[C] [Wittrs] Re: Games with Logic and Bachelor

  • From: Sean Wilson <whoooo26505@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 15 Feb 2010 17:38:57 -0800 (PST)


... I may be bowing out of further discussions with you here. The format is too 
laborious for me to create coherent points out of the jabs that come beneath 
each sentence. And I fear the attachment you have to certain beliefs means that 
going further with this will not be helpful. But I'm not discouraging you from 
doing whatever you want; I'm just telling you that I may need to be doing more 
office work than this!

The discussion seems to be hung on whether whether "marriage" and "bachelor" 
have sense -- i.e., whether they are family resemblance ideas. If they do have 
sense, the prop, "If Tiger is in any sense 'married,' he is not a 'bachelor' in 
any sense" is clearly false.

My view is Wittgensteinian. It claims that "bachelor" and "married" do have 
sense, and that their senses form a family resemblance. To police sense, 
however, people often use a sharp boundary that cuts off family members. That's 
all well and good. The boundary allows for a particular use of the idea. But 
sharp boundaries are only for local or convenient uses; and people regularly 
strip them down and allow border members back in the idea.

Case in point: Tiger and Popes. Who's the bachelor here? You seem to think the 
Pope can be considered to be "married to the church." That can only happen by 
stripping down the public fence for the word "marriage" (or moving it). What 
you are doing here is similar to what I have done with "bachelor." Note that 
what allows you to say the Pope is married to the church allows others to 
say they are married to their work. Although these uses may not be exactly the 
same thing, they are closely familial. The central idea involves being 
faithfully devoted to something that precludes the taking of a "spouse" (which 
itself requires some of that faith and devotion that cannot be given).  This 
sense of "marriage" also allows one to say that: (a) Tiger really isn't 
"married" (when he was running around); or (b) that the marriage is a "fraud," 
is "open," or is for "convenience." Is a person who is in an open marriage a 
"bachelor?" Answer: depends upon
 whether you want to use a fence. (Real answer: depends upon what you are using 
the idea for).

You think that statements like (a) should be regarded as a joke, slang, idiom 
or or metaphor or something. Surely they can be. But there's another sense: 
they can be thought to be meta-functional or an idealization. Another word 
might be anti-formalist. Some people think that people who are not in true love 
and show true devotion are not really "married" in an idealized sense. Hence 
the expressions: "the marriage is dead." Or, "during our last year of 
marriage, we really weren't married." These have cash-value in the language 
game -- people perfectly understand what is meant.

The reason why they are meaningful has to do with the cognition of family 
resemblance words. Whenever you use such a word, you are only using a set of 
properties that can be substituted or exchanged for other family properties in 
other uses. Think of it as legos. Sometimes a word has piece-A connected 
with piece-B, other times it has A connected with C. The brain is very good at 
seeing the lego pieces (see Steven Pinker).  

And as I said to you before, J (which you did not understand): the language 
game of Pope, Tiger and "bachelor" is a familiar one. It transposes form and 
function. In one use, "the Pope is a bachelor," the format of the idea is 
present (being legally unmarried to a spouse) but the function is not (being 
eligible to date). With Tiger, it's opposite. The format is NOT present (he's 
legally married), but the function is present (eligible to date). This feature 
of form and function is what creates many border cases for which people elect 
to uses fences (or not!).

There is some talk in your mail of "standards of correctness," and that making 
meaning isn't the same as "being correct." You also make another rather curious 
assertion: "[The Pope is] a more significant counter-example to the standard 
analysis." All of this is either too Russellian or simply confused. It seems to 
say that you have an admiration for Wittgenstein, but really are 
not full-blooded here. That's fine. But let me try one last time to help:

1.You seem to be saying that if someone doesn't observe popular boundaries 
for words that have family resemblance, that what they say without those fences 
must be relegated to some other sphere that can't quite count the same in the 
game of counter-example or analysis. ("Standard analysis" and "being incorrect" 
while making successful meaning on the subject). It's actually the other way 
around. Because you purport to play "logic" with sentences -- a game 
that generally aspires to rigid notation -- you must specify the sense of the 
term ahead of time, or else the terms in the proposition cannot be conjugated. 
You need to tell us what fences you are observing and quit telling others that 
their meaning without fences doesn't count for the matter being asserted. 

