Monday Mill Blogging (#005)

Monday Mill blogging on a Thursday? Why not.

Today’s post covers book 1, chapter 2, section 2.  All this focus on naming is making me want to take some time to re-read part III of Carnap’s “Meaning and Necessity”.  But for now I am sticking with the Mill.

§ 2.  Words Which are Not Names, but Parts of Names


Mill ended §1 by indicating the need to outline a taxonomy of names.  But before he will give us his taxonomy of names, he feels it is necessary to discuss words that are not properly considered names, but which are parts of names.  Mill shares the conventional wisdom of which words those are:

Among such are reckoned particles, as of, to, truly, often; the inflected cases of nouns substantive, as me, him, John’s; and even adjectives, as large, heavy.  These words do not express things of which anything can be affirmed or denied.  We cannot say, Heavy fell, or A heavy fell; Truly, or A truly, was asserted; Of, or An of, was in the room. Unless, indeed, we are speaking we are speaking of the mere words themselves, as when we say, Truly is an English word, or, Heavy is an adjective. (p. 25)

Mill’s view here seems to be that words, in addition to their customary uses, can be used to denote “the mere letters and syllables of which [they are] composed”, and in that usage, words like “of” and “heavy” are names.

Ultimately, Mill is going to remove adjectives from this list, and treat them as names.  He explains his reasoning as related to the fact that it is a mere grammatical accident of English that we cannot say “A heavy fell”.  Mill marshalls some cross-linguistic evidence from Greek and Latin in support of this point, and then reaffirms that adverbs and particles can’t ever denote terms in a proposition (except when being used as names for the words themselves).

Mill then puts the views he has just been outlining in scholastic terms.  What he is calling names are what the scholastics called Categoremic terms, the words that are not names, but only parts of names, are the scholastics’ Syncategoremic terms.  Rather than have a third class for compound terms (“A court of justice”), Mill treats these as many-word names, and classes them as Categoremic.

In treating of these many worded names, Mill also presents a view on non-restrictive relative clauses (though he doesn’t call them that):

Thus, when we say, John Nokes, who was the mayor of the town, died yesterday—by this predication we make but one assertion; whence it appears that “John Nokes, who was the mayor of the town,” is no more than one name.  It is true that in this proposition, besides the assertion that John Nokes died yesterday, there is included another assertion, namely, that John Nokes was mayor of the town. But this last assertion was already made: we did not make it by adding the predicate, “died yesterday.” (p. 27)

I say this is a view, even though it seems a bit cursory in terms of detail, because it, in a sense, helps us figure out what Mill would want to say about the truth or falsity of a sentence of the form, “n, who was G, is H”, when the referent of ‘n’ has the property designated by ‘H’, but not the property designated by ‘G’.  The use of that sentence, it seems, makes the proposition, of the referent of ‘n’, that they have the property designated by ‘H’, so the primary assertion made in uttering the sentence is true.  However, in the subject term of the sentence “there is included another assertion”, the assertion, about the referent of ‘n’, that they possess the property designated by ‘G’, which is false.  It isn’t clear whether this gives us a satisfactory answer about how to classify the sentence “n, who was G, is H”, relative to a circumstance of evaluation, but it does shed some light on how Mill thinks about the relationship between sentences and assertions.

Next time on Monday Mill Blogging: §3, “General and Singular Names”


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