HAVING CONCRETE AND ABSTRACT
TO THE EARLY READERS
Once the wheel of the Norm,
the new doctrine, the new paradigm,
has been set in motion,
there is, then, no way anymore
to stem the anabasis,
the advance of the neutral-inclusive movement.
It may go faster,
it may go slower sometimes,
but it will never return to its original position
of nonhaving, of nonbeing.
There is something remarkable about having a pen, paper
and a table, having a hand with fingers, having a will and
thoughts of your own, and having the intention to write down
these particular thoughts.
By itself there is nothing peculiar in saying that you have
an instrument for writing, like a pen, or that you have some
paper, or a table. In theory you could have any kind of concrete
thing in the sense of being close to it, in the sense of controlling,
keeping or using it, or in the quite different sense
of owning it. By itself there is nothing peculiar either in
saying that you have a body, in saying that you have a hand, and
in saying that you have a number of fingers. You could mention
any other bodily part or organ you have, or your body has, that
is, has as a component part or element. It is of some interest,
however, that both you and your body seem to have that hand,
and that you, your body and your hand or your body's hand all
have the same fingers.
Yet, even by itself there is something noteworthy about saying that you
have a will (of your own), or that you have certain thoughts and an
intention to communicate them
thru the medium of paper
as it carries the implicit presupposition that wills, thoughts and
intentions are entities which exist like a pen and paper.
Of course, this does not prove the existence of
abstract entities like wills, thoughts, intentions, or other
attributes and relations, mental or not. It merely shows that in
the language which is our present means of communication
existence and being also cover abstract entities. If there
were no freedom of the will, it is not because freedom is
or would be something abstract.
And if perfect harmony did not exist, it is not —again— because
perfect harmony is or would be an abstract entity.
Another thing to bear in mind with respect to having a mental attribute or
relation is that it is you who does have a will, a thought, or an
intention, not your body.
(Note the difference with having parts of the body.)
Many attributes and relations belong to you and not to your
body: it is not your body which is intelligent, middling or
unintelligent, and it is not 'your body which is someone else's
What is especially remarkable about all aforementioned sorts
of 'having' is that they are relations of quite dissimilar
types. The first sort of having is a relation between a person
or an object and another object which is usually extraneous to
it, that is, neither a component part nor an attribute or
relation of it. The second one is a relation between a person or
an object and a component or 'proper' part it has as an element.
If you mention your whole body, you are referring to the sole
component part you have in a strict sense. The third and fourth
relations of having apply between a person or an object and the
attributes and relations this person or object has. In the
language we communicate in at the moment every object in our
environment, whether a human being or a house, a virus or a body
cell, has both component parts and one or more attributes as
elements, and as entities of which the existence is taken for
granted. A table, for instance, may have a board and four legs,
but this is never everything. It must also have one or more
properties and relations, properties and relations which its
parts do not necessarily have as well.
(As a matter of fact there is nothing remarkable about having
a pen, having a hand and having thoughts. What is remarkable is
something with regard to the expressions of what it is to have
one or more of these things. This distinction, which is crucial,
will always be indicated here by means of italics or angle brackets.
In general "the ... < * >", or briefly
"< * >", may be read as "the ... of what is
* ". Thus good or <good> is usually the
predicate, word or notion good. The predicate good is, then,
the predicate of what is good, that is goodness; the word good,
the word for everything that is good; and the notion good the
notion of goodness. Unlike a change of font from regular to italic
(or from italic to regular) or angle brackets apostrophes on both
sides of an expression, like in <'having'>, can always be
deleted without change of meaning. They may emphasize that there
is something typical of the word or choice of words, for example
because the term plays a special part in the context, or because
it has different meanings, or because the whole expression has
been used by others before.)
Once many people were taught (or, perhaps, many people are
still taught) that 'the world' would consist of human beings,
animals, plants and so-called 'things', that is, all the rest.
This was a conception exclusively suited to the human material
environment. All people or persons were of necessity, human
beings and vice versa, and these human beings were first of all
separated from all other animal beings, and with them from 'the'
other living beings, that is, plants. And as living beings the
human beings were again separated from 'the things' (not from
all other things). This, however, was by no means a universal
conception independent of the position of the conceiving object,
even not when exclusively considering the material world. To be
universal both the material and the nonmaterial have to be
included in one system (a system which must not assign an
exclusive status to life on Earth and which must refrain from
anthropocentrism or any other kind of speciesism). In a
universal, conceptual structure we are all objects, whether
independently moving and growing or not. What counts is that all
these objects can be defined in two basically different ways:
- by the parts they consist of, and
- by the attributes and relations they have.
When defining objects by the parts they consist of, someone
who would be unfamiliar with the culture of human beings on
Earth might regard a house as merely a collection of construction
materials skilfully attached to each other. Such a person
would not be that wrong, for a house is indeed a whole of
certain materials put together in a certain way. On the other
hand those who have to live in such a house themselves may
rather see it as a place with a conditioned microclimate, a
place in which it is warm, dry, and also safe (or in which it is
or can be made warmer, drier and safer than outside). They might
also speak in vaguer terms, suggesting that a house has to
provide shelter. Thus, instead of a house having certain
materials (or rooms for that matter) of which it is composed,
they would speak of its being warm, dry and safe, and of its
The structure and idiom of the language spoken should not
confuse us when not to have is used, but to be or some
specific (nonprimitive) verb like to provide. (Compare to
have a thought / intention with to think / intend .) It may
not be clear that there is a question of having an attribute
or relation until the original sentence is replaced with a
sentence of the same meaning in which the (primitive) verb to
have is used. For example, the following sentences on the same
line have the same, or nearly the same, meaning. (Some of them
may be too formal, literary or technical to be used in ordinary
language, yet all of them are fully intelligible for someone only
speaking an everyday conversational variant of this language.)
|WITH TO HAVE
||WITH TO BE
||WITH A SPECIFIC VERB ONLY|
|I have the (relation of) / a desire
||I am desirous of something / that..
||I desire something|
|I have the attribute of hunger / the relation of
hunger for something (else than food)
||I am hungry (for something, if no food)
||I hunger for something (else than food)|
|You have work / the attribute of working
||You are working / a worker
|That person has the attribute of honor(ing)
/ the relation of honoring something
||That person is honoring
||That person honors (A)|
|That person has (the) honor / the attribute / relation
of (being) honor(ed by someone)
||That person is (being) honored
|It has the attribute of following / the relation of
||It is following
||It follows (A)|
|It has the attribute of being followed / the relation
of being followed by something
||It is (being) followed
|It has (a) color
||It is colored
In (A) the active and in (P) the passive form of the same
verb are shown.
It may not be an example of colloquial language to say that your table
has the property of heaviness, or lightness, for that matter.
Nonetheless, there is no reason why such a proposition would contradict the
conceptualization implicit in the language we are using: it is perfectly
possible to say that every table has a weight.
Weight is something every table must have as an object or concrete thing;
heaviness, or lightness, is something it may have.
The pattern (or lack thereof) exhibited in the above table of examples is
not typical of the present language.
It is a general pattern in many other languages as well,
altho there may be
variations to it.
Thus, while the construction
i have hunger may
not be employed in this language, it is correct in other languages.
(Compare i feel hunger.)
The difference between the use of a specific verb or to be and the
use of to have typifies a linguistic structure and must not be taken
to reflect any analogous distinction in
We can always refer to the attributes or relations (and parts) a
thing has instead of expressing ourselves in terms of specific
verbs, or with the verb to be.