Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Dogs and Wolves


That I will endeavour to explain, I replied. To keep watch- dogs, who, from want of discipline or hunger, or some evil habit or other, would turn upon the sheep and worry them, and behave not like dogs, but wolves, would be a foul and monstrous thing in a shepherd?
(Plato’s Republic)

An important part of the discipline of dogs is universality of command. A shepherd explains:
commands

What does the ‘shepherd’ Eric Schlisser think of the philosopher wolf Alex Broadbent who in a moment of heartiness wrote?
Cf. stereotyper
These are all general merits of the book, which make it refreshing, stimulating, and well worth the reading time of Joe the Philosopher of Science (not to mention Joe the Doctor). In addition, the prose is clear and lively.--Alex Broadbent, Philosophy of Science, Vol. 80, No. 1 (January 2013), pp. 165-6.

Not good dog, wolf you, wolf you, ‘sexist stereotyper you’. Lie down, lie down. Sit!

In the comments section the discussion takes the well worn path and here we pause to enquire why paths tend to be ‘well worn’ and whether being a path necessitates being ‘well worn’. In any case the empirical path is taken with reference to numbers of male and female Doctors of Science. Is that a mistake or do numbers matter? The overwhelming majority of Primary School teachers in Ireland are female and using the unmarked ‘he’ in that case may seem strained and overly punctilious. I worry about this.

Still the shepherd’s invigilation of ‘she’ as the unmarked pronoun in philosophical discussion is now universal. Young philosopher dogs, who aspire to being shepherds obey. Good dog, good dog.

2 comments:

skholiast said...

Ugh. "Lively prose"? Far better something like The Philosopher & the Wolf.

I have occasionally thrown in a "she" for good measure. It's always a meta-message -- "Look! I'm thinking about this." Not a bad thing to think about, but -- distracting? maybe in a generation or so it won't be.

ombhurbhuva said...

The Philosopher and the Wolf was a book that I really enjoyed.

Anything to do with the ‘woman question’ is highly charged, an electric fence even. When the ‘she’ becomes mandatory in philosophy and clever people think that it’s a matter of numbers and therefore is not warranted, the grammatical principle needs to be stated. Will the use of ‘she’ as the unmarked pronoun lead to confusion when it departs from ordinary language? I think yes. Ordinary language used to be a recourse for philosophers when ‘the man on the Clapham omnibus’ was attended to. Now ‘the man’ is a person and if ‘she’ doesn’t have a ticket she will be thrown off. The idea of philosophers developing a special language with grammatical positive discrimination is without merit, in my view.

‘They’ or ‘their’ works as a neutral pronoun if one has a problem with the unmarked ‘he’. It’s idiomatic and natural.