Saturday, February 19, 2011

Is ‘pretty’ pretty?

Are any words pretty? Maybe not outside of calligraphy (or song), but on the other hand, ‘pretty’ isn’t too odd-looking, as words go. And it does make us think of prettiness. So I’m reluctant to say that it isn’t pretty, i.e. that it’s heterological (that it doesn’t describe itself accurately). Is it, then, that it isn’t heterological (that it describes itself accurately), that it’s a pretty predicate? I wouldn’t go that far; to me, it seems only vaguely pretty. And so it seems to me that ‘pretty’ is vaguely heterological.
......Is being heterological a matter of degree? Well, descriptive accuracy does seem to be. E.g. “is short” is a fairly short predicate expression, while “is so far from being extremely long that, not only is it not very long, it’s short” clearly isn’t. So there’s probably an expression that means the same as “is short” and which is vaguely short (unless an expression N letters long can be short while one N + 1 letters long isn’t), and hence vaguely heterological. Furthermore, is ‘boring’ boring? Not very boring now I come to think about it. Etc.
......So, since it’s a matter of degree, should we not say that predicates are heterological insofar as they don’t describe themselves very well? If so then ‘heterological’ is as heterological as not, is (only) vaguely heterological. And Grelling’s paradox—that ‘heterological’ is hetrological if, and only if, it isn’t—does rule out the non-vague extremes. I’m not suggesting that ‘heterological’ is neither heterological nor not—i.e. that it’s not heterological and that it is—however, because if I’m right, such trivalent (or dialethic) claims are inaccurate, aren’t very true (nor very false).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your explication of this paradox. On a semi-related note, the word "mellifluous" describes itself very well! I would love to see it used a philosophical example more often.