Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: Gollum at a Wedding

Expand Messages
  • davise@cs.nyu.edu
    ... It s a question of what you re considering constant in your hypothetical. If you say I wish this had not happened in my lifetime you mean, I wish that
    Message 1 of 22 , Aug 11, 2011
    • 0 Attachment
      --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "David Bratman" <dbratman@...> wrote:
      >
      > <davise@...> wrote:
      >
      > > It seems to me there's a difference between "I wish
      > > this had not happened in my lifetime" and "I wish I
      > > had died before this happened."
      >
      > Only the difference of which end of the stick you're looking at. ."

      It's a question of what you're considering constant in your hypothetical. If you say "I wish this had not happened in my lifetime" you mean, "I wish that my lifetime were unchanged, but that this would not happen until after my death, if at all." Whereas if you say "I wish that I had died before this happened," you are saying,
      "Given that this was going to happen, I wish I had died earlier than I did, rather than see it." So I would certainly say, "I wish that the
      attacks on the World Trade Center had not happened in my lifetime"; that means, "I wish that my life span were unchanged, but that the attacks either did not happen at all, or did not occur until after my death." Whereas the statement "I wish I had died before the World
      Trade Center attacks", means "Given that the WTC attacks were going to
      happen on Sept. 11 2011, I wish I had died no later than Sept. 10."
      Which is certainly much more extreme, but, under some circumstances, reasonable; someone whose life had been ruined by the attack might well say that.

      > To say
      > that "I wish I had died before this happened" means not "I wish >this hadn't
      > happened until after I died" but "I wish I had died sooner" is no >less
      > perverse than to say "I wish this had not happened in my lifetime" means "I
      > wish I had died sooner.

      It's not at all perverse. The literal meaning of the phrase "I wish I had died before this happened" is certainly "I wish I had died sooner" and that's often the intended meaning. Lots of people like Job reasonably wish that they, or a loved one, had died sooner rather than go through various kinds of suffering or humiliation. One can argue the morality or advisability of _acting_ on this wish, but I've never before heard anyone say that _wishing_ it was perverse. Of course, often people speak hyperbolically, and say "I wish I had died
      before this happened" when what they actually mean is just "I very much wish this hadn't happened." But that doesn't make the other reading perverse.

      -- Ernie
    • davise@cs.nyu.edu
      ... As a comparable, unambiguous, case, people will often say I would rather die than do XYZ or experience XYZ. Now, this is almost always hyperbolical; it
      Message 2 of 22 , Aug 11, 2011
      • 0 Attachment
        --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, davise@... wrote:

        > Of course, often people speak hyperbolically, and say "I wish I had > > died before this happened" when what they actually mean is just "I > > very much wish this hadn't happened." But that doesn't make the other > reading perverse.

        As a comparable, unambiguous, case, people will often say "I would rather die than" do XYZ or experience XYZ. Now, this is almost always hyperbolical; it is very rarely the case that they would _actually_ rather die than the alternative. But it is certainly not perverse to say that what this _means_ is that they would rather die than do XYZ.
      • David Bratman
        ... Now you ve actually proven my point, because what it _means_ is that they don t want to do XYZ, not that they want to die. Similarly, to say I wish I had
        Message 3 of 22 , Aug 11, 2011
        • 0 Attachment
          <davise@...> wrote:

          > As a comparable, unambiguous, case, people will often say "I would rather
          > die than" do XYZ or experience XYZ. Now, this is almost always
          > hyperbolical; it is very rarely the case that they would _actually_ rather
          > die than the alternative. But it is certainly not perverse to say that
          > what this _means_ is that they would rather die than do XYZ.

          Now you've actually proven my point, because what it _means_ is that they
          don't want to do XYZ, not that they want to die.

          Similarly, to say "I wish I had died before this happened" means "I wish
          this hadn't happened (or at least not until after I died)", not "I wish I
          had died sooner." And to return to the original example, "I'm glad Tolkien
          didn't live to see this" means "I wish this hadn't happened, but at least he
          didn't have to see it", not "I'm glad he's dead." Any other reading was,
          and remains, perverse. As the original commenter wrote: Sheesh.
        • davise@cs.nyu.edu
          For instance, in A Study in Scarlet , John Ferrier says to his daughter Lucy, I would rather see you in your grave, my girl, than the wife of either of
          Message 4 of 22 , Aug 11, 2011
          • 0 Attachment
            For instance, in "A Study in Scarlet", John Ferrier says to his daughter Lucy, "I would rather see you in your grave, my girl, than the wife of either of those," "And so should I, father" she answered with spirit. It seems to me that what they both clearly mean is that they would prefer she were dead than married to either of her suitors -- not unreasonably, since in the event her forced marriage to Drebber ends up killing her ---, and that it is perverse to weaken the interpretation to "I very much hope you don't end up married to either of those.'

