Multigrade predicates

Mind 113 (452):609-681 (2004)

Timothy Smiley
Cambridge University
The history of the idea of predicate is the history of its emancipation. The lesson of this paper is that there are two more steps to take. The first is to recognize that predicates need not have a fixed degree, the second that they can combine with plural terms. We begin by articulating the notion of a multigrade predicate: one that takes variably many arguments. We counter objections to the very idea posed by Peirce, Dummett's Frege, and Strawson. We show that the arguments of a multigrade predicate must be grouped into places, with perhaps several arguments occupying positions at a place. Variability may relate to places or positions. Russell's multiple judgement predicate turns out to be just one example of a family-'is necessarily true of', 'is said of', 'is instantiated by' and so on-of predicates with variably many places. Our main concern, however, is lists. Any adequate account of lists must include plural as well as singular terms. On one account, lists are mere strings of separate arguments, which occupy variably many positions within a place of a multigrade predicate. A quite different account takes the list itself to be a compound plural term. We compare these rival conceptions, and reach some surprising conclusions. As a coda, we deploy the conceptual apparatus developed in the paper to assess Morton's pioneer system of multigrade logic.
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DOI 10.1093/mind/113.452.609
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Reference to Numbers in Natural Language.Friederike Moltmann - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 162 (3):499 - 536.
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