Saturday, January 05, 2008

Reductios & Nonsense

Suppose that X claims that some sandstorms are slithy, and that Y (who regards "slithy" as nonsensical) then says that that's false on X's own account, backing up his claim by indicating where X had illustrated the meaning of "slithy" with pictures of toads, water voles and otters (all shiny but some sliding, sleek and lithe, and others slimily writhing). X responds by claiming that Y is not entitled to call her statement "false," because he believes that "slithy" is nonsense, although he might legitimately argue that he does have such an entitlement by giving an account of how reductios work. Y continues to regard the prima facie incoherence of X's account of the meaning of "slithy" as evidence of its nonsensicality, but being unsure how to communicate this thought to her (in view of her astonishing response) he gives in and goes off to the desert, to make himself more useful. (Story inspired by this post on The Prosblogion.)

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