod Esse dicitur tripliciter … Tertio modo dicitur Esse quod significat veritatem compositionis in propositionibus, secundum quod est dicitur copula: et secundum hoc est in intellectu componente et dividente quantum ad suum complementum; sed jundatur in esse rei, qe~od est achcs essentiae."
Sent. dist. 33, Q. 1, Art. 1, ad. 1
"Secundum Avicennam (tract II Metaph. c. 1) de eo quod nullo modo est non potest aliquid enuntiari: ad minus enim oportet quad illud de quo aliquid enunciatur sit apprehensum: et ita habet aliquod esse saltem in intellectu apprehendente: et ita constat quod semper veritati respondet aliquod esse nec oportet quod semper respondeat sibi esse in re extra animam, cum ratio veritatis compleatur in ratione. animae." I. Sent. dist. 19, Q. 5, Art. 1, ad. 5.
¹On the unity of the act of judgment Aristotle is explicit. He calls it "a synthesis of concepts as though they were but one" and de Anima, III. c. 6, sect; 41.
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