Lorenzo Peña «Dialectics and Inconsistency», «Phonology» and «Nothing», in Handbook of Metaphysics and Ontology, ed. by H. Burkhardt & Barry Smith. Munich: Philosophia Verlag, 1991, ISBN 3-88405-080X. [pp. 703-6, 619-21 & 216-8 (resp).]

Phonemes are minimal segments within the spoken message whose presence is relevant for distinguishing one message from a different one with another meaning. Each phoneme underlies different phonetic realizations. What sets a phoneme from another is fuzzy cluster of the fuzzy features. Thus the study of phonemic structures is likely to have much to gain from a gradualistic approach. Through a gradualistic treatment synchronic phonology could tally with the diachronic study in a simpler way than is customary. In this connection, an obstacle to be overcome is a widespread adherence to classical logic.


Philosophers have always wondered about the meaning of such negative pronouns and adverbs. There have been two lines on those issues throughout the history of philosophy. The line rooted in the Platonistic tradition is taken by Hegel, who developed the dialectics of Being and Nothingness. Can conflicting considerations be merged into a unified treatment? If that is possible at all, the approach which would alone be able to perform the task would most probably be a dialectical metaphysics according to which the particle `not' stands for an entity which both [up to a point] exists and yet [to some extent] fails to exist; insofar as it is a negative principle -- a root of deprivation, of lacking, of failing to be -- it is nonexistent, but its nonexistence is not absolute. Such a Neo-Neoplatonistic approach has been tried to be made viable through a paraconsistent logic.


The sense of `dialectics' prevailing nowadays originates with Kant, for whom dialectics was the study of the ideas of pure reason in their transcendental usage. One of the divisions of such dialectics was the study of the antinomies of pure reason, which are contradictions ensuant upon a transcendental use of the idea world. This is how in Hegel's work `dialectics' came to mean the disclosing of insurmountable contradictions. A revival of dialectical thought has been brought about by the construction of so-called paraconsistent systems of logic. The author argues for a quantitative dialectics by stressing that true contradictions are always ensuant upon inbetweenness, i.e. upon the existence of degrees of existence or truth, intermediary between absolute truth and complete falsehood. This dialectical approach carryes to its ultimate consequences (something akin to) the Leibnizian principle of continuity.

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