In her emendation of her earlier work on antilogism here, Christine Ladd-Franklin wrote

... That no human beings are immortal and no angels are mortal precludes any angels being human.

[She then presents the syllogism in symbolic form]

The formula says "precludes that any angels (some angels) are human" but rhetoric has a strong penchant for turning the verb of a subordinate proposition into a verbal noun.

Is her point that the verbal (being) implies more existential import than the pure copula as a verb (is/are), or am I missing something?


I don't think she is implying any deeper meaning; she is merely acknowledging (presumably to forestall objections) the apparent inconsistency of expressing the subject of her sentence with a that clause and its object with a gerund clause.

She attributes this inconsistency to ‘rhetoric’, which is accurate only if you take ‘rhetoric’ to mean ‘the art of verbal expression’. I believe that a linguist would call the preference of preclude for gerund clausal complements a licensing constraint. Mamma English don't allow no preclude that playing round here.

Which is not to say that she has no naughty children; but the construction is very rare:

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    That Mama don't allow it don't preclude JJ playing his guitar or me writing this sentence. But have I struck a blow for linguistic freedom from interfering "grammar gerund Nazi mamas" by using me instead of my there? I have the distinct feeling me = continuous verb, whereas my = gerund noun. But I could be wrong. – FumbleFingers Jun 24 '14 at 23:28
  • @FumbleFingers I think the whole point of the participle/gerund is that it is both at once. But I agree that my marks the p/g as nounier and me as verbier. I think there are bunch of posts floating around on the POSS-gerund vs OBJ-gerund thing. – StoneyB Jun 24 '14 at 23:36
  • Well, your substantive point in the answer is obviously correct (That the first proposition starts with "that" doesn't imply the second adopting the same form). But however the propositions are actually expressed, I think they inevitably have a certain amount of nouniness (and there was me thinking verbing weirds language, but I now see nouning is just as capable of doing the job! :) – FumbleFingers Jun 24 '14 at 23:52
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    @FumbleFingers They have to have that nouniness to act as subjects and objects - or as propositions. All the way back in Philosophy 101 I remember thinking that we'd think about everything very differently if Plato and Aristotle had used verbs instead of nouns for their key terms. – StoneyB Jun 25 '14 at 0:16
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    Good point! Even today we speak of particle physics and string theory at the leading edge, but the more I try to get my head around such things the more it seems to be all about vibrating, moving, being perceived, having an effect, etc. Reality does increasingly seem to be a matter of things happening rather than things existing. – FumbleFingers Jun 25 '14 at 0:26

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