Essays on Being by Charles H. Kahn

By Charles H. Kahn

This quantity provides a sequence of essays released through Charles Kahn over a interval of 40 years, within which he seeks to explicate the traditional Greek notion of Being. He addresses targeted yet in detail comparable difficulties, one linguistic and one historic and philosophical. The linguistic challenge matters the speculation of the Greek verb einai, "to be:: how you can substitute the normal yet deceptive contrast among copula and existential verb with a extra enough theoretical account. The philosophical challenge is in precept relatively certain: to appreciate how the idea that of Being grew to become the vital subject in Greek philosophy from Parmenides to Aristotle. yet those difficulties converge on what Kahn calls the veridical use of einai. within the previous papers he is taking that connection among the verb and the concept that of fact to be the major to the crucial function of Being in Greek philosophy. within the later papers he translates the veridical by way of a extra common semantic functionality of the verb, which includes the notions of life and instantiation in addition to fact.

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Thus in the African dialect Ewe the verb which renders ‘there is’ or ‘exists’ means literally ‘to be somewhere, to be present’. In Turkish, var and yok mean ‘there is’ and ‘there is not’, respectively, but var is also used 11 See Thesaurus Linguae Latinae V2, p. 1873, l. 31. For the beginnings of the usage see A. Ernout, ‘Exsto et les compose´s latins en ex-’, Bulletin de la socie´te´ linguistique de Paris, 50 (1954), 18. The aspectual contrast between esse and exsistere is partially preserved in the Spanish distinction between ser and estar.

Since I hold Mill’s distinction to be erroneous (at least for Greek), I am not inclined to claim it for Aristotle. For haplo¯s einai in Aristotle see the Postscripta. The medieval-modern concept of the copula has its historical roots in De Int. 16b22–5 and b 19 19–22, but I do not believe that our copula is what Aristotle himself had in mind. On this point further discussion is called for. ) greek verb ‘to be’ and the concept of being 23 nonexistence of atoms just as he is the measure of the being-cold or not-being-cold of the wind.

Kahn systematic distinction between essence and existence. What then is new in Mill’s dichotomy? I answer that what is new in Mill is the assignment of the meaning ‘exists’ to ‘is’ when used alone, or when (as he says) it ‘has a meaning of its own’ in addition to performing the function of the copula. For both the terms of his dichotomy Mill was of course drawing on a traditional, indeed on a medieval analysis of ‘to be’. ) But Mill seems really to have been the Wrst philosopher to oVer just this pair of concepts—copula plus existence—as an adequate analysis of the meaning of the verb, and to correlate this antithesis with the syntactic distinction between the predicative and the absolute construction.

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