A predicate which a thing would not have, if it were not thought, talked or written about by the person(s) thinking, talking or writing, does not determine its character in any way. Such a predicate is merely a product of the person's or our conception (perhaps even of our imagination) and must not be considered a determinative predicate of the thing in question. So far as the relation of conceiving between a person and the thing itself is concerned, this is an asymmetrical relation with the person thinking, talking or writing at the fundament, and with this person having the attribute which results from derelativizing the relation. Quite a few traditional languages distinguish feminine, neuter and masculine genders, but this does not mean that any of these genders is determinative for the thing it is attributed to. Also the mere fact that a thing is thought, talked or written about now, does not mean that it does exist now or did ever exist at all, for being thought about, being talked about and being written about are purely conceptual predicates. When people are 'macarized', that is, called "happy", they do not have or get any determinative predicate on the basis of being macarized, and it certainly does not make them happy. It is solely the people macarizing who have a real, determinative predicate in this way. (Altho for certain religious devotees dutifully macarizing themselves both assertions may seem to hold.)

Predicate expressions which do not designate any existing attribute or relation but which are determinative nevertheless refer to '(determinative) pseudopredicates'. If P is a determinative predicate which is no pseudopredicate, then not having P is a privative (pseudo)predicate. Privative expressions predicate privation or absence of an attribute or relation and thus stand for nothing. They replace a certain expression or part thereof in the particular language applied. When we define abstract as not concrete, for instance, the statement that a certain thing is abstract replaces the statement that it is not concrete, that is, that it lacks the attribute of being concrete. Being abstract is, then, not a proper attribute. Similarly, when something is dead, it does not mean that it has a proper attribute of being dead, it means that it does not have the attribute of living, that it is deprived of life. Being-dead is therefore a pseudo-attribute and, strictly speaking, death does not exist. In the same way, blindness is a privative pseudo-attribute where blind is a synonym of sightless. Altho prefixes like a-, non- and un- may be called "privatives" by linguists, predicate terms which begin with one of these affixes need not refer to privative predicates by any manner of means. For example, unhappiness has the same ontological status as happiness: they are opposites of each other. The one predicate is not 'more privative' than the other, just like hatred is not 'more privative' than love, and vice versa. The fact that unhappiness was not given a positive or affirmative name in this language, like happiness or hatred, does in no way determine its existence or nonexistence.

Certain predicates designated by predicative expressions are improper, not because the expression does not denote any existing predicate, but rather because it does not denote one particular, existing predicate. A class of such improper predicates we have already been confronted with are compositional predicates. Thus cordateness and renateness are improper attributes as the terms cordate and renate do not refer to real attributes but to the fact of having component parts as a heart and kidneys. X is cordate if X has a part Y (in a strict or looser sense of having) which has the (proper or improper) attribute of being-a-heart. Another kind of compositional predicate is being-a-grandparent. If X is a grandparent of Z, there is not really a direct relation of 'grandparenthood' between X and Z (altho there may in practise be all kinds of other direct relations between grandparents and their grandchildren). There is a relation of parenthood between X (the fundament) and a living being Y, and also a relation of parenthood between Y (the fundament) and Z. It is these two relations which exist (unless they happen to be no proper predicates themselves), not the single relation of 'grandparenthood'. Especially when attributed to people who are dead, (still-)having-a-great-influence is also a compositional predicate. If X (still) has great influence (even tho 'e is dead), then, for example, X created something Y --'e wrote a book or painted a picture, for instance-- and many people who have come into contact with this creation Y ('er book or painting, or any copy thereof) are (still) very much influenced by it now. The composition of having-a-great-influence or fame, or for that matter infamy, may be much more complex, but it is essential that it can always be reconstructed in such a way that it consists of relations between terms which exist or existed at the same moment or in the same period. Hence, there is nothing mysterious about someone becoming famous or infamous long after 'er death because (this kind of) fame or infamy itself does, strictly speaking, not exist. X is famous or X is infamous is in this case merely an abbreviation for a long conjunction of propositions.

Predicates like cordateness, 'grandparenthood' and famousness are conjunctive predicates: propositions in which they are mentioned can be replaced by a conjunction of several propositions in which only proper or more basic predicates are mentioned. Compositional predicates for which this is not possible might be called "sortal predicates". Some people, especially metaphysical essentialists, maintain that species membership is not just a question of having certain attributes and/or relations in combination. They believe that sentences with sortal predicate expressions such as <-- is a human being> cannot be replaced by a conjunction of sentences with several proper predicate expressions in them. Being-human would, then, imply the presence of a certain specific structure of the body called "human". Maybe, a being with predicates or parts A, B and C would be human, but also a being with predicates or parts B, C and D, and one with C, D and E. Solely having predicate or part C would, then, not suffice to be called "human". (We shall neither assume nor deny here that so-called 'sortal predicates' are in fact a kind of conjunctive predicates.)

Instead of compositional, an improper predicate may also be disjunctive. If X is p or X has (the attribute) P means X has (the attribute) Q or (the attribute) R, then P is a disjunctive attribute. An example of such an improper attribute is concreteness if concrete means moving or at rest. Being-at-rest or motionlessness is itself a proper predicate but motion is in turn a disjunctive, improper predicate as there is not just one predicate of motion but as many as there are speeds.

While we have been willing to accept the existence of abstract entities such as attributes and relations, our realism now turns out to be quite sober, for a great number of attributes and relations for which there are names in everyday language are not proper predicates and will not be regarded by us as existing in reality. These nondeterminative, privative, disjunctive, conjunctive or sortal 'predicates', which do not represent one particular, existing attribute or relation at all, are mere pseudo-entities.

©MVVM, 41-57 ASWW

Model of Neutral-Inclusivity
Book of Instruments
Having and Thingness
Existence and Thingness