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Alparslan (BESH:19-21) – a incapacidade de definir "ser"

domingo 25 de setembro de 2022


One way in which this problematic of Being is expressed is the way we use this term. For example, consider the following sentences:

1. I exist.

2. Whatever is is.

3. This table exists.

4. The world exists.

5. Pegasus does not exist.

But these sentences are what one knows and already accepts. There arises no need for a conceptual analysis   in this case as to what “Being” means. We seem to be trapped in a dilemma. To ask what Being is, is to imply that a clear, coherent and cogent analysis of this concept is required; yet if it is already clear what the above expressions mean, then are we not inquiring into what we already know? This conclusion is unacceptable for the Scholastics, for example, on the grounds that we cannot define a concept by its mere linguistic usages. In a proper definition the definiens must consist of the genus and differentia of the definiendum. This brings us to the indefinability problem of Being.

 1. The Logical Indefinability

When we attempt to define the universal  , “man,” for instance, we first point out its genus, “animal  ,” and then its differentiating characteristic from other species under the same genus, “rational”. Man is, therefore, a rational animal. Can we define Being in the same manner? In order to do this we must find out to what genus Being belongs, and then its differentia. It is a fact that any term under a genus cannot be asserted of that genus. We cannot say “genus” is a man, or “animal” is a man. This fact, the inapplicability of a term to its genus, proves that Being has no genus, and hence no differentia. Is there any genus to which the term Being cannot, in one way or another, be applied? This basic principle was formulated by logicians as: Being cannot be placed in any category of the predicables. This conclusion of the Scholastics led them to the belief that Being cannot be defined.

It is quite clear in what sense   Being is indefinable. For we can obtain its meaning by simply giving a clear and cogent analysis of what it means to say that something exists. But this is not what is meant by definition. The Scholastic logic requires a definition to be in terms of the genus and differentia of the definiendum. But in this case our definiendum, Being, is proved to lack such a characteristic. I shall, therefore, call the above characteristic of Being, the fact that it cannot be defined in terms of genus and a differentia, the “logical indefinability”.

 2. The Linguistic Definition

Our problem is deepened by the above conclusion. The meaning of Being is clear, yet it is indefinable. One way the Muslim philosophers (e.g., Ibn Sina  , al-Tusl, al-Razi) replied to this paradox, is to claim that Being at most can be described. When I explore its meaning in such conglomeration of sentences as “I exist,” “this or that exists,” I am indeed tacitly defining Being. For example, a natural   corollary of such sentences is “Being expresses an ontological status”. If we take this to be a descriptive definition of Being, then we may argue that this definition provides only an explanation for the meaning of the concept involved. But to distinguish this from the logical definition, I shall call it “linguistic definition” which is simply a description of Being gathered from its mere linguistic usages. We have thus arrived at the second feature of Being; it is describable (linguistically). This I shall call the “descriptive” character of Being in the sense that first, Being does describe objects as having an existential status; secondly, that those objects tell us about this concept; that is, Being describes them in an ontological way, and they also describe this concept in some other way, which I shall consider next.