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[29]

29. In the ordinary proposition a certain predicate is attributed
to a certain subject, taking the affirmative proposition as typical,
and it was in endeavouring to account for this attribution of predicates
to subjects that Locke developed his theory of substances and
complex ideas on the one hand, and of abstraction on the other, the
notelatter being supposed to account for predicates and the former for
subjects. But as Berkeley clearly shows in the Introduction to the
”Principles” if we build up subjects out of a number of simple ideas,
then the only predicates that we can get are those ideas with which
we began. And it may be added, apart from Berkeley's criticism that
each of those elements must be particular and not universal, that we



  ― 56. ―
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cannot show in what way any one of these individual ideas belongs to
the collection of ideas which is supposed to constitute a thing. In
fact, on the basis of the simple ideas which Locke postulates, we cannot
account for the recognition of things or complexes, and in particular
we cannot account for the proposition. In Locke's view, the proposition
“Gold is yellow” must be taken to mean that a certain number
of ideas has this particular idea “yellow” attributed to it. But what
we mean by the collection of ideas which is supposed to constitute
the subject is just a number of distinct ideas, one of which is the
idea “yellow” itself. Berkeley is able to quite clearly to show that we
do not have any idea of a substance in which these various ideas
inhere, and that if we had an idea which might be supposed to fulfil
that function it would really only be another member of the collection
and could not be used to explain how it was possible to make that
collection. But, assuming for the moment that there is a collection of
that kind, this does not solve the problem of what is meant by attributing
a particular predicate to that collection. If we take the term
“gold”, for example, as meaning a collection of “yellow” plus a number
of other ideas “A”, “B”, “C”, the question then is, how we come to attribute
to that collection the term “yellow”. The subject is entirely
constituted by those elementary ideas and we cannot attribute “yellow”
to any other of the constituent ideas so that all we are saying is that
“Yellow is yellow”---a statement which conveys no real information at
all. Accordingly, if the proposition is to have any significance, the
thing which functions as the subject must be something other than
a collection of elementary ideas even if one of these ideas was regarded
as that of substance; a complex thing, in other words, cannot be
regarded as a mere sum of attributes or else the proposition would
become meaningless.

Now these difficulties which appear in Locke's theory, appear
again in the theory of Berkeley. According to Locke we have a number
of ideas which together inhere in a substance; according to Berkeley
we do not have any such relation as inherence but we do have the
concomitance of ideas; and similarly, according to Berkeley, we have the
relation of significance and the relation of representation. Now the
position is that one of these relations can be a substitute for the
proposition because the formulation of any one of them already involves
the proposition. To say that “A signifies B” is the same as to
say that “A is significant of B”, that is, we are characterising A in
a certain way, we are not treating it as perfectly simple and unanalysable
or as something which we have to know all about if we know it at
all.

Now in order to understand what is conveyed by the proposition,
in order to avoid the doctrine of simple elements, we have to account for
(take account of?) space and time; that is, the problem which arises for all these
philosophers is to show in what way things can be distinct from one
another and at the same time related to one another. In terms of the
doctrine of essence, which insists on the distinction of things, that
is, on each thing having all that is connected with it, inside of it,
and having nothing really to do with anything outside, we not only cannot
account for the ordinary facts of experience in which we do recognise
relations between distinct things, but we cannot even account
for the preliminary distinction between different essences. In order
to know, for example, that figure and extension are different we
require to compare them, that is, we rquire to have them together before
our minds; and if they are not really together in some way, then it is



  ― 57. ―
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impossible to make the comparison. And just as in this way distinction
implies relation so relation implies distinction, that is, there
is no meaning in saying that “A is related to B” if A and B are identical.
What we require, then, is an account of the basis of distinction
and connection among things, and that is provided by the fact that
the history of each of the things can be brought together under a
more general history, and that again depends on the recognition of
space and time, that is, of the medium within which all the histories
occur and in which it is possible to see their connection; for space
and time, being on the one hand infinite, and on the other continuous,
can account for the connection of any historical process with any
other and for the way in which they can be distinguished.

The theory of Alexander involves a distinction between the
functions of space and time in this connection, taking space as the
ground of relation among things and time as the ground of distinction.
But, of course, it must be recognised at the same time that things can
be related in time and distinct in space (or place) so that it is
sufficient, in considering this question in a preliminary way at least,
to point out that space and time together enable us to account for
the complexity of things and also for the activity of things. It is
in thinking of space, in particular, that we recognise complexity,
various characteristics being capable of belonging to the same thing
just as various times can pass through the same point. And again it
is especially by reference to time that we recognise the activity of
things, but in both cases we are really recognising complex activities
or processes since we cannot have intersection apart from some
activity and cannot have activity apart from something which is active.

Now in those terms we can give an account of the proposition,
the subject standing for the region in which a certain occurrence
takes place and the predicate for the kind of activity which
takes place in that region and the copula represents the fact or
activity or occurrence. When we say, then, that “gold is yellow” we
mean that in the region defined by the term “gold”, or wherever gold
is found, a certain process is going on having that peculiar character
which the term “yellow” conveys; so that we can roughly express the
meaning of the proposition as the occurrence of a certain character
in a certain place, recognising, of course, that both the character and
the place are not to be taken abstractly but that they are recognised
by reference to certain processes or activities; that is, we can never
recognise pure place or, for that matter, pure date. We speak of a particular
place, for example, this room, but we know that this place is
altering its relations to other places similarly defined, for example,
the sun. Now the fact that we recognise places, then, is connected
with our recognition of characters. We say that this is the same
place that we were in yesterday because we observe it to have a large
number of similar characters and again because it is situated among
other places which are recognised in the same way. On the other hand,
as has been shown very clearly by Berkeley in criticism of Locke, we
have no knowledge of characters in abstraction but only as belonging
to things or as occurring in places.
Thus what the proposition may
be said to convey is that something is going on somewhere (that is the
form of the proposition) and that may be described as a situation or
occurrence. And the particular terms of the proposition indicate what
sort of situation or occurrence it is and where it is occurring. In
that way we recognise a difference between the functions of the subject
and the predicate, and can account for the ordinary affirmative



  ― 58. ―
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proposition in a way that was not possible for Locke for whom all
propositions were ultimately negative in form, namely, this simple idea
is not that or is notdifferent from that. But the very connection
of places and characters shows that the difference between subject and
predicate is only a difference in function, the predicate being capable
of being a subject in another proposition and the subject being capable
of being a predicate. That is so because places are defined by the
characters they have and characters by the places in which they occur,
but the general conception of space and time enables us to understand
the form of the proposition and the way in which one situation can be
connected with and distinguished from another.

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