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Negation: From Frege to Freud and beyond

Ruthrof, H. (1995) Negation: From Frege to Freud and beyond. Philosophy Today, 39 (3). pp. 219-244.


Like metaphor, negation has proved both arousing and in certain important respects resistant to formal approaches. As Laurence Horn puts it "negation is to the linguist and linguistic philosopher as fruit to Tantalus: waving seductively, alluringly palpable, yet just out of reach, within the grasp only to escape once more" (Horn 1989:xiv). Some philosophers have tried to get rid of negation altogether: others have attempted to demonstrate its derivative character. Horn cites Parmendies, who cautions the philosopher to "keep your mind from this path of investigation" for "never shall this thought prevail, that non-being is." Plato's answer is to split negation into an opposite or contrary, on the one hand, and, on the other, "something else" or contradictory, so that the me-kalon, the non-beautiful, merely means something other than ugly (Plato, Sophist 257B-258b: in Horn 1989:5).

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Publisher: DePaul University
Copyright: 1995 DePaul University
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