Thursday, September 02, 2010
What Rainbows Cannot Be
Rainbows are clearly not ordinary objects, being more like mirages than oases. But they are just as clearly not fictional objects. One’s conception of a rainbow may well contain false presuppositions, but in that way rainbows do resemble ordinary objects. Consider a red apple. Perhaps what is really there is a 10-dimensional collection of particle-strings within a 4-dimensional block universe, with the red and the spheroid existing only in the minds of certain kinds of potential perceivers of that collection. (That modern scientific hypothesis is not a million miles away from theistic idealism, of course.) Anyway, suppose some fictional meteorologists defined ‘rainbow’ to be a specific sort of event. They might do so because such a technical convention suited their scientific needs better than the rather vague ordinary meaning. And of course, an event is a kind of object (especially in a 4-Dimensionalist world). Now, some relatively arbitrary choices may well have been made as they specified their referent of ‘rainbow’. But that does not mean that rainbows cannot be objects. They are, after all, intentional objects, over which we might quantify. And of course, our intuitions that rainbows are not objects all derive from the fact that they are not ordinary objects. I mention this because it strikes me as similar to Benacerraf’s famous argument about what numbers cannot be.