            >"Does this mean that Frodo and Gandalf wish they were dead? Discuss."
            >"Sheesh"

            Since you explicitly invited discussion, I don't know why you're exasperated when you get it.

            And, to return to the original discussion, of course neither I nor John actually supposed that Carl was pleased that Tolkien is dead; nor did I seriously suppose that John or anyone believed that Tolkien would actually still be writing much if he were still alive. John was cleverly using Carl's phrase to express an elegiac thought; and I was doing something similar for John's phrase.

            -- Ernie
          • David Bratman
            ... Yes, but only because I very much hope is weak and inaccurate phrasing. I absolutely forbid it (insofar as I have power to do so, and I dashed well
            Message 5 of 22 , Aug 11, 2011
            • 0 Attachment
              <davise@...> wrote:

              > For instance, in "A Study in Scarlet", John Ferrier says to his daughter
              > Lucy, "I would rather see you in your grave, my girl, than the wife of
              > either of those," "And so should I, father" she answered with spirit. It
              > seems to me that what they both clearly mean is that they would prefer she
              > were dead than married to either of her suitors -- not unreasonably, since
              > in the event her forced marriage to Drebber ends up killing her ---, and
              > that it is perverse to weaken the interpretation to "I very much hope you
              > don't end up married to either of those.'

              Yes, but only because "I very much hope" is weak and inaccurate phrasing.
              "I absolutely forbid it (insofar as I have power to do so, and I dashed well
              should)" would be more accurate. It still doesn't mean he actually wants
              her dead, and even if he does, he's a heavy-handed father in a lurid 19th
              century melodrama, not a 21st century member of a literary discussion list.
              They shouldn't be read as rhetorically identical (nor Frodo and Gandalf,
              either).


              > Since you explicitly invited discussion, I don't know why you're
              > exasperated when you get it.

              So we can add to the misunderstandings here the fact that you unfortunately
              did not recognize the (fairly standard, where I come from) rhetorical trope
              of the hypothetical essay question, to which "Discuss" is the traditional
              closing flourish. One is not supposed literally to answer the question;
              instead, one should contemplate it for a moment and realize how stupid the
              premise is. But apparently you don't think it's stupid.

              In any case, my exasperation is not that you attempted the question, but at
              the answer you gave. If this were a class, your grade might be less than an
              A.


              > And, to return to the original discussion, of course neither I nor John
              > actually supposed that Carl was pleased that Tolkien is dead; nor did I
              > seriously suppose that John or anyone believed that Tolkien would actually
              > still be writing much if he were still alive. John was cleverly using
              > Carl's phrase to express an elegiac thought; and I was doing something
              > similar for John's phrase.

              Well, they came across as incredibly cutting put-downs, and I'm not even the
              person they were addressed to. If you don't believe in taking comments at
              face value, why did you take my essay trope that way?
            • John Davis
              From a bystander s perspective, this appears to be a misunderstanding regarding what is being referred to as meaning something. Ernie is referring to what
              Message 6 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
              • 0 Attachment
                From a bystander's perspective, this appears to be a misunderstanding regarding what is being referred to as 'meaning' something. Ernie is referring to what the speaker is actually saying - what the statement means; whilst David is referring to the speaker's state of mind as might be inferred from the statement and by taking the statement non-literally - what the speaker means.
                 
                I am not sure either of you are disagreeing that a) 'I wish I this had not happened in my lifetime' differs as a statement of belief to 'I wish I had died before this happened', or that b) whilst they have different literal meanings, they probably reflect the same state of mind, so from a non-literal perspective can be taken as meaning the same thing.
                 
                (And now I'll go back to lurking!)
                 
