Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Thought-Experiments: Dogs and Cows, Colds and Cancer, etc.

   Suppose we discover that we can achieve some important goal (say, reducing animal cruelty, e.g. factory farming) by getting people to adopt/change their concept dog so that cows are a type of dog. Maybe we say that a dog is actually any animal of a type that has been domesticated for a long time, and such that its relationship with humans has been beneficial to us. This allows us to say things like "I can't believe you eat dogs!" and "Surely you agree that dogs--man's best friend!--should not be slaughtered in factory farms." Suppose, even, that we get the vast majority of people to go along with this.
   Question: In the imagined situation, are cows dogs?

   Suppose that we discover that cancer survival rates improve (at no cost) if we accept and employ a concept common cold that includes (only?) cancer. Perhaps doctors say things like: don't worry, you just have the common cold, located in your lung. Survival rates are over 75%." Suppose this improves people's spirits, etc.
   Question: In the imagined situation, is cancer a form of the common cold?

   Suppose that we discover that we can decrease sexism and sex-based discrimination by convincing people to alter the concepts man and woman such that all men are women. Perhaps on grounds something like: to be a woman is to have an X chromosome, and all men have X chromosomes, so all men are women.
   Question: In the imagined situation, are men women?*
      (Don't look at that footnote until yo're done.)

* I know this is all incoherent. It's not my fault.


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