[lit-ideas] Re: Language, Justice and Social Practices (long)

  • From: "Phil Enns" <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 27 Sep 2005 23:37:18 -0400

Robert Paul wrote:

"... waiting for Phil to respond to the examples of Treppenwitz and
l'esprit d'escalier, both of which pick out a concept which English
monoglots certainly have, even though they lack a name for it. (A
description is not a name in my book.)"

How does one know that English monoglots have these concepts?  Certainly
many English monoglots have experienced Treppenwitz but why take that to
be evidence of a concept yet to be named?  Does one have to have a
concept of pain to experience pain?  Here again the ability to point to
something does not constitute an identification of a concept.  As Robert
himself notes, a description is not a name and I would add neither is it
a concept.  Isn't it more likely that upon reflection the monoglot would
search around for some way of conceptualizing the experience and perhaps
adopt the German name?  And wouldn't it be as likely that limited to
only English, the experience would remain unconceptualized?  I don't see
how the lack of a conceptualization of an experience in one language but
not another is evidence that there is a common concept known to all

Robert continues:

"... I believe, although I'm not sure, that Phil is willing to accept
that if there is some way of consistently picking out certain things,
and identifying them as the same as or different from other things, a
_name_, such as 'pawn' may not be required; that is, there may be ways
of consistently picking out and classifying a thing other than by naming
it. And my argument would be, that if this is so, the insistence on _a_
name is pointless."

I don't understand what 'consistently picking out certain things' means
except the use of a name.  It need not be the word 'pawn'.  It could
just as easily be some variation of
'the-piece-that-starts-at-this-position'.  What else is a name but that
which 'consistently picks out certain things'?  Far from being
pointless, the ability to 'consistently pick out a certain thing' is
constitutive to holding a concept.  One could not hold a concept without
a criterion of identity that would fix the concept as being about
something.  There can be no meaning to the concept of a pawn without
there being certain things consistently picked out by the concept.  In
this way, the name, or the ability to consistently pick out certain
things, is necessary to there being a concept.


Phil Enns
Toronto, ON

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