Re: [sl4] normative language is rational

From: Charles Hixson (
Date: Fri Feb 13 2009 - 13:50:57 MST

Johnicholas Hines wrote:
> On Fri, Feb 13, 2009 at 12:37 PM, Charles Hixson
> <> wrote:
>> Isn't "should" the 1st subjunctive future of "shall"?
>> I believe it expresses intentionality with the emphasis on things that will
>> happen because they were those chosen to happen, and requiring action by the
>> subject in order to cause them to occur.
> It sounds like you've studied some grammar and/or linguistics. Are you
> offering this formalization in order to be helpful? How does your
> formalization relate to the rationality (or irrationality) of language
> like "ought", "duty", "obligation" and "morality"? What is your point?
> As far as I understand your specification, I agree with you.
> Johnicholas
Yes, it was intended to answer a question.

I studied a bit of linguistics quite a long time ago. Should is to
shall as will is to would as ought is to owe as might is to may. Duty
and morality are separate concepts from these. First Subjunctive is
dead in English, and these words are commonly used in relatively
standard ways, so I think we can rely on this distinction. (P.S.: Note
that "will" and "shall" tend to be used differently in different social
classes. But in my usage a parent would say to a child "You will do
that!", not "You shall do that!". Will is more denotative of prediction
and shall is more denotative of personal intention. [I.e., parent to
child "You will do that because I shall force you do.])
N.B.: This distinction is futher blurred by the "'ll" construct, and in
"I'll", which hides whether it's will or shall that's being elided.
This can cause should and would to be blurred between shall and will, as
the language has play in that area.

The thing is, language is all about patterns. Classical logic was
basically a formalization of Attic Greek linguistic rules. (Symbolic
logic is almost a separate beast entirely, owing it's rules to a
combination of mathematics and convenience.) Duty comes from a set of
abstract rules having to do with how a noble person should act. (Conan
Doyle wrote a piece where he used an older meaning of the word with the
spelling, I think, of "devoiur". Not quite the same word, but
definitely connected. I think the work was "The White Company".)

Morality is quite a bit more complex. It's meaning seems to shift
constantly. There was a time only a few decades ago when it seemed to
only be used in the context of sex. And nobody defined what they meant
when they talked about it. (Well, some people said "conventional
morality" or "traditional morality", which seems to mean "the way they
did things without being embarrassed when and where I was growing up".)
The problem comes with the entanglement between morals and ethics. They
clearly don't cover quite the same ground, but there doesn't seem to be
any agreement as to precisely what each means. And some people seem to
distinguish the words(concepts) in a way opposite to the way others do.
Which would you use to describe why cannibalism was wrong? Or would you
avoid using both of them?

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:01:04 MDT