A category mistake
[cm] CONCRETE PARTICULAR is a category mistake.
posina posina at salk.edu
Sun Oct 30, 2011
Given the way my brain is wired and given that I can rewire the synapses between neurons thanks to LEARNING, I have only one recourse when confronting something I don’t quite understand–being situated somewhere from where I can’t quite tell apart what is that I don’t understand—which is to read, reread, copy (not photocopy) i.e. write, rewrite, and yes, talk, albeit silently, to myself–which, for short, let’s call study.
At some point as I was studying the corrections and clarifications kindly provided by Prof. F. William Lawvere regarding general and particular, I realized, as if seeing Dalmatian for the first time in R. C. James’ image of black-and-white blobs (some of you might be interested to know that there’s no physical evidence of the existence of R. C. James; many [me being one of the many] looked for him, but none found any trace of R. C. James), that one of the take-home messages of Prof. Lawvere’s corrections is:
CONCRETE PARTICULAR is a category mistake.
Since it took quite a while for me to get it (I am a tube-light), if I may, I’d like to share with you my understanding, with a request to please correct me if I am mistaken in my understanding.
Let’s start at kindergarten with the learning of A, B, C … letters of the English alphabet. I also learned a, b, c … So I say to myself letters have a property whose value can be capital (A) or small (a). And then I learn some of the letters of the alphabet are vowels and the rest are consonants. Letters a, e, i, o, and u are vowels and the rest (e.g. k, q, and w) are consonants. Then, say, I learn ‘A is for apple,’ … Then I grew up a little and got into this association and attribute substitution or transference also known as confusion and muddled thinking to be contrasted with clear thinking, metaphorically speaking.
Yesterday, I went to local farmers market and asked for two apples: one capital apple and one vowel apple. The rest, as they say, is my story.
In short, it makes sense to characterize general as abstract or concrete, but to speak of concrete particular is like trying to bite into consonant apple. Consonant apple is a category mistake, so is concrete particular.
I just thought, though I don’t expect anybody to be as slow as me, some of you might find the above (assuming it is correct) of some interest.
I eagerly look forward to any corrections and clarifications that you can provide.
P.S. This year I am thinking of going as ‘man in the mirror’; what are you going to be?
P.P.S. From now on I’ll post my understanding–irrespective of its size or reach–as I understand. My earlier idea of waiting to write to you until I completely understood all is clearly, I now realize, an ideal to be aspired to. However, please let me know if you think this idea of bite-size notes is a bad idea.