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February 06, 2005



You should explain to your kid how love arises from chemical reactions in the brain.

Vance Maverick

Just tell her that love and the dance are epiphenomena of the chemicals. That should go over well.

Tangentially, do you ever use "chemicals" in the narrower, semi-pejorative sense? ("These apples are grown without chemicals." (Making them "organic", of course, another term with a strange relationship between the narrow and broad senses.))

Fontana Labs

Man, you've just been counterexampled. Ask Zoe how she feels about keeping her promises and paying her debts.

Vance Maverick

Without chemicals, life itself would be impossible.

William S

A dance isn't made of ANYTHING. Love isn't made of ANYTHING. She is now ready for the next level.


Actually, I mistranscribed one crucial element of the original exchange. Zoë always says 'persons', not 'people'. So the original sounded even more philosophical and Derek Parfit-like. (See our old post: 'weasons and persons'.)


Dances and Love as the things made of ephemera, and I am wholly blown away by the counterexamples.

rob loftis

This is the graduate school at Rutgers: we'd like to tell Zoë that she has been accepted to our philosophy program. She can start in the fall.


Will she be on fellowship? Also, her preschool has some 'scruff boys', whom she does not like, because they engage in 'push attacks'. Can you assure me there are none of those at Rutgers?

rob loftis

Sorry, by most accounts 'push attacks' are a big part of the departmental culture at Rutgers. I'd be in a better position to say if I were actually the graduate school at Rutgers.

Jeremy Osner

Is "chemicals" exactly synonymous with "matter"? Or what is the distinction?

Vance Maverick

Oh good, someone who wants to engage the irrelevant question too.

I think "a chemical", singular, is (some quantity of) a substance that is molecularly uniform. We don't usually apply it to ordinary uniform substances (water, salt). Most things we live with are molecularly composite. So the term "chemical" tends to be used in the context of additives, or other things like pesticides that are deployed with intent. But as the Monsanto ad makes clear, everything can be considered as a mixture of chemicals in the broad sense.

So John's answer to Zoë begged the question.

des von bladet

"Chemicals" are actually made of teeny-weeny stringy thingies, which live in a 10 dimensional space of largely unknown properties, and which to date have no quantitatively-predictable behaviour: I saw a documentary about it.

(At least, this is where scientifique realisme gets you; we are of course an unreconstructed dualiste, and don't think we're not.)


you have a hit song there.


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