A Non-Philosopher's Guide to Philosophical Terms

Believe it or not, this started out as a genuine attempt to sort out confusions that arise between philosophers and everyone else in the world, before I got carried away ... Basically, the problem is this. Philosophers are, in a manner of speaking, in a certain rarefied sense of the term I am about to use, boring. - No, really, we are. Philosophers, clumped together in any group where the ratio of philosophers to non-philosophers is 1:1 or greater, excluding the limit case where there are only two people in toto and only one of them is a philosopher, will actually talk about philosophy. They will automatically correct each other's use of quantifiers and disambiguate statements where the intended meaning was perfectly plain. At any rate this is what I do.

Exactly how the glossary I am offering helps either party is no longer clear to me, but I had vaguely honourable intentions at the time I started writing it.

Also, since writing this glossary only a short while ago, I have received evidence that it has been read by at least six other people, none of whom were in any way prodded by me! Isn't the net amazing? Of these six, James Chase and Daniel Nolan have once again performed their invaluable service as proofreaders and advisors; and Daniel and Hamish Cowan have suggested some new entries which I have incorporated into the revised version.




hooker one who can be hired to engage in sexual intercourse one who thinks that "if A, then B" is logically equivalent (in some sense) to "either not-A, or B"; can be hired to tutor undergraduates, and costs much less
utilitarian almost precisely cubical and made of concrete, probably a multi-storey car park one who believes that the morally right action is the one with the best consequences, so far as the distribution of happiness is concerned; a creature generally believed to be endowed with the propensity to ignore their own drowning children in order to push buttons which will cause mild sexual gratification in a warehouse full of rabbits
Benthamite substance from the planet Bentham capable of draining the super powers of Wonder Woman, or Spiderman, or some such person someone who really would ignore their own drowning child in order to push the rabbit-gratification button
supervenience that's it! ... he's the guy that gets killed by Benthamite a one-way dependence relation between properties or facts of one type and properties or facts of another
personal identity the subject of self-help books and those modern Broadway songs which involve the use of a spotlight that by virtue of which I am the same person I was yesterday
logic ...dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, Captain involves upside-down As and reversed Es
an angst-ridden statistician a reversed E: see above
a posteriori things you think of when you're sitting down knowledge which is the result of and is based upon experience of some kind
a priori something you've thought of to head your "things to do" list things you think of when you're sitting down, in an armchair, usually with a snifter of brandy in one hand
Platonic the sort of love which is all very well in its way a philosophical position which posits abstract objects almost palpable enough to trip over
this is a contradiction in terms: see above a place where one might find triangles, the square root of two, and the abstract property of being a mountain goat
Lewis author of books about Narnia a contemporary philosopher with a formidable reputation and a truly colossal beard
Quine an alternative spelling of the Old Scottish word "quean", a synonym for "strumpet" which one might just get away with using in a game of Scrabble; indeed, which one often has to resort to using if all of the U's are already on the board a contemporary philosopher of formidable reputation who I've never actually met, and whose beard I am told does not exist, but who I imagine has quite an impressive snort
Kripke the name of a policeman who is the subject of a song in West Side Story, spelled so that New Zealanders will pronounce it correctly* a contemporary philosopher of formidable reputation who, I am reliably informed, does have something of an impressive snort
Locke thatte whyche prevents rogues and arrant knaves from burgling Ye Olde English Tea Shoppe a dead philosopher of politics, language and mind
Moore Dan Quayle's description of Othelloe a dead philosopher fond of mentioning that he had two hands
Hobbes the butler a dead political philosopher (who I also think of as having a snort to be reckoned with)
t a letter of the alphabet a moment in time
grue another one of those Old Scottish words so invaluable in a game of Scrabble, this one meaning "a creeping of the flesh" either green and first observed before time t or blue and first observed after or at time t
modal something to do with different tonal centres and flattened leading notes, as in "Scarborough Fair" the phrase "possible worlds" is going to be mentioned any second now
a phrase which I seem to recall was used as a lyric in a recent animated movie from the Walt Disney studios either the biggest spatio-temporally connected thing of which we are all part, in which case there is only one; or some sort of weird abstraction, in which case there are uncountably many; but for a different view see Lewis
realist hard-headed someone who believes in the existence of trees; usually hard-headed, but if you mean "realist about everything", decidedly soft-headed
idealist see tree-hugging, below one who doesn't actually disbelieve in trees, but who thinks that they can't be bumped into, take up no space, and are in constant danger of winking out of existence if they are not properly attended to
pragmatist as hard-headed as they come someone whose belief in the existence of trees depends on their belief in the disposition of scientifically-minded angels to believe in trees
slab the noise made by a semi-literate, almost sub-sentient, drunken creature, in order to indicate that it wishes to be given twenty-four cans of beer the noise made by a semi-literate, almost sub-sentient, drunken creature, in order to indicate that there is a piece of masonry in the immediate vicinity
Descartes a mathematician a philosopher
Leibniz a mathematician a philosopher
Davies a philosopher a physicist
classical Helen of Troy, Beethoven, Corinthian architecture and similar things a stodgy, old-fashioned logic which produces wildly implausible results: for example, according to classical logic, no proposition is both true and false
deviant someone who does unspeakable things to furry animals a logic which probably would do unspeakable things to furry animals, if it could
absurd silly very silly
Republic a nation defined chiefly by its lack of a monarch a nation which may well have a monarch, so long as the monarch believes everything Plato believes, and has Plato's taste in music
France a country in Europe a nation defined chiefly by its lack of a monarch
the folk the people responsible for maintaining the national supply of macrame wall hangings a collection of more or less sensible chaps who more or less know what they mean, and it's more or less what I mean
gunk matter which was once made of atoms like ordinary matter but which is now a formless substance blocking your drains matter which is not made of atoms like ordinary matter, as it is infinitely divisible
the other
??? ???
Continental croissants, fruit juice, coffee deconstructing the other
rabbit rabbit contiguous and bi-laterally symmetric (when considered three-dimensionally) fusion of temporal slices, chronologically ordered, of what you are so pleased to call a "rabbit" (rabbit, indeed)
metaphysics somewhere between "crystal healing" and "tree hugging" in the Dewey decimal system No! How many times do I have to tell you? Nothing whatever to do with this New Age stuff! Now move my book away from the stand containing Shirley MacLaine, or I shall be very upset