Friday, April 26, 2019

Corporate Personhood Bad; River Personhood Good

“Most people in America would laugh at the idea of a river being treated as a person, yet we don’t bat an eye over concepts of corporate personhood,” Freid said. “That’s really reflective of our culture, if you think about it.”
It might be, if it were true. But most people in America don't even know that corporate personhood is a thing, and almost no one understands much about the idea of legal personhood or the arguments for and against it. And of those people in the U.S. who even know about the idea, most deride it as absurd.
   Anyway, it's ridiculous to say that "we don't bat an eye" over it. That can't be a serious opinion. It must have been one of those bits of hyperbole that slip* out when people are on a roll.
   Also anyway, corporations are more person-like than rivers are in the relevant respects. It's not really controversial that corporations have rights and duties. It's not clear that rivers have rights, and I doubt that anyone thinks they have duties.

*'Slip' or 'slips' here? I can't figure it out.


Blogger Pete Mack said...

"I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one" was my favorite sign during Occupy. Corporate duty as it were is "maximize shareholder value." When people act that way at the expense od everything else, we call them sociopaths. So the river comparison isn't too bad as hyperbole goes, but "no one bats an eye" is a bit off.

8:01 AM  
Anonymous darius jedburgh said...

I think 'slip' is clearly better.

There seem to be two ways of construing the expression:

(i) 'It's a bit of hyperbole, and it slips out when people are on a roll.' Singular subject, singular verb.

(ii) 'It belongs to the following kind: "bits of hyperbole that slip out when people are on a roll".' Plural subject in subordinate clause; therefore plural verb.

It's not a serious ambiguity, though, I think, because the word 'those' speaks so clearly in favor of (ii), and so a plural verb. 'It's one of those.' 'One of those what?' 'One of [those bit of hyperbole that slip out when people are on a roll].'

It's just that the phrase 'one of' puts one in mind of (i), and so tempts one toward the singular verb.

You're welcome.

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Critical Spirits said...

I was confident that "slip" was correct until I started reading it more closely. The relative pronoun "it" is anaphoric on "those" but the former is a singular indefinite while the latter is a plural indefinite pronoun that takes a plural noun.

The trouble, I think, stem from the sometimes confusing way English treats nouns that signify pluralities of things. For example,'team' (usually) picks out a plurality of people, but it is also correct to think of it picking out one thing, viz., a team.

We might paraphrase your statement like this: 'Instances of this kind can plausibly be taken to be ones in which bits of hyperbole slip out.' We remove the anaphoric pronoun 'it' and substitute it with a plural noun. So, it seems like 'slip' is correct because 'instances' and 'ones' are both plural, co-referential, and take 'bits' as the relevant noun. The sentence you wrote treats the singular indefinite pronoun as co-referential with a plural indefinite pronoun/plural noun phrase.

The strange part to me, however, is that this substitution is permitted, yet we do not add or subtract much by way of content. Queue the two thousand year debate over platonism and nominalism.

Am I off-base here?

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Critical Spirits said...

The other thing that is throwing me is the two prepositional phrases starting with 'of'.

Now I'm not sure if 'it' is anaphoric on 'one' or 'those bits'.

I wish you hadn't asked the question.

10:08 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Jesus, you guys know a lot more about English than I do.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

CS: ‘it’ is not a relative pronoun; it’s just a regular (neuter) pronoun, and it refers back to what Winston was saying ‘can’t be a serious opinion’. It (i.e., ‘it’) is not ‘anaphoric on “those”; the allegedly not-a-serious-opinion ‘it’ stands for is being said to be one of those bits of hyperbole. The whole expression ‘It must have been one of those bits of hyperbole’ express class-membership: the not-a-serious-opinion must belong to the class of bits of hyperbole that.... Nor is ‘those’ indefinite: it’s a demonstrative, and its role here is quite definite, as part of an expression picking out a class: those bits of hyperbole that slip out...etc.

I think you want ‘cue’, not ‘queue’; I don’t think this has anything to do with Platonism vs. nominalism, and the role of the ‘of’’s seems perfectly clear.

Apart from that, I agree with everything you said.

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Critical Spirits said...

1. You're right that 'it' isn't a relative pronoun. Dunno what I was thinking there.
2. "Queue" was a typo
3. I added a comment after my initial one in which I (at least implicitly) recognized that I got the bit about 'it''s reference incorrect.
4. The role of the 'of's' is clear, but what I was saying is that they can cause a fair deal of confusion about the verb-agreement that follows them.
5. The platonism vs. nominalism part was in reference to the paraphrase of Winston's sentence, and the implications thereof. Do general terms pick out a mere aggregate of things (all at once), or do they signify a unity whose proper parts consist of elements in some mere aggregate?

But thanks for keeping me on my toes.

9:29 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home