My blog entry on Two Kinds of Liberals raised for me a philosophical knot to be untied, implicating such formidable dead men as Aristotle and Wittgenstein.
Aristotle’s interest in natural philosophy and classification leads him to distinguish essential traits from accidental traits. Having four legs and a tail are “essential” traits of a cat; having a calico coloring is an “accidental” trait, a trait that applies to the individual but doesn’t define the category.
Wittgenstein makes a point in the Blue Book that at first sounds similar to Aristotle’s but turns out to be different in implication. Wittgenstein is interested in how we use language. E.g., when we read, do we process the meaning of each word and then put the meanings together? That may seem intuitive, but thinkers as far back as Edmund Burke (in his great 18th-century treatise on the sublime) suspected that this is not how…
I thought until death do us part meant one of us would cry
At the loneliness we’d feel when our lover had just died;
I never thought it meant that the love we shared might fly,
That you’d run away from me instead of walking at my side.
I thought that love and marriage meant forever and a day;
How could I have known your love would someday fade away
That your love would die a little more with each passing day,
And your heart beat less excited each time I looked your way.
I couldn’t help the way I felt or the way I looked at you,
Your smile took my breath away, your beauty took me too;
The tenderness of your touch, and the magic in your look,
I thought the love between us had written the final book.
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