Wednesday, October 05, 2011

how bizarre.

“One is tempted to try: ‘It follows from the physical laws that if the match is struck against that surface (at the specified force and angle) and everything is normal then the match ignites’, but this brings the very strange predicate ‘normal’ into the story. Besides, maybe conditions weren’t ‘normal’ (in the sense of ‘average’) at the time. (In infinitely many respects, conditions are always ‘abnormal’: a truism from statistical theory.)”

Hilary Putnam, “Why There Isn’t a Ready-Made World” (Putnam’s emphasis)

Observation 1: How strange (ironic?) that the predicate ‘normal’ is strange. For isn’t what we normally predicate ‘normal’ of is that which is common or familiar—viz., what’s normal? And if so, aren’t we by that very fact very acquainted with the meaning of ‘normal’ in such a way that the predicate ‘normal’ is anything but strange?

Tangent 1 of Observation 1: Could there be such thing as the inherently strange that’s such that even if it were to be as normal (common) as can be, it wouldn’t be any less queer? E.g., suppose that, due to a massive toxic waste spill, every person develops the fully functioning genitalia of both sexes that enable individual persons to impregnate themselves. Wouldn’t that smack of being absolutely bizarre however common it might be?

Observation 2: Putnam says that as far as the ‘average’ sense of ‘normal’ goes, in as many respects as can be imagined and then some, things are “always ‘abnormal’.” Doesn’t this imply that, at least on some level, it’s normal for things to abnormal? And if that’s right, how is it the case that conditions are always abnormal?


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