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Re: Gollum at a Wedding

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  • 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 1 of 22 , Aug 11, 2011
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      --- 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 2 of 22 , Aug 11, 2011
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        <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 3 of 22 , Aug 11, 2011
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          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 4 of 22 , Aug 11, 2011
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            <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 5 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
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              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 6 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
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                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 7 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
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                  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 8 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
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                    --- 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 9 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
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                      --- 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 10 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
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                        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 11 of 22 , Aug 12, 2011
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                          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

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