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Re: Plurals (and DISCOVERY)



With summer approaching a lot of people are leaving us.  Listproc is
getting backed up because it's getting several bounce reports for each
legitimate message it processes, largely due to people whose accounts
have gone defunct.  As a result of the increased "behind the scenes"
traffic, legitimate messages frequently don't get processed until
several hours to a day after they've been sent.  Two people have
recently sent in messages and then unsubscribed.  Since administrative
requests are handled as soon as they're received, that means that by
the time the messages were processed the senders were no longer
subscribed and the messages were hence rejected (like Brian Curtice's
message yesterday too).  I here give you the two messages and ask that
you note that the two individuals that sent them are currently not
receiving the lists' mail.  You should feel free to write to them
directly, but don't expect immediate replies.

--
Mickey Rowe     (mrowe@indiana.edu)


----------------------------------------------
From: "Richard L. Dieterle" <Richard.L.Dieterle-1@tc.umn.edu>

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. wrote: 

"There is only one Tyrannosaurus rex.  Just one.  The species, Tyrannosaurus
rex, is a single entity.  There is only one Tyrannosaurus rex, there is only
one Homo sapiens, there is only one Vertebrata, there is only one Animalia.
Taxa are single entities.

The taxon "Tyrannosaurus rex" is composed of individual organisms, true.
Any of those individuals, however, is a specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex, not
(strictly speaking) Tyrannosaurus rex."

This is a bit of philosophical stunt flying.  Suppose I make the following 
model: 

[There is only one Man.  Just one.  The species, Man, is a single entity.  There
is only one Man, there is only one Homo sapiens, there is only one Vertebrata, 
there is only one Animalia. Taxa are single entities.

The taxon "Man" is composed of individual organisms, true. Any of those 
individuals, however, is a specimen of Man, not (strictly speaking) Man.]  

All men are specimens of the abstract entity Man.  Man : men :: Hadrosaur : 
hadrosaurs.  Do you mean to say that if your students in the field told you, "We
think we have found the remains of at least two hadrosaurs," you would respond, 
"No, my children ... there is but one Hadrosaur ..."  I don't think even Plato 
would find this agreeable except under the strictest re-elaboration.  Some 
abstractions that are exemplified in states of affairs are less amenable to 
plurals: 'I have found two sophistries' is a little awkward because an instance 
of sophistry is hard to particularize in space and time; but the same is not 
true of animals, even if we refer to them by using technical terms.  

However, your higher order taxa clearly are examples of a certain kind of 
abstract entity: a set.  This would have to be the case, since they are already 
in the plural.  Thus, "Five members of the taxon Animalia," not, "Five 
animalia."  But you yourselves treat species (and genera) as kinds, not sets, 
which is rather like switching from a nominalistic point of view to a realist 
orientation.  This is no doubt to be blamed on Linneas.  Nevertheless, this 
shift is ofen seen at higher levels: "They found the remains of two hominids 
today at Olduvai."  Then again, if you stuck to the plural form of reference, 
you would be denoting a set, and would have to say, "They found the remains of 
two specimens of the Hominidae today at Olduvai."  This jumping back and forth 
between kinds and sets may contribute a little to the problem of plurals, but I 
think it is only minimal.  

Richard Dieterle

------------------------------------------
From: Jeffrey Martz <martz@holly.ColoState.EDU>

     The Discovery Channel is showing a program dealing with "Lost World",
and "two new dinosaurs that challange the fearsome T.rex."  On eis
Charcharodontosaurus, the other might be Acrocanthosaurus or
Giganotosaurus.  It airs tonight at 9:00 eastern time, I think.  Next week
is "Dinosaur Week" on the Discovery Channel.
     Time has a great article on Speilberg with a lot of great pictures.
The cover has him surrounded with about five life size Velociraptors.
The article also discusses a scene set in San Diego that Kel neglected to
mention...(although she DID mention "a touch of Godzilla").  

LN Jeff
O-