Another one of those things

Here’s another one of those things I need to keep in mind but which you don’t:

Formal ontologists must constantly be on their guard against simplistic attempts to read ontological distinctions out of syntactical ones. Ontology, properly understood, is not merely the shadow of syntax. Syntax has no doubt evolved in a way that is partially sensitive to ontological distinctions, but is influenced by many other factors which make it an unreliable guide to ontology.

–the late E. J. Lowe, The Four Category Ontology

Well, on second thought, maybe you do need to keep this in mind. When I say that this is one of those things you need to keep in mind, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is a thing that corresponds to that which you ought to keep in mind, despite my claim’s making perfect sense and being reasonably debatable. That is a trick of syntax, of language.

Maybe you could put it this way: you don’t need to believe (in) everything you think. Even an atheist might say “God bless you” if you sneeze, a perfectly polite thing to say, but you can’t catch him in a contradiction thereby. You can’t say, “Ah, see! You do believe in God!” The sign in my front yard, “All trespassers will be shot,” does not entail any actual bloodletting, or even any trespassers, for that matter. In fact, if my sign does the trick, there won’t be any trespassers.

I guess I’m just one of those guys who is afraid of making commitments…ontological commitments, that is.

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