Well, “everyday” for me. Yes, believe it or not, this is the first installment in yet another one of my series that never quite sees completion. I have no idea how, or if, this one ends, but it was inspired (or counter-inspired) by a footnote on the definition of “table” in Michael Huemer’s Ethical Intutionism (p. 280, footnote 6, keyed to text in chapter 8, around p. 201). Huemer is not responsible for my wholesale rejection of his views on this matter. But I’ll get to that disagreement in a future installment. This post is mere philosophical groundclearing for the construction of that forthcoming “promenade among the grandeurs of the mind.”*
Here, from the OR where I work, is a photo of a table.
A steel table with wheels. Note the glossy shine on the floor, btw. Guess who mopped it?
This object below, not far from the table–both in proximity and appearance–is a cart.
What’s the difference? Is there a difference that justifies calling the one thing a “table,” and the other thing a “cart”? Because rest assured, the one thing is called a “table,” and the other is called a “cart.” Indeed, my supervisor insists that “That is a table,” and “That is a cart” are truth-apt expressions, with the further implication (tacit, subtle, and yet fully real) that the table/cart distinction is not merely stipulative, but a fact about the furniture of the universe, or at least of the OR. It follows that if I’m asked to bring a table somewhere, and instead bring a cart (or vice versa), I will have done something wrong by his lights. And call me a brainwashed lackey of Late Capitalist Neoliberalism, but I agree with him. What on Earth is going on here?
Now, this is what’s known as a “fracture table.” It’s called a “table,” but it seems more like a big cart to me than a table. So I appeal to my readers: which is it? Cart? Or table? Or is there no right answer?
A fracture table, or perhaps a fracture “table”
Roderick Long (Philosophy, Auburn) has suggested (in a raging debate we’re having on Facebook) that a fracture table is a species of chaise lounge, but that doesn’t quite cohere with my intuitions. Offhand, I can’t think of anyone whose intuitions would cohere with that claim, but I admit to living a somewhat sheltered life.
Instead of tediously explaining what a fracture table is, I offer this video for your viewing pleasure. A few minutes’ viewing should be enough to get the main point across, unless you want a job setting fracture tables up in the OR, in which case I merely ask that you not take my job away from me, given the time and energy I’ve invested in it.
Yes, I’m actually writing a paper on this, and yes, it won’t be published in the Review of Metaphysics. But still. It’s the thought that counts.
All responses will be recorded for quality assurance purposes.
I’m kidding. All commenters will be mentioned in a footnote in my forthcoming paper that no one will ever publish or even read.
*Wallace Stevens, from “Esthetique du Mal.”