Monday, October 01, 2007

The Problem of Who Lois Loves

The other day, I got to thinking about one of the discussion topics in from Intro to Philosophy class I took seven years ago. I don't know why. It's a philosophical problem that goes as follows: If two things are the same, then everything that is true of one of them is true of the other. Clark Kent and Superman are the same person, but Lois Lane loves Superman and Lois Lane doesn't love Clark Kent. What's up with that? This problem seems to belong in the same league as Socrates' House (or is it Plato's Boat?), the omnipotence of God and such, but unlike some of these other introductory-level philosophical problems, I think I actually have an answer to it. Here it is; sorry to bore you if you've already got it figured out.

The concepts of Superman and Clark Kent (especially Lois Lane's concepts) are different, but they both are attached to the same real-world entity. Thus, what is true of Lois Lane's concept of Superman is not always true of her concept of Superman (in fact, they are quite distinct), but they do have one thing in common: Lois connects both of them to the same thing in reality (though she does not know it).

This implies something interesting about love: The act of loving someone - or at least of loving someone in the romantic sense of the word "love" - requires having a particular concept of who that person is. If it didn't, Lois would feel the same way when thinking of Clark Kent as she would Superman.

Lois' love for Superman is ultimately directed at the same object as her indifference to Clark Kent, but since this sort of loving implies conceptualizing its object, and Lois' concepts of Clark Kent and Superman are distinct, it is possible for Lois not to love Clark Kent.

By the way, I found out that the creators of Superman first conceived of him as a human villain. Far out.


lach said...


This post is similar to the one I did today at Fides Quarens Intellectum. You make the comment that you think there's something special about the verb 'love'. But actually 'love' is not the only verb that gives weird results. Any sort of intentional context that has an intentional verb or operator has the potential for doing the same. For instance:

I don't know the identity of the hooded man.
The hooded man is my father.
So, I don't know the identity of my father.

There's something weird when we try to substitute identicals for one another in intensional concepts. I want to claim, as a logical point, that logical entailment often fails for such contexts. Graham Priest claims they fail for all contexts, but I'm not so sure about that.

Great post. I think the issue is not silly. It's a definite worry.

mackwai said...

Yay! New people reading my blog!

I'm going to have to read your post. Which one is it?

timmer said...

But Mary Jane loves Peter Parker and Spiderman....

mackwai said...

But Brawndo's got electrolytes...

timmer said...

You mean the electrolytes plants crave?

mackwai said...