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Mostrando las entradas de octubre, 2015

Why is it hard to ‘let go’ without losing hope?

It does not matter if it is the end of a relationship, a friendship or a love-dream. It does not make a difference if it is saying good-bye to a friend, a lover or a husband. In every case, it is always hard to let go. And it is hard to let go, because it is hard to let go of everything. When we are left without the person, the relationship, whatever, we are still left with a lot of baggage, mostly, with a lot of questions. That is what we have to let go of. That is what closure means. To turn an ending into a closure is to get rid of the questions and doubts that remain. [Of course, this is not the only reason why endings are difficult. There is, first of all, loss and mourning, not to mention disbelief (This is not happening! This is not the end. We can still make it, etc.) Also, nostalgia, in the sense of a feeling of wishing that things went back to an idealized past when things were either working or still full of promise. There is even a feeling of relief mixed up with all these…

Pretending to believe in fictional entities

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There are almost as many kinds of nominalisms as there are ontological (and semantic categories). There are nominalists of inobservable entities and nominalists regarding mathematical objects; my concern here is with nominalists regarding fictional characters, that is, philosophers who think fictional characters do not exist tout court. They do not subsist or inexist or otherwise occur within our ontology. Thus, this nominalism faces similar problems as other sorts of nominalisms. In particular, I think the basic issue plaguing nominalisms today is that language use is not so neatly divided in discrete domains of discourse. Mathematical nominalists, for example, have strong problems when trying to account for mathematical application and, in general, the way mathematical vocabulary is so deeply interwoven into non-mathematical areas. A nominalism for fictional name faces a similar problem of accounting for the use of fictional empty names outside fiction. The nominalist about fictiona…

The Paradox of Marginalisation II

In a previous blog post I argued that when we expect people of certain groups to behave a certain way (the way that fits our stereotype of the group they belong to) but also to not behave that way (because we disapprove of it), we condemn people from these groups to unavoidable disapproval: if their behaviour fits the stereotype, their behaviour is devaluated by disapproval because the traits that conform the stereotype are devaluated, but if their behaviour challenges the stereotype, then it is also disapproved of precisely for not conforming to social expectations.

One might respond to my diagnosis by arguing one of two things. First, that the paradox emerges from an equivocation in the term “expectation”. Second, that there is a symmetry at the heart of the paradox that would allow us to derive the opposite conclusion: that there is a positive double bind such that whatever people from these marginalised groups do we cannot but get social approval for our actions. I will address eac…

The paradox of marginalisation

I am interested in the intersection between two phenomena that are common and contribute to the marginalisation of whole groups of people (because of their gender, race, class, etc.). Each one of them itself contributes to this sort of marginalisation, no doubt, but their interaction generates new challenges to the understanding of the phenomenon of marginalisation. The first one is stereotyping and the second one is disapproval. I call “stereotyping” the phenomenon of expecting people belonging to a certain group to exhibit certain traits and not others, like expecting women to behave in feminine ways, men to be masculine, native people to be spiritual and in touch with the earth, good looking people to be dumb and shallow, etc. I call “disapproval” the phenomenon of approving of or otherwise valuing, without justification, certain human traits while disapproving of or devaluating others. When we value rationality over intuition or intelligence over strength, we engage in this sort o…

Why care about the interpretation of mathematical diagrams

Judges use  photo finish to determine who won a race, a driver stops at a corner to ask a passer by for directions, a radiologist examines a patient’s x-ray before giving diagnosis, a traveller checks the screen at the airport to get information about her flight, a scientist checks the reading on her nanometer to determine the length of her samples, a mathematician looks at a diagram to gain insight into a new conjecture, etc. What all these cases have in common is that in all of them a person tries to get information about the world not by direct observation but by the use of representations of different sorts. Just as the radiologist need not have any direct contact with the patient, we usually do not need direct contact with whatever aspect of the world we want to know about. In every case, the information might be more or less accurate, the method we use more or less reliable, but in all of them the information is mediated by a representation: a photograph, some words, an x-ray, e…