                John
                 
                ----- Original Message -----
                Sent: Friday, August 12, 2011 5:21 AM
                Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Gollum at a Wedding

                 

                <davise@...> wrote:

                > As a comparable, unambiguous, case, people will often say "I would rather
                > die than" do XYZ or experience XYZ. Now, this is almost always
                > hyperbolical; it is very rarely the case that they would _actually_ rather
                > die than the alternative. But it is certainly not perverse to say that
                > what this _means_ is that they would rather die than do XYZ.

                Now you've actually proven my point, because what it _means_ is that they
                don't want to do XYZ, not that they want to die.

                Similarly, to say "I wish I had died before this happened" means "I wish
                this hadn't happened (or at least not until after I died)", not "I wish I
                had died sooner." And to return to the original example, "I'm glad Tolkien
                didn't live to see this" means "I wish this hadn't happened, but at least he
                didn't have to see it", not "I'm glad he's dead." Any other reading was,
                and remains, perverse. As the original commenter wrote: Sheesh.

              • WendellWag@aol.com
                Yes, in fact, it s hard to even define what the term meaning means. Do people know about the Gricean maxims of conversational implicature?:
                Message 7 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
                • 0 Attachment
                  Yes, in fact, it's hard to even define what the term "meaning" means.  Do people know about the Gricean maxims of conversational implicature?:
                   
                   
                  I know that this idea was frequently mentioned back when I was studying linguistics thirty-some years ago.  I don't know if they're still thought important or useful.  The idea is that there are implicit rules on how a conversation works that determine how one participant in a conversation should understand another participant.
                   
                  Wendell Wagner
                   
                  In a message dated 8/12/2011 4:48:07 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, john@... writes:
                   From a bystander's perspective, this appears to be a misunderstanding regarding what is being referred to as 'meaning' something. Ernie is referring to what the speaker is actually saying - what the statement means; whilst David is referring to the speaker's state of mind as might be inferred from the statement and by taking the statement non-literally - what the speaker means.
                   
                  I am not sure either of you are disagreeing that a) 'I wish I this had not happened in my lifetime' differs as a statement of belief to 'I wish I had died before this happened', or that b) whilst they have different literal meanings, they probably reflect the same state of mind, so from a non-literal perspective can be taken as meaning the same thing.
                   
                  (And now I'll go back to lurking!)
                   
                  John
                • Mike Foster
                  Is this another way of saying “I wish that it never happened.” 9.11.01 and the JFK assassination both happened in my lifetime. The Great War and
                  Message 8 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
                  • 0 Attachment
                    Is this another way of saying “I wish that it never happened.”  9.11.01 and the JFK assassination both happened in my lifetime.  The Great War and Hitler’s hideous history did not.  I would prefer a world where none of these had happened.
                     
                    Mike
                     
                    Sent: Friday, August 12, 2011 3:47 AM
                    Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Gollum at a Wedding
                     
                     

                    From a bystander's perspective, this appears to be a misunderstanding regarding what is being referred to as 'meaning' something. Ernie is referring to what the speaker is actually saying - what the statement means; whilst David is referring to the speaker's state of mind as might be inferred from the statement and by taking the statement non-literally - what the speaker means.
                     
                    I am not sure either of you are disagreeing that a) 'I wish I this had not happened in my lifetime' differs as a statement of belief to 'I wish I had died before this happened', or that b) whilst they have different literal meanings, they probably reflect the same state of mind, so from a non-literal perspective can be taken as meaning the same thing.
                     
                    (And now I'll go back to lurking!)
                     
                    John
                     
                    ----- Original Message -----
                    Sent: Friday, August 12, 2011 5:21 AM
                    Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Gollum at a Wedding
                     
                     

                    <davise@...> wrote:

                    > As a comparable, unambiguous, case, people will often say "I would rather
                    > die than" do XYZ or experience XYZ. Now, this is almost always
                    > hyperbolical; it is very rarely the case that they would _actually_ rather
                    > die than the alternative. But it is certainly not perverse to say that
                    > what this _means_ is that they would rather die than do XYZ.

                    Now you've actually proven my point, because what it _means_ is that they
                    don't want to do XYZ, not that they want to die.

                    Similarly, to say "I wish I had died before this happened" means "I wish
                    this hadn't happened (or at least not until after I died)", not "I wish I
                    had died sooner." And to return to the original example, "I'm glad Tolkien
                    didn't live to see this" means "I wish this hadn't happened, but at least he
                    didn't have to see it", not "I'm glad he's dead." Any other reading was,
                    and remains, perverse. As the original commenter wrote: Sheesh.

