Thursday, February 14, 2013

Pistorius and Ordinary Language Philosophy

This story seems tragic for all concerned. I couldn't help but notice, however, that this BBC feature on reactions to the news says "Early media reports suggested that Mr Pistorius may have accidentally shot his girlfriend, believing her to be an intruder".

Anyone familiar with Austin's 'A Plea for Excuses' is likely to remember the famous footnote in which he distinguishes between mistakes and accidents. The details of the Pistorius case aren't fully clear, but it seems that he purposely shot the person in his house - it wasn't an accident, where the gun just went off in his hand. What occurred was a case of mistaken identity: what he thought was an intruder was actually his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. He didn't intend to shoot her, but that makes the case a mistake, rather than an accident. Accidents just happen (befall), whereas mistakes depend on wrong choices.

Austin's distinction sounds plausible to me, but it's interesting (in this and other cases) to consider whether it describes a distinction implicit - albeit imperfectly observed - in ordinary language, or is simply a philosopher's stipulation about terms that, ordinarily, are interchangeable. The BBC's original story, however, does respect the distinction: "Reports say he may have mistaken her for a burglar".

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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

EDL Link

I don't know how search algorithms work, but any little link helps I believe. The EDL I'm after is English Disco Lovers.


Saturday, February 02, 2013

What Is 'A Song'?

It seems that BBC 6 Music recently produced a listener-voted poll of the Top 100 songs of the last ten years (the time the station has been in air). I'm not going to dispute the choices (de gustibus non est disputandum), but it did seem odd to me that the Top Ten included at least one cover version, specifically Johnny Cash's version of 'Hurt' (originally by Nine Inch Nails).

I don't know what the identity conditions, or ontological status, of a song are. But ordinarily I'd describe Cash's 'Hurt' as a new version of the same song, not as a new song. And, if it is the same song as the one NIN released in 1994, then it doesn't seem that it should be eligible.

Perhaps this is over-restrictive. Perhaps new (re)interpretations should be counted as new songs, rather than variations on old ones (though I don't think it's how we ordinarily speak). But, if this is so, I wonder how much has to change for the song to become a new one.

Nine Inch Nail's And All That Could Have Been live album was apparently released in March 2002, so also too long ago, but had that been a year later would that have counted as a new song of the last ten years? Taken to the extreme, is every new performance a new song? If so, I'd suggest that there are some real classics missing from this list of songs...

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