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  • Showing only topics with the tag "philosophy". Back to normal view
    1. If you speak another language other than English, what are some interesting differences with English in its vocabulary?

      I love languages, and one of the great things about learning other languages - or even just learning about them - is how it expands your mental horizons. One of the first things you notice is that...

      I love languages, and one of the great things about learning other languages - or even just learning about them - is how it expands your mental horizons. One of the first things you notice is that many words don't correspond 1:1 with each other in distinct languages. Sometimes, what you think of as one concept gets partitioned out into one, two, three, four distinct word forms in another language. Other times it's the opposite, and distinctions are lost. What are some interesting vocabulary/lexicon differences between English and another language you're familiar with? I'll give some examples:

      • Russian motion verbs are a lot more complex than English ones. There are two distinct words for "to walk", idti and xodit'. The former is used for walking in one direction, the latter for walking in multiple or unspecified directions. The former is also used for single actions while the latter is for habitual action. Russian makes this distinction in every common verb for motion. It also makes a distinction between going by foot and going by a means of transportation, like a car, a bicycle, or a train. In English, you could say "I walked to the store" to specify you went by foot, but you could also say "I went to the store" and the mode of transportation is unspecified. In Russian, there is no single verb "go" that doesn't imply either by foot or not by foot. You have to use either idti/xodit' "go by foot" or exat'/ezdit' "go by some means of transportation". (As I understand it, I'm not a native speaker of Russian, just studied it a bit.)
      • Terms of kinship are a big topic. Wikipedia lists six distinct basic forms of kinship terminology, and that's just scratching the surface. Some languages distinguish between the maternal and paternal side of the family, others do not. Some do not distinguish cousins and siblings. Some make distinctions between elder and younger family members with distinct words. Unfortunately, I don't speak any languages that are markedly different from English. But even in my native Norwegian, which is closely related to English, there are some differences, such as:
        • First cousin is a distinct stem (søskenbarn, lit. sibling-child, i.e. the child of your parent's sibling) from second cousins (tremenning). There are also distinct words for cousin (no gender specified) and female (kusine) and male (fetter) cousins.
        • Maternal and paternal grandparents are distinguished.
        • I struggled to understand what the hell a "cousin once removed" was until I realized it's a kind of family relation that has no name in Norwegian.
      • Or it could just be a single word. For instance, English has one word, "suspicious", meaning both an attitude towards another person's behavior (suspicious of) and that behavior itself (behaving in a suspicious manner). In Norwegian, those are two distinct words: mistenksom (suspicious of) and mistenkelig (behaving suspiciously).

      I've only studied a couple of languages seriously. But I also have an interested in constructed languages as a hobby, so I've dabbled in a lot of languages, looking to pilfer ideas for my own projects. I really think it's expanded my view of the world, by showing that categories that seem obvious, really aren't. That's a lesson I've tried to transfer to other areas of life.

      I also think it leads into philosophy, because it's really a question of how to divide up semantic space. If we imagine the theoretical space of all things that could ever be spoken about, how do we divide up that space into distinct words? Which categories do we choose to represent as meaningful, and which ones are relegated to being a sub-aspect of another category, only distinguishable by context? I imagine that in a culture with large family units, it makes more sense not to distinguish "brother" from "male cousin", than a culture in which nuclear families are the norm, for instance.

      Do you have any cool examples of how vocabulary works differently in other languages, whether it be a single word or a large class of words? Or examples of times when encountering a different way of describing the world by learning another language led to insights in other areas of life?

      25 votes
    2. The value of artistic legacy

      My initial reaction to cloud_loud's post about the upcoming Winnie the Pooh slasher movie was viscerally negative - my gut feeling is that my life would be objectively better without a movie like...

      My initial reaction to cloud_loud's post about the upcoming Winnie the Pooh slasher movie was viscerally negative - my gut feeling is that my life would be objectively better without a movie like this in the world tainting a treasured childhood memory for millions of people.

      Then I thought back to my reaction to the Wednesday Addams trailer and it became immediately clear to me that it was just a 'me problem' - I had no sentimental ties to the Addams Family as a kid, but Winnie the Pooh was one of my mum's bedtime story staples. I trust Tim Burton based on his track record to bring a high-quality rendition of Wednesday to the screen, but these nameless & faceless filmmakers were suddenly antagonists in my mind for turning an innocent story about a talking teddy bear into a trashy slasher. But apples & oranges comparison aside, just like how there will be people against the idea of Burton's vision of the Addams family or Tom Hanks' portrayal of Mr. Rogers, there most likely will be people who enjoy this movie when it releases - it just won't be my cup of tea.

      I then started thinking about the implications of franchises reaching public domain like in this scenario - for better or worse, creators can now build upon, remix or bastardize the world and characters of Winnie the Pooh. I recently had a conversation here on Tildes about the necessity of copyright, patent and intellectual property law where @archevel raised the question of whether a person/entity should be able to 'own' an idea, and on the surface the immediate answer is a resounding "no". But thinking deeper about it (especially in this context) pushed me down a different path, calling someone's creation simply an 'idea' is very reductionist. To me, an idea is 'a honey-obsessed talking teddy bear' - there's no characterisation to that, no soul, no story, no sense of being. An idea is a I-V-VI-IV chord progression (and thus holds no legal protections), but shouldn't the artistic integrity of Journey's Don't Stop Believing be protected even after the creators are gone? Why are we so indifferent towards parodies like this when it could just as easily be something more offensive like this that can harm the legacy of the creator just by association? I've always been a proponent of free speech/freedom of expression but thinking about it from this perspective is fascinating to me.

