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Tuesday, November 26, 2013


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Hello Bill,

I completely agree that there are some not so interesting alienans terms such as 'decoy', 'artificial', 'faux', 'false'.

X is a false, etc, G
X looks like/behaves like a G but isn't a G
'Decoy' and 'artificial' add extra meaning: for purposes of deception and man-made.

'Former', 'ex', 'quondam', 'one-time' also have a common structure

X is a former, etc, G
X was a G but isn't now
The more interesting alienating terms I have in mind include 'past', 'putative', 'apparent', 'intentional', and above all 'possible'. These are the cases where I claim that the qualifying term widens the unqualified term.
Caesar was a Roman
Caesar is a past Roman
Arguably, the past Romans, if there be any, are Romans, so the extension of 'past Roman' appears to be a superset of the extension of 'Roman'.
It's thought that JR murdered Whitechapel prostitutes
JR is the putative murderer of Whitechapel prostitutes
Most murderers are known to be murderers. Some murderers may have escaped suspicion altogether. But generally those thought to be murderers form a superset of the murderers.
It appeared that Jones had a heart attack
Jones had an apparent heart attack
Again, most heart attacks presumably look like heart attacks, so we could say that the merely apparent heart attacks extend the heart attacks.

In the previous post you say
The point is rather that when I read the play there appears before my mind a merely intentional object, one that I know is fictional, and therefore, one that I know is merely intentional. (my italics)
'one' here is anaphoric on 'object', I think, which suggests that the merely intentional objects extend the objects.
Possibly, Murray will win Wimbledon again
Murray is a possible second-time Wimbledon winner
It's generally accepted that the possible includes the actual, so 'possible' is extension-widening.

The idea is that in these examples, the first sentence contains a quoted sentence which undergoes a transformation to arrive at the second sentence of the example. The form of the second sentence appears to refer to a hard-to-comprehend object. Hamlet can be seen to fit this pattern:

In the eponymous play, Hamlet is a Prince of Denmark
Hamlet is a fictional Prince of Denmark
Likewise 'past' if we take 'Caesar was a Roman' to be understood as
Once upon a time, 'Caesar is a Roman', was true.

Thanks for the response, David.

>>Arguably, the past Romans, if there be any, are Romans, so the extension of 'past Roman' appears to be a superset of the extension of 'Roman'.<<

I don't follow you. Surely the set of past Romans is not a superset of the set of present Romans. Nor is it a superset of the set of past, present, and future Romans. What am I missing?

Hi Bill,

The argument I have in mind goes like this. How many Romans are there? According to Wikipedia there are 2,645,907 of them. These people form the extension of the concept Roman. Julius Caesar presumably falls under the concept past Roman and also under the concept Roman. But he wasn't counted in the 2013 census. So the extension of the concept Roman seems to be at least one bigger than we thought. An ordinary concept term like 'female', when conjoined with 'Roman' does not have this strange widening effect on the extension of Roman. This suggests that 'past' does not signify a concept and casts doubt on the comprehensibility of 'past Roman'.

What do you mean by 'Roman'? Do you mean the term to apply to the present residents of the city of Rome, Italy? Presumably that is what you mean if you note that there are some 2.6 million of them. But then J. C. does not fall under the concept *Roman*

I am afraid I don't understand you at all.

I mean 'citizen of Rome'. Perhaps I could put it this way:

1. JC is a past Roman.
2. A past Roman is a Roman (if not, what city is a past Roman a citizen of?)
3. Why, when we count the Romans, do we not count JC? By (1) and (2) he is, after all, a Roman.
Contrast with:
4. Livia Montalbano is a female Roman.
5. A female Roman is a Roman.
6. When we count the Romans we unproblematically count Livia.

Still not clear. By 'citizen of Rome' do you mean 'present citizen of Rome'? If yes, then your question answers itself. If you mean 'past or present citizen of Rome, then we do count JC.

We agree that a past Roman is a Roman. Now the past Romans are a proper subset of the past or present Roman, and the past Romans are disjoint from the present Romans.

There is no way that 'past' can widen the extension of 'Roman.'

Hello Bill,

I plead unable to commit myself to either of the alternatives you offer me. My position is that 'present X' and 'past X' are problematic terms just as 'fictional X' is a problematic term, and for analogous reasons. My 1--3 are intended to bring this out. But here is further argument:

a) I don't think I can mean 'present citizen of Rome' because then (1) would become 'JC is a past present citizen of Rome'. Interpreting 'past' and 'present' as ordinary conjunctive terms like 'female' renders this self-contradictory.

b) I don't think I can mean 'past or present citizen of Rome' because then we obviously should count JC when we count the Romans, and the puzzle then becomes why we don't.

c) I don't think I'm equivocating on 'Roman'. Certainly not in 4--6 which are unproblematic.

My contention remains that 'past' is strongly alienating.

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