                  • davise@cs.nyu.edu
                    ... Well put. David writes, among other things, ... I really have trouble believing that you or Carl or anyone took John Rateliff s post, I wish he were alive
                    Message 9 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
                    • 0 Attachment
                      --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "John Davis" <john@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > Ernie is referring to what the speaker is actually saying - what the statement means; whilst David is referring to the speaker's state of mind as might be inferred from the statement and by taking the statement non-literally - what the speaker means.

                      Well put.

                      David writes, among other things,

                      > Well, they came across as incredibly cutting put-downs and I'm not
                      > even the person they were addressed to. If you don't believe in
                      > taking comments at face value, why did you take my essay trope that
                      > way?

                      I really have trouble believing that you or Carl or anyone took John Rateliff's post, "I wish he were alive and writing" as an "incredibly cutting put-down" of Carl's post "I am glad that Tolkien didn't live to see it" or even as a disagreement. If John took my post "he would now be 119, and not writing much" as an incredibly cutting putdown, I apologize to him. It was not intended at all as such; I enjoyed John's post. My point was just "Mourn not overmuch! Mighty was the fallen" and that one can hardly weep over Tolkien as an author who was cut off in his prime like Keats or Austen. In your second post in this thread, you agreed with that.

                      Of course I recognized the essay trope; I deliberately misinterpreted it. The rhetorical device in all three responses is the same: To deliberately misinterpret the previous statement in order to make a tangential point. E.g. "What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature!" "Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand."
                      Or "Goodness, what a lovely mink!" "Goodness had nothing to do with it." Or "It is very vulgar to talk like a dentist when one isn't a dentist. It produces a false impression." "Well that is exactly what dentists always do." Perhaps it is not the best device to use in online discussion. Apparently it is open to misunderstanding and hard feelings. I will try to avoid it in future.

                      Wendell raises the issue of the Gricean maxims. I don't know the linguistic/philosophical side well, but on the artificial intelligence side, this kind of inference is very important for automated dialogue understanding. Grice's article is one of the seminal works in the area, and his categories are very important, though a lot has to be done to turn them into usable rules.

                      -- Ernie
                    • davise@cs.nyu.edu
                      ... It s stronger than that. It is I am going to risk my life and yours in order to prevent it, and in fact they both end up dead. And one does not have to
                      Message 10 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
                      • 0 Attachment
                        --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "David Bratman" <dbratman@...> wrote:
                        > Yes, but only because "I very much hope" is weak and inaccurate phrasing.
                        > "I absolutely forbid it (insofar as I have power to do so, and I dashed well
                        > should)" would be more accurate. It still doesn't mean he actually wants
                        > her dead, and even if he does, he's a heavy-handed father in a lurid 19th
                        > century melodrama

                        It's stronger than that. It is "I am going to risk my life and yours in order to prevent it," and in fact they both end up dead. And one does not have to go to lurid 19th century melodrama to find people who put their life at great risk in order to escape horrible marriages or relationships; one can, alas, find it every day in the newspaper. I am sure that many people in that position say, "I would rather die than continue on in this way," or "I wish I had died before I ever met him/her" and mean that exactly and literally.

                        -- Ernie
                      • davise@cs.nyu.edu
                        Dear David, On consideration, some of my recent posts have unfairly twisted your arguments, and have been unnecessarily provocative. My sincere apologies to
                        Message 11 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
                        • 0 Attachment
                          Dear David,

                          On consideration, some of my recent posts have unfairly twisted your arguments, and have been unnecessarily provocative. My sincere apologies to you and to the rest of the list

                          -- Ernie
                        • Mike Foster
                          One problem with on-line discussion is that participants cannot perceive the friendly face, the wry smile. “An argument is ruined by turning it into a
                          Message 12 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
                          • 0 Attachment
                            One problem with on-line discussion is that participants cannot perceive the friendly face, the wry smile. “An argument is ruined by turning it into a quarrel.” –G.K. Chesterton.
                             
                            Mike
                             
                            Sent: Friday, August 12, 2011 12:31 PM
                            Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Gollum at a Wedding
                             
                             

                            Dear David,

                            On consideration, some of my recent posts have unfairly twisted your arguments, and have been unnecessarily provocative. My sincere apologies to you and to the rest of the list

                            -- Ernie

                          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.