Thursday, August 22, 2013

Defining A Hole Presents A Philosophical Quandry (Especially When U R Doing It Wrong)

OK, so I only heard part of this on my commute home yesterday, and probably am being injudicious by spouting off, but here's the snippet that made me change stations because I couldn't abide listening to such straight up bad philosophy:
PALCA: Now, this is a problem, especially for philosophers who think the world is made out of things, a philosophy known as materialism.
COHEN: A materialist would be inclined to say that there aren't really any holes at all. There are no such things as holes. They're merely perforated objects.
PALCA: But since he's not a materialist philosopher, Cohen sees a problem with this perspective.
COHEN: Suppose you ask what a perforated object is. Aren't you inclined to say it's just an object with a hole in it? And there you are. Holes have come back.
Paging Wittgenstein! Is there a Wittgenstein-literate philosopher in the house?

There surely wasn't one on NPR when we needed one yesterday. These folks were going on talking about holes in the ground, holes in radio programming, donut holes, pie holes, all manner of holes as if just calling a bunch of things "holes" implied the word signifies phenomena or properties of things that all were of a kind. You're not doing philosophy, I'd argue, if you're just using the language lazily and pretending the resulting confusion has philosophical significance. What Cohen was doing in the conversation sounded a lot more like intellectual dishonesty and deliberate obfuscation than what I think of as philosophy.

Look, I'm not saying there isn't an interesting discussion to be had about what people mean when they say the word "hole" in different contexts, clearly there's some interesting concepts to wrap your head around there, but what I heard wasn't that conversation.

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