The Right Coast

March 01, 2005
What are you talking about again?
By Tom Smith

There's a lot of recent philosophical work apparently on the idea of vagueness. You heard me right. What about heaps, piles, and I think you would have to include, shitloads? They have no precise definition, so do they correspond to anything? Do heaps exist? Anyone who can ask this question has not seen my closet. If you add another dirty T-shit to the pile, is it still a pile? When, precisely, does it become a shitload? I know, I know, there are serious philosophical issues here, such as whether language really means anything real, and otherwise we will be stuck listening to "pragmatists" who would foist on us their deeply impractical theories. But still. I'm glad I don't have to explain to my aged mother and father that I am working on the philosophy of piles. I can just hear them talking after I had left the room, or maybe hadn't:

'Eileen, did he say he was working on the philosophy of sheep? What the hell is that?'

"Of heaps, Bill, not sheep.'

'Heaps? How can you have a philosophy of heaps? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Goddammit, why didn't he stay in law school?'

They're very pragmatic where I come from.