Gloss, Thing

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Thing

I take time now to address one other “thing”. The “th” suggests Scandinavian origins. Sure enough, etymologists trace the word to Icelandic, the oldest discernible meaning having been a political meeting. Now the word seems to mean anything, anything at all. How can one say anything about the word without involving the word? I can be punning or not: it’s nearly unavoidable.

What I wish to emphasize is that the word does duty in English for extensional, material, objects as well as for intensional non-objects. If the rocks in your garden are “things,” then how can abstract non-things also be “things”? Is the “truth” a “thing”? Is the “soul” a “thing”? Is “God” a “thing”?

Kick at the rocks, Sam Johnson,
Break your bones;
But cloudy, cloudy
is the stuff of stones.

Richard Wilbur

What is this thing called love?

Shouldn’t an alarm go off? shouldn’t we have some signal for non-thing “things”? Some inflection, some linguistic color? Wouldn’t that be more important than distinguishing “he,” “she,” or “it”? I propose a pair of prefixes: let i-thing be used if the entity in question is intensional; and x-thing if it’s physical or extensional.

There’s no such a thing as a thing.

Since we generally think of things as being physical (however inappropriately), perhaps the x prefix could be left unused, as understood. We’d do well though to insist on i-thing for non-material things. Such a distinction would soon force open warfare between religious fundamentalists and the more liberally religious. I believe that would be a good thing provided that the war be to the death. If the liberals win, evolution would have advanced a notch. If the fundamentalists win, we’d go extinct all the faster, possibly in time to save the biosphere for something else.

Of course if the fundamentalists were right, then none of their modern weapons would work, radio and TV would be unable to broadcast their propaganda, there should be only one time zone (Jerusalem based?) … Missionaries in China would have to do matins in the dark and vespers in the morning.

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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