Category “Divisions”

Lavoisier’s Elementalism

“[…] the fondness for reducing all the bodies in nature to three or four elements, proceeds from a prejudice which has descended to us from the Greek Philosophers. The notion of four elements, which, by the variety of their proportions, compose all the known substances in nature, is a mere hypothesis, assumed long before the first principles of experimental philosophy or chemistry had any existence. In those days, without possessing facts, they framed systems; while we, who have collected facts, seem determined to reject them, when they do not agree with our prejudices. The authority of these fathers of human philosophy still carry great weight, and there is reason to fear that it will even bear hard upon generations yet to come.”

– Antoine Lavoisier (1789), Elements of Chemistry

(Stolen from: ‘synapsomatic’)

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argumentum ad verecundiam [Ø1]

I can empathize with the very human habit of imposing boundaries upon experience, and subsequent desire to appeal to these boundaries for all manner of quacksalvery. I recently found myself defending the case that (1) words can have meaning without having clear boundaries- that is, boundaries are not a necessary condition for two people to use the same word understandably between one another; and (2) that many meaningful words lacking clear boundaries do, in fact, exist. I brought forward the example ‘game’; the debate was born in the term ‘religion’.

“[…] how is the concept of a game bounded? What still counts as a game and what no longer does? Can you give the boundary? No. You can draw one; for none has so far ever been drawn. (But that never troubled you before when you used the word “game”.)”

“One might say that the concept ‘game’ is a concept with blurred edges.

– But is a blurred concept a concept at all?

Is an indistinct photograph a picture of a person at all? Is it even always an advantage to replace an indistinct picture by a sharp one? Isn’t the indistinct one often exactly what we need?

= Frege compares a concept to an area and says that an area with vague boundaries cannot be called an area at all. This presumably means that we cannot do anything with it.

But is it senseless to say: “Stand roughly there”? Suppose that I were standing with someone in a city square and said that. As I say it I do not draw any kind of boundary, but perhaps point with my hand – as if I were indicating a particular spot.”

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