# [lit-ideas] Re: Beg to differ, say, about fractals

• From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
• To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
• Date: Sat, 23 Oct 2010 01:18:52 +0100 (BST)

```
--- On Fri, 22/10/10, Torgeir Fjeld <torgeir_fjeld@xxxxxxxx> wrote:

> > > Donal writes:
> > >>>
> > We may say there was no number system on earth before
> > humans invented one. This would not mean such a
> number
> > system could not apply to what is 'out there'.
> >
> > Consider two number systems:- (a) '1, 2, 3, 5, more
> than
> > 5'; and (b) '1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, more than
> 10'.
> > The farmer with exactly 8 cows using (a)can truthfully
> say
> > he has 'more than 5' cows; and using (b) can
> truthfully say
> > he has exactly 8 cows. Without the man-made invention
> of a
> > number system he could say neither, but that does not
> mean
> > the invention cannot be used to describe what is 'out
> > there'. A farmer with 8 cows but no counting-system
> would
> > still have 8 cows; this fact is true by virtue of what
> is
> > 'out there' irrespective of whether he has the means
> to
> > express or know this fact. A farmerless field with
> exactly 8
> > cows in it also has 8 cows in it - no more, no less -
> > irrespective of whether humans or any other creature
> have a
> > number system to say so.
> > >>>
> >
> > There's a loophole in this reasoning. When Donal
> states
> > that "A farmer with 8 cows but no counting-system
> would
> > still have 8 cows; this fact is true by virtue of what
> is
> > 'out there'", is not the reason why the farmer has 8
> (not 7
> > or 9) cows that Donal states in the premise that he
> has that
> > amount? The appropriate question is not whether the
> farmer
> > has 8 cows due to it being so /out there/, but whether
> the 8
> > cows appear so /to the farmer/ (and not to some
> dislocated,
> > ephemeral theorist outside the practice of farming).
> And in
> > order to answer this question the farmer's reportoire
> of
> > articulation is highly relevant.

It is true my example is premised on their being 8 cows. That is, _ex
hypothesi_, there are 8 cows. This does not make the argument question-begging
in any bad way. The argument would be same if it were premised on "9" cows etc.

So the answer to Torgeir's point, that the question has to be re-framed in
terms of "the farmer's repertoire of articulation", is "No, it doesn't."

It may be true that "the farmer's repertoire of articulation is highly
relevant" to "whether the cows appear so..to the farmer"; so that if his number
system is articulated only to the extent "1, 2, more than 2/many" his herd will
appear to him as merely "many" and not "8" cows. But this will not alter the
fact that he has "8"; and it will not alter the fact that "8" furnishes an
accurate, truthful description of the number in his herd.

It might be added that for those who can count to ten [say, children over the
age of 8] it would not necessarily be difficult for them to decide that,
irrespective of what the farmer thought, there were 8 cows in his herd. And
they would probably be surprised to be told that this conclusion could only be
drawn by "some dislocated, ephemeral theorist" [rather than, say, an 8 year old
like themselves] - indeed, they might find this expression quite beyond them in
a way counting 8 cows in a field is not.

So there is no "loophole" exposed by Torgeir's reply that shows why "8" cannot
apply to the real world situation of the number of cows in a field; or that
shows why the application of "8" must be dependent on whether or not the owner
can apply "8" correctly, or must be dependent on his "repertoire of
articulation." [Imagine the owner marries a wife who can count to ten and she
teaches him to do so: his herd doesn't get more numerous just because his
number-system is extended this way].

The "loophole"/fallacy is actually in Torgeir's shift from the objective to the
subjective mode, as if _what is the case_ is dependent on the subjective mode
(or the subject's "repertoire of articulation"); whereas only _what seems to be
the case from the subject's POV_ might be said to be dependent on the
subjective mode (or the subject's "repertoire of articulation").

D
L

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