Also, this idea that if one doesn't observe "standard fences," that they must 
be joking or using slang or being creative -- this is not understood. At one 
point you even call these uses "parasitic" to literal use. I call this the Joe 
Friday standard. First, if you just substitute the word "technical" for 
"literal," there would be enough retreat for agreement. Fences are precisely 
for that -- technicality. Common fences stand for the idea "in a technical 

Secondly, these things are BORDER CASES. (You don't seem to be able to see 
that). Stephen Pinker notes in Words and Rules (last chapter) that the term 
"bachelor" is a family-resemblance type word, and he purports to do so as a 
linguist looking at empirical research. (I'm not a fan of that maneuver, so 
consider it additive). Whether something is a border case is a function of 
what it shares in common with non-border cases. Something is present, something 
isn't. That's what makes it speakable "in a sense."

Secondly, you are confusing exquisite sense with word pun. (See my quotes about 
Wittgenstein on exquisite sense to Glen, and the fact that W thought they were 
not metaphors or jokes or what not). Lastly, even metaphor and jokes may 
convey meaningful information. (again, See my W quotes to Glen re: the value of 
art to educate us).      

2. Your traveling salesman example  --  his intention is not what matters; it 
is what makes the matter linguistically meaningful. Family resemblance is what 
facilitates the humor. The salesman shares some of the linguistic properties of 
being a bachelor when he is on the road. What does this mean? It means that 
he's picked up a couple of the lego pieces along the way. Imagine an 87-year 
old being put on the show "The Bachelor." If someone watched the show and said, 
"he doesn't look like a bachelor," they would be saying something meaningful 
that is not a joke. In this family resemblance, the pieces of stereotype have 
entered the picture. In your traveling salesman example, stereotype pieces have 
entered as well. His living like one. That's part of the family.

Your legal examples are way out of bounds. Legal constructs are only EXAMPLES 
of what these matters can be. Marriage can be anything we structure it to be in 
law. (See: civil unions). What Tiger has is a legal marriage. That doesn't mean 
other sense of "marriage" don't exist or are overruled. And the reason you 
can't go into a Court and say "not married -- family resemblance" is that 
fences for his legal arrangement are set forth. He understands that way of 
speaking when entering the arrangement. But that doesn't preclude other senses 
of expression -- language doesn't work that way. (Compare: you think 
such-and-such is not a "drug." The law does. The legal idea is only the legal 

Also, if someone asked Tiger under oath whether he was a "bachelor," he would 
be perfectly right to say, "not technically." That would be the most honest 
answer he could give. (And if he said no, people would be right to scoff). 

And as to the lawyer who advises clients about what to say, lawyers make a 
living out of family resemblance. See Clinton and what "sex" is. Or the sense 
of "is." (The former came about from attorney preparation).  
You have this idea that if bachelor is used without a common fence, that it 
does havoc for other ideas. I've told you it does not. This is because the 
fence is still local to those uses. You seem to think I am calling for the 
abolition of the fence or something.

Bachelor of arts introduces polysemy. You are right that language seems to 
exclude these. (See my paper that I referenced to you a while back)  

I don't know what you are doing here. To say whether "bachelor" serves the idea 
of "eligibility to date," you sense-shift. This doesn't help us. What we would 
really need is to gather uses currently in play and see if eligibility is 
present in the context (or how frequent). It sounds like a project for 
linguists, not philosophers. But it doesn't seem at all incorrect that the use 
of the word facilitates this idea. The concept seems invented precisely for it. 
In fact, the reason why marriage was a strong barometer for the term was that 
it originated during a time when marriage held a different social status. As 
the culture changed with respect to this, so did the utility (and idea) of 

In previous mails, I used the phrase "school-boy sense." 
I can't agree with you that there are not levels of understanding Wittgenstein 
and that some people don't get the whole picture. Wittgenstein is the 
quintessential philosopher where this is true.
 I can't agree with you here, and it would take a lecture on the subject. We'll 
do this one separately by another mail some day. (Wittgenstein's judging remark 
had nothing to do with this matter or any matter we're discussing).

Another topic for another day. As I understand Frege, the difference between he 
and Wittgenstein would boil down to this: one sees sense and reference; the 
other sees sense and family. 

Regards and thanks for discussing. (I think I'm out on this one now!)

Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
Personal Website: http://seanwilson.org
SSRN papers: http://ssrn.com/author=596860
Discussion Group: http://seanwilson.org/wittgenstein.discussion.html 

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