Monday, April 11, 2005

Half-things

So, I know, it's my first day with my new blog and I'm getting a little over-excited. I was reading this student's paper on Wittgenstein. He/she/it writes,

"Wittgenstein didn't think pain was nothing but he also didn't think it was something. This implies that Wittgenstein thought that there were "things" with an intermediate status between proper thinghood and proper nothinghood. I think Wittgenstein was right because my that's like that woman Schiavo was before she died."

Pretty clever for a Freshmen in my intro to analysis class, a class with smart jocks from less harsh sports (like tennis players who have a real knack for ontology--has any body else noticed that?). But I like the idea here that thoughts can be thought of as things with intermediate ontological status. It's a bit like David Lewis's naturalness by degrees. Perhaps we can think of properties (like thought-properties) that are less natural as being less ontologically real. So for instance, electrons are totally really real. But washing machines are a little less real--still very real, but a little less. You might think that's crazy, but afterall what exactly is a washing machine? For instance, which electrons belong to it rather than to the air around it (air is another not quite real thing.) So that's the Schiavo-theory of thoughts. Of course, it's just what W. says, but only if you take him literally and not try to think he was just "throwing down the ladder".

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