Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Death, Hockey, and Love

A pair of questions from C.Ewing. First,

Is there an important distinction between "clinically dead" and "dead"? Is there a lingering dualism within that phrasing or something else entirely?
Yes, there is a difference. "Dead" is the explicandum and "clinically dead" is the explicans.

The godfather of analytic philosophy Rudolf Carnap argued that the job of the philosopher is explication, that is, taking a word in ordinary, spoken language which is vague, ambiguous, and altogether semantically mushy and to set out an explication of it, that is, devise a set of rigorous, clean, testable conditions to give the term a meaning that would not give rise to pseudoproblems, questions that look like real philosophical questions, sound like real philosophical questions, but aren't real philosophical questions, rather they are linguistic muddles, errors that arise from the lack of sharp delineation in meaning.

Death is one of those mushy terms. We think we know what it means and in most cases the mushiness doesn't cause any real problems, but in cases dealing with end of life issues like organ donation or persistent vegetative states, the lack of clarity does cause problems. To resolve this, we come up with "clinical death" a term that is meant to cover the sense we have of death, but with clearly delineated conditions by which we can judge whether someone is dead in this sense.

Second, we have this one:
Hockey. Is it just soccer for people in a cold climate or a legitimate sport on its own terms?
Different strategies, different skills, different body types, different sports.

jeff.maynes asks,
In King Lear, Cordelia makes a remark that she can love her father the King more than her sisters as they have to divide their love between their father and husbands. We can take "love" here to mean "attention" but even if we don't, is there a sense in which she is right? That love can be a finite quantity?
The easy answer is no, love is not a material commodity so scarcity is not a concern. But the easy answer is wrong.

To love someone is not merely to have the warm fuzzies when you hear your beloved's name or think of your beloved's face. Love may not mean attention, but it is an active relation where you take that person's welfare, well-being, and personal development as one of your own concerns. To love is at least to care and as Nel Noddings points out, to care is an active relationship or at least a potentially active one. That is why saying "I love you" is so deeply meaningful, because it is more than "Boy, my heart thumps when I think of you," it entails a depth of relationship and commitment.

No one (with the possible exceptions of Bono and Oprah) can love everyone. At some point, your love becomes empty because you are unable to truly relate in the loving fashion to those to whom you profess love. The intuition that Cordelia is mistaken is legitimate because she is setting the limit of love absurdly low, but to say that there is no limit at all is also wrong.

That said, my dear readers, rest assured that I love you all, each and every one of you (especially you)...