Saturday, February 21, 2009

No man is an island

Who says that analytic philosophers can't talk about the depths of human life? We can not only give convincing arguments for really deep truths, but can even improve on them! An island is a land-mass, permanently attached, and larger than just a single rock. If x is an island, x is at least five meters in diameter. We have good empirical reason to think no man is that big. Hence, no man is an island. But we can improve on the maxim, by noting that although no man is island, a man could be an island. This would simply require an immoral, and perhaps not yet feasible, medical intervention to make him really large and sluggish, and then he'd have to be permanently rooted to the bottom of the sea.


Palamas said...

It seems to me, however, that no island is a person, i.e., islands are essentially non-persons. Thus, since, I assume, your man is a person, he cannot be an island even if he is the right size and rooted to the floor of the ocean.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be easier to put a male whale in a small lake so we can walk on him?

Drew Mazanec said...

You could probably make it as a comedian by taking common phrases and slogans and subjecting them to this philosophical scrutiny.

I think Scott Adams calls this "philoso-tainment"

Alexander R Pruss said...


There are legends about living islands--islands that are giant animals. I am not sure that's exactly right. If they're not anchored, they're not really islands. But we could imagine an island that is a giant permanently anchored animal. And if so, why couldn't it be a person?

On a somewhat more serious tack, I once argued that Gaunilo's maximally great island parody of Anselm's argument failed. For a maximally great island is possible: God could become incarnate as a living island.


Yeah, but he still wouldn't be a man. :-)


Not with my monotone oral delivery I couldn't. Being largely tone deaf makes one a less effective speaker.