      That's not inherently an issue of something becoming public domain though, it's an issue of preserving the creator's legacy. Copyright doesn't just protect the creator's means to compensation, it protects their right to control their creations - the right to control their artistic integrity and the legacy they leave behind. Knowing that Milne and Shepard created Pooh to entertain children in a wholesome way, I think it's fairly safe to say they would not be happy with a slasher adaptation if they were still alive. If these filmmakers were using Pooh's likeness to parody Xi Jinping and push a communist agenda, would we care more about preserving Milne's legacy then?

      All that brought me to the question of decency - whose moral compass should we guide ourselves by? Where is the line between socially-acceptable satire and obscenity? Western culture has been extremely cagey about some of the most natural things like nudity and sexuality, but here in Australia our government has no issue plastering billboards, bus stops and cigarette cartons with images of nicotine-stained teeth, abscessed mouths and diseased organs in an attempt to warn people of the dangers of smoking & excess sugar consumption - all in the name of public health. Everybody has genitals, why is our government happy to tell us that seeing boobs on a billboard could be potentially shocking for children to see when kids are exposed to NSFL images just by walking past the cigarette shelf in a store or a discarded carton in the street? When our cultural morality is so cagey about something as innocuous as a natural human body, why are we so unconcerned when someone perverts the life's work of a creator just because it's turned public domain? Should the creator have the right to protect their work from beyond the grave?

      I'm willing to bet when Mickey Mouse turns public domain in 2024 the internet will be flooded with Beeple-style grotesqueries (NSFW) and everyone will get sick of profane parodies very quickly.


      Just wanted to post a frame-by-frame analysis of the philosophical rabbit hole I went down today and hopefully stir up a conversation - I know these are fairly deep questions that none of us can really answer definitively but I still love to hear different people's thoughts and perspectives regardless :)

      10 votes
    3. Atheism and moral realism/objectivism?

      *Disclaimer: I am not an apologist, theologian, or a philosopher, just someone interested in the topic. Perhaps this could've been asked in r/AskPhilosophy or maybe even r/changemyview, but I...

      *Disclaimer: I am not an apologist, theologian, or a philosopher, just someone interested in the topic. Perhaps this could've been asked in r/AskPhilosophy or maybe even r/changemyview, but I figure the conversation might be good here

      The recent post here on Absurd Trolley Problems has had me thinking about ethics again, and I realized I've never been introduced to how one can be an atheist and be not only a moral objectivist, but a moral realist. I remember a debate I watched years ago with William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens where Craig asks Hitchens what the basis of morality is, and he acts insulted, insinuating that Craig intended to say that atheists couldn't "be good without God" (which I think became a famous moment for the both of them.)

      But I never got the answer to Craig's question that I wanted. Without God, how should we determine what moral facts there are? How should we determine if there are moral facts at all? I grew up in a fundamentalist religion, and found myself in adulthood deeply interested in apologetics, and see similar responses in debates to the one mentioned above. Now while I believe Hitchens was a moral relativist, I often see and hear cases where atheists do seem to want to say that [insert atrocity here] was objectively morally wrong. Can atheists reasonably claim that there are not only moral facts, but objective moral facts that they can access? Upon examination, aren't you ultimately required to derive an "ought" from an "is"?

      I skimmed The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris some years ago, and it seems to "avoid" (i.e. commit) the "is/ought" fallacy by simply declaring that "human flourishing" (however that may be defined, separate issue) is an irreducible "ought" in his eyes. The book is great, I think that science should be part of the discussion about how one ought to live their life if the goal is some end like human flourishing; doctors already give prescriptions for behavior based on a presupposed goal between both parties to promote health and well-being. Both of these necessarily presuppose a state of affairs that one "ought" to seek to attain.

      But none of this answers why one "ought" to do anything; sure, there are facts about what one "ought" to do in order to attain a state of affairs, but that isn't morality: that's true of any subject where two people agree to share a goal. It doesn't tell us why they should have that goal. None of this feels like a satisfying answer to the question Craig posed. I don't feel like I'm any closer to these objective moral facts.

      I should say this topic is really meaningful to me. I've thought a lot about veganism, and the suffering of non-human animals. I've thought about the impact of my consumption decisions instead of perpetually leaning on the "no ethical consumption" crutch (even though there are reasons why that would have merit in certain circumstances. I literally can't stop thinking about climate change and how powerless, yet simultaneously complicit I feel. I've read Peter Singer, Scripture, Kant, John Stewart Mill, Rawls, and works from many others, and can't find any reason for an atheist (and maybe even a theist?) to think that there are these moral facts at all, much less objective, accessible ones. This really leaves me with "I guess I should just do whatever it is that I feel like doing", which probably seems to you as unsatisfying as it was for me to type.

      14 votes