[lit-ideas] Can a person 'imagine' "2 + 2 + 4" (or "5")?

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 18 Dec 2004 08:15:27 EST

 
 
In a message dated 12/17/2004 4:03:05 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:
Two  questions:-
1. Can a person imagine '2+2=4'?
2. Can a person imagine  '2+2=5'?


----
 
I imagine it depends on the use of 'imagine'. It's a Latin word, but  somehow 
imported into England via the Normans. Don't expect a monosemous path  all 
along. Most likely, in English it is _misused_ (by Roman standards).
 
As I perceive it, 'imagine' is a parenthetical verb. This class of verbs  was 
first identified by J. O. Urmson, of Corpus Christi, Oxford. Things  like,
 
         Your son, I regret, is  dead.
         She will, I guess,  succeed.
 
Note that, sadly, Urmson's analysis applies only to the _first-person_ use  
of the respective verbs, yielding:
 
        2+2 =, I imagine, 4.
 
In America, due to what Horn calls 'neg-raising' (or negative  
transportation), a funny phenomenon took place, with the _negation_ of a  
parenthetical. 
Logically, what is negated is what Grice calls the radical. E.g.  "2 = 2 = 4". 
But, in America, instead of imagining that it is not the case that  "2 + 2 = 
4", 
the colloquial idiom is to say that you _don't imagine_ that  it is, yielding.
 
      2+2 =, I don't imagine, 5.
 
 Etcetera. Fascinating question.
 
Cheers,
 
JL


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