Saturday, December 11, 2004

Pants or shorts?

A Philosophical Look at the Issue The Anal Philosopher asks a question:
A Philosophical Conundrum Philosophical discourse tends to be abstruse, arcane, ethereal, and pedantic. But there’s no reason it can’'t be mundane or quotidian. Philosophy is a set of skills, not a body of knowledge. The skills, —analysis, criticism, argumentation, methodology —can be applied to any topic, from the nature of time and space at the most abstract to the difference between wanting and needing, or being careless and being carefree, or doing something by mistake and doing it by accident. Today I was stumped by the following. I saw a young man on campus who was wearing leg coverings that came to mid-calf. Are they long shorts, I wondered, or short pants? What do you think? Defend your answer.
He gets an answer most interesting (and funny):

We must examine the essential shorts-ness of the form of the "shorts" and the pants-ness of "pants". What makes shorts shorts and pants pants?

There are two main views:

1. Shortsness and pantsness is inherent in a clothing item. It is not relative to whom or what it is placed in or upon. Thus, shorts remain shorts whether around someone's legs or in a drawer, because the very shortsness that defines shorts is inherent in the shorts.

2. Shortsness and pantsness is relative to their position on the legs of a living being or representation of a living being. "One man's shorts are another man's pants," as the ancient Greeks would say. "Shorts" and "pants" refer to the properties of an individual clothing item used a certain way, but not to their substance. An implication of this is that "shorts" in a drawer are not, strictly speaking, true shorts. We only call them such as a matter of convenience.

Some may say that it is the intention of the shorts' or pants' maker that determines whether shorts and pants are shorts or pants; if they were made to be worn as shorts, they are shorts, and so on. However, holders of this view do not merit their own class, as they could be shown in truth to be holding one of the two aforementioned opinions.

The only other views I can think of on this matter, the matter of shortsness and pantsness, are what I call the views of the "shorts atheist" who believes that shorts do not exist, the "shorts pantheist" who believes all are shorts, the "shorts solipsist" who believes that the whole world is the dream of one shorts, and the "shorts agnostic" who believes we can never truly know about shorts.

I myself am a shorts agnostic.

I have read too many books that sound just like that.

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