The function of form


"The blunder of is"

By Ron Kulp

November 2008



It is the purpose of this essay to identify the origins of what is known to the MoQ community as "Subject/Object Metaphysics" or to the uninitiated, what Aristotle called "Analytic".

In doing so, it is the author's intent to realize the Metaphysics of Quality's function within the cultural paradigm of it's origin and subsequently how it may function within any number of cultural paradigms. Finally, how, as Matt Kundert explained:

"That grammatical/linguistic evolution produced certain specifically Western philosophical problems".

This essay is a summary of a larger work in progress.

The whole enterprise of Western thought seems to be based in the origin of the question of "be-ing", from the treatment of the word "is" borrowed by the Greeks from the Hebrews. "Is" was absent in literature prior to the rise of Greek culture. Aristotle in his Metaphysic sought 'to say of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not, is true.' (Metaphysics 1011b). What did it mean to "be"? what did it mean to say that something "is"? What is the correlation between truth and what is? The study of the question of the nature of "being" Ontology revolves around the assumption that beings are "entities" and entities are what "is" in nature. Wikipedia defines entities as "something that has a distinct, separate existence."

Parmenides concluded that "Is" could not have "come into being" because "nothing comes from nothing". He argued that the concept of "nothing" does not exist therefore movement or change is an illusion because it required movement within a "void" That which does exist is The Parmenidean One, which is timeless, uniform, and unchanging.

Parmenides concept influenced Plato enormously and in turn influenced Aristotle's work and the course of western thought as we know it today.

"We can easily see that the formation of the word Being, the decisive precursor is the infinitive 'to be.' This form of the verb is transformed into a substantive. The character of our word Being, as a word, is determined"

[From: Martin Heidegger - Introduction to metaphysics - New translation by Gregory Fried and Richard Polt - New Haven, Yale University Press, 2000, pp. 55-60 (notes omitted).]

Aristotle utilizes Plato's theory of forms. Plato proposes that these 'ideas' or 'forms' are more real than the phenomena of nature per Parmenides. What Aristotle does is make the argument from the particular of the phenomena of nature to the universal of form on which he predicates his syllogism. Aristotle thought that nature preceded form. The truth of a form is it's correspondence with it's nature or what "is".

'To say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true,' Aristotle had to universally define meaning in language, he had to universalize grammar, he had to define the Noun. Nouns are defined as "entities" within a sentence structure.

"Entities" are broken into two species, abstract entities and concrete entities. What defines this split depends upon Aristotle's own method of ascertaining that which is measurable and that which is not, in other words "concrete".

Entities are those things that are thought of as having spatial location, causal power and that which you use at least one of your senses to observe. Abstract entities lack these qualities and consequently have created Ontological and Epistemological problems and are usually either ignored or ascribed as particular or "subjective" entities, or, ideas or concepts, such as "justice" or "hate". In English, many abstract nouns are formed by adding noun-forming suffixes ("-ness", "-ity", "-tion") to adjectives or verbs. Examples are "happiness", "circulation" and "QUALITY".

With the standardization of Greek grammar and the analytic method (the Syllogism) , Deductive inference was given a firm foundation in essentialism and THIS is the legacy of Aristotle and the seed fromwhich SOM was sown. Spread throughout the known world by Aristotle's student, Alexander the Great, who endeavored to "universalize" the known world.

Pirsig comments:

"...the greatest meaning can be given to the intellectual level if it is confined to the skilled manipulation of abstract symbols that have no corresponding particular experience and which behave according to rules of their own"

(In A.McWatt's paper "A critical Analysis..." p79).

The statement "abstract symbols that have no corresponding particular experience" compared with an excerpt from the Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy on Aristotle's grammar and syllogism "The word universal (katholou) appears to be an Aristotelian coinage. Literally, it means "of a whole"; its opposite is therefore "of a particular" (kath' hekaston). Universal terms are those which can properly serve as predicates, while particular terms are those which cannot."

Here Pirsig and Aristotle coincide on what defines abstract "intellectual" thought using "concrete" universal symbols.

