Life as an Extreme Sport

in which I do academia

I’m taking a class on metaethics. I’m required to write a few paragraphs on the readings every week. I figure, might as well put the musings into the wild. Especially since I’m finding this to be much more interesting than I thought I would,..

Week One
Sign Theory, Moore & Frankena

While reading through both Moore and Frankena, I found myself catching on notions that I have recently read in Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding — sign theory, determined definitions and his basic theory of ideas. I have to wonder if Moore is working from some sort of Lockean position when he writes? Specifically, I am caught by his idea of simple or complicated ideas — on page 52, he talks about how when “horse” is reduced down to the simplest of terms, “horse” becomes undefineable, something that cannot be spoken of, perceived or known by someone who does not already known the emerged property “horse” from those simpler properties.

I was also struck by the dual combination of sign theory and determined definitions that Frankena and Moore both seem to be using; Moore says he would be foolish to try to use “good” to mean “table”, and he’s not trying to challenge standard definition, but isn’t trying to force one word to mean a single thing trying to challenge the standard definition of a word? Moore seems to want one word to mean one thing, and to deny that two words can mean one and the same thing — but doesn’t language drift, both in use and context? Can we actually pick out a single word, remove it from all references and situations, and isolate the single meaning of the word? It seems too many words, and too many contexts, modify or explain the target word, and give too great a variety of meaning.

One comment

  1. Years ago, I was in chruch listening to a homily about our pastor’s grad school days, discussing in class how to define what makes a chair a chair. 15 years later my head still hurts.

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