The Triunity of the Proposition: Subject, Predicate, Copula

trinityThe Ontology of the Proposition

A proposition is an assertion of something about something. More clearly, a proposition articulates a relation between a subject and a predicate. A proposition, then, consists of three distinct but inseparable elements, viz. (i.)the Subject Term (ST), (ii.)the Copula (C), and (iii.)the Predicate Term (PT). In everyday expression, our assertions are either affirmative or negative. The proposition “John is good,” for instance, is an affirmative assertion; the proposition in question affirms that John is identifiable as good. The negation of the goodness of John would be the proposition “John is not good,” denying that John is identifiable as good.

Ontologically, however, the situation seems to be different. For example, I may deny that p, where p is the proposition “John is good,” but the resulting proposition ¬p, viz.  “John is not good,” would be logically equivalent to affirmative proposition, p1: “John is a member of the class of not-good things.” Ontologically, therefore, the proposition seems to be essentially affirmative.

The ST-PT  relation is a relation of identity between a distinct ST and a distinct PT. For example, the proposition “John is good ” identifies goodness and John. More elaborately, the proposition means something like “John is a person who performs good actions.” The relation of identity is modal, therefore, relating an ontological John with some distinct demonstration of his ontology.

John as the ST, and John as the implicit ST of the PT, therefore, is essentially identical, but differs with respect to the demonstration of his goodness.

The Takeaway

One in essence, yet three in distinct members, the proposition reflects the unity and difference in the Trinity. As the Father is explicated by the Son, so the subject is explicated by the predicate. As the Spirit of God reveals the Father-Son relationship, so the copula reveals the subject-predicate relationship. As the Godhead is inextricably One in essence, so too the proposition is inextricably one.



5 thoughts on “The Triunity of the Proposition: Subject, Predicate, Copula

  1. Steven Hoyt says:

    it seems to me you may be mistaken. in asserting “john is good”, we are assessing the truth-value of the single proposition, “john is good”. “john is not good” is a new proposition. to say “john is good” is to more formally assert “it is true that john is good”. to negate a proposition is to negate the asserted case. here, the negation is “it is not true that john is good” and has no implication that “it is true that john is bad”. ayer and russell do a good treatment of this casual mistake and attribute it to the ease these occur due to problems of separating common language and formal syllogism. this is also covered well in the lingual philosophies regarding speech acts and raising.

    otherwise, spot on.


    • Hiram says:

      I understand and appreciate your point, Steven.

      As the negation of “John is good” would be “It is not the case that John is good,” however, would we not thereby be asserting that John is not good, and so be identifying him as a member of the set/class of things that are not good?

      For specificity’s sake, I think you’re right. I don’t think the proposition is changed, though.

      Regarding the logical value of propositions, I appreciate your input. Thanks :)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Steven Hoyt says:

        it depends on how specific you want to get. at a propositional level, what is being affirmed or negated is what matters. as for the meaning of the sentence “not true that john is good” is equivalent to “john is not good” via lingual raising, but this is where we introduce connotation. what we usually mean or think is “john is bad”: because of conflating a binary proposition with a binary meaning … the opposite of good is bad, etc.

        you get this a lot with theists claiming atheism is the belief there are no gods, which is not true.

        i may believe “it is false there are gods” and “i believe it is false there are no gods, for example.

        with me?


  2. Steven Hoyt says:

    oh, and regardless of the asserted truth-value, all assertions are affirmative in that they are all knowledge claims about a state of affairs. “john is not good” asserts john is no member of the set “good”, though it doesn’t tell us which set he actually falls into.


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