Both Aristotle and Pirsig are describing a certain mode of thought which utilizes universal concepts rather than particular experiences, distinguishing deductive from inductive. Pirsig defines the intellectual level as the manipulation,( which includes the creation and design of) universal symbols and their deductive systems of operation or axioms AND their USE. All of Aristotle's logic revolves around one concept: the deduction (sullogismos). Moving from Induction to Deduction Aristotle calls an: "argument from the particular to the universal."

What is often missed by Pirsigs assertion of the "intellectual level" is that Pirsig is attacking the very root of deduction itself, the assumption of "entities" as what "is".

Aristotle himself states that the first principles of sciences are not demonstrable, that they are ta endoxa, "accepted things" or a matter of accepted opinion drawn from arguments from the particular to the universal.

Charles H. Kahn:

"Thus the Greek concept of Being takes its rise from ... this notion of what is as whatever distinguishes truth from falsehood ... doctrines of Being first arose in Greece in connection with the question: what must reality be like for knowledge and informative discourse to be possible and for statements and beliefs of the form X is Y to be true?' To ask what reality must be like for sentences to be true implies that truth in sentences is their being like what is."

"In the scheme of categories which Aristotle takes as the starting point for his own investigation of being, this same predicative pattern serves as the primary device for analyzing what there is, and for showing how the various kinds of being are related to one another. So it is naturally the theory of predication, and not the concept of existence, which becomes the central and explicit theme of Aristotle's metaphysics, as it was the implicit theme of Plato's discussion of Being in the Sophist."

What else is often missed is that Aristotle is defining the priority of nature over language, culture, or experiential history and the idea that truth is a kind of sameness. "To ask what reality must be like for sentences to be true implies that truth in sentences is their being like what is."

What Pirsig proposes is very similar, defining the priority of nature over language, culture, or experiential history, but he differs with Parmenides in that "is" or "be-ing" is a product of the argument from the particular to the universal, what the thinkers of the time did not see. They built upon the ta endoxa, which was the first argument of "is", the universalizing of the verb to be, an abstract notion of existence. Pirsig also refutes Parmenides once again with the statement that truth may only be wrought by reason. Reason is ta endoxa, and therefore a product of language and culture. Truth, Pirsig ascribes to experience. But like Aristotle, he relegates truth as a kind of sameness with experience. This makes truth statements verifiable on the biological level instead of the social level. This method extends universalism to all life in lieu of limiting it to social ta endoxa.

Redefining the terms of truth from social to biological locus threatens the authority of the social level, this may also be seen as immoral from an MOQ standpoint if it not for the origin of this redefinition being a high quality intellectual level pattern. But this intellectual pattern will be seen as an evil from a typical social standpoint and will refute it at every turn. Social level patterns therefore will conflict with MOQ morality.

It is important to understand MOQ's level structure as a useful universal abstraction in which to organize differential patterns by contextual meaning, it creates and designs a system of relations that describes causual relations more inclusively, and continuously when appended to current social based systems of thought. Ironically this pattern of thought, by virtue of it's own system, will be in direct conflict with all socially based systems of truth definition and consequently will have great difficulty parleying social acceptance.



Charles H. Kahn "Retrospect on the verb 'To Be' and the concept of Being," in Simo Knuuttila & Jaakko Hintikka (eds.) - The Logic of Being: Historical Studies - Dordrecht: Reidel, (1986), pp. 21-22; and "Why Existence Does Not Emerge as a Distinct Concept in Greek Philosophy," Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 58 (1976), 333. Joseph Owens, Doctrine of Being in the Aristotelian "Metaphysics," 3d ed. (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1978), p. 309.

Charles H. Kahn, "Retrospect," pp. 8, 22; "Why Existence," p. 329; and The Verb "Be" in Ancient Greek - Dordrecht: Reidel, (1973), pp. 313, 363. The idea of a veridical "be" has been questioned by Mohan Matthen, "Greek Ontology and the `Is' of Truth," Phronesis 28 (1983).

From: Allen Barry - Truth in philosophy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1993 pp. (notes abbreviated) pp. 9-10 and 14-15.

Robin Smith Aristotle's Logic Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy

First published Sat Mar 18, 2000; substantive revision Fri Dec 14, 2007