28 Feb 2009

Stoic Logic, Mates, Chapter 1, §5 Exposition of the Stoic Theory (§1), Subsection 2

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Benson Mates

Stoic Logic

Chapter II: Signs, Sense, and Denotation

§5 Exposition of the Stoic Theory (§1)

Subsection 2: Signals

Previously we saw the Stoic distinction between the significans (the sign or signal), the signifacate (the lekton or the intensional sense), and 'that which exists' (the extensional meaning).

Many later commentators often confused the Stoic distinctions. Some portrayed the lekton as being between thought and thing, others said that thought and thing were the same for the Stoics.

Sextus Empiricus confusingly says at one point that signs are not propositions. But later he claims that they are.

Also according to Sextus, we may distinguish the signs (which we now will call 'signals') into two types: commemorative and the indicative.

1) commemorative or common sense:
Consider the first sound of thunder. We take it as a signal that a storm is on its way. So the thunder 'reveals' the storm, which normally is conjoined with thunder-claps.
"In its common usage the word refers to anything which, as it were, serves to "reveal" something else which has previously been observed in conjunction with it. 13c

Claudius Galen of Pergamum rightly accounts for the Stoic lekton. This suggests that the Aristotelian commentators were incorrect, while others succeeding in preserving the Stoic concepts. Galen writes,
Since we have memories of things that are perceived by the senses, whenever we set these in motion they are to be called by the term noesis (νοησις) [thought]; but whenever they happen to be silent, they are to be called ennoiai (εννοιαι) [notions]. There are also some further notions which do not arise from sense perception but are naturally in all of us, and when these are expressed in sound, the ancient philosophers call them by the term axioma (αξίωμα) [proposition]. The Greeks, to be sure, often call notions "thoughts." (Galen, Institutio Logica, ed Kalbflweisch p. 7 line 22, to p. 8, line 7. translated and qtd in Mates 12-13)
Mates will now adopt the translation "signal" for σημείν (semeon). The Stoics distinguish signals into commemorative and indicative. According to Sextus, "signal" has two senses:
1) a common sense, and
2) a special sense.

Consider symptoms of an illness. We see how they often go together. Then later we just see the symptoms. These symptoms "reveal" the illness. This is the common sense of "signal." (13c)

But when the indicated thing is not evident, then 'signal' is meant in its special sense. Signals in the common sense are "commemorative," and in the special sense they are "indicative."

So we have in the past seen smoke and fire together. When we next see smoke, we immediately recall the fire. In this way, the signal in the commemorative sense allows us to remember the previously conjoined object, even when it is not evident.

Indicative signals, however, are never observed in connection with the object they signify. For example, our bodily motions indicate we have a soul. However, the soul never presents itself to our clear perception. So our bodily movements are just indicative signals of our souls.

Then Sextus wonders if indicative signals are sensible or not. He says that the Stoics claim the signal is a "true antecedent proposition in a true conditional and is such that it serves to reveal the consequent." (14bc) This follows the argument that indicative signals are not sensible. Then Sextus defines the proposition, by saying that the true antecedent is the antecedent of a true conditional that has a true antecedent and a true consequent. This antecedent reveals the consequent. So for example, "She has milk." This proposition serves to reveal the proposition "She has conceived" in the conditional sentence "If she has milk, then she has conceived." (14c)

Both Sextus and Diogenes give the same account for the Stoic definition of Lekton: "that which subsists in conformity with a rational presentation." (Sextus Adv. Math. VIII 70. Diog. L. Vitae VII, 63, 51. qtd in Mates 15c) And, a rational presentation "is one in which the ϕαντασθεν [phantasthen] (that which is presented) can be conveyed by discourse λόγω (logo). Saying something is to utter a sound that is capable of signifying the object conceived (15-16).

Below we have the entire classification of Lekta.

Finally, there are four categories (in comparison to Aristotle's ten):
1) subject or substratum
2) quality
3) state
4) relation
And there is one highest notion, "the indefinite something." (18b)

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Mates, Benson. Stoic Logic. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. [Originally published in 1953 as Volume 26 of the University of California Publications in Philosophy.]

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