Consider the following statements:
- Hedgehogs don’t have spines.
- Hedgehogs are enormous animals.
- Hedgehogs are not animals, but like rabbits (in Putnam, Is Semantic Possible) they are robots controlled by Martians.
- Hedgehogs are not material things, but they are massive hallucination induced by Martians.
Intuitively to me, as a person who thinks that has mastered the usage of term “hedgehogs”, the first two sentences sound much more weird then the last two. While I have no problem with the last two and I know what they mean if someone claims they are true, I’m not sure what would one mean if he/she claims that one of the first two is true. It appears to me that in that case the person would probably be talking about something else and not hedgehogs.
Does this mean that theories about essence (surely ontological status falls into the essence) are secondary to the appearences when we talk about things?
Well, not necessarily, I would say. The opposite example can be shown about the concept of whales and humans. I asked my daughter(2y) if humans are animals, and she is sure that they aren’t. That is the level of appearences. And whales are fish…
But in those cases society has success in pushing the essence (or at least theories about it), in front of the appearences. Hence we know what one means when one says “humans are animals“, or “whales are not fish“. We know that the person is not talking about appearences, but about the essence (or theories of). The concepts of “animals” and “fish” in those cases has moved from the appearences, to the evolutionary/biological theories. Animal and fish don’t mean just what they did before, and that’s why it is possible to say “whales are not fish”, and “humans are animals”
So, the answer to the question “Are human animals?” depends on the underlying paradigm within which one answers it – the concept of “animal” is not the same one for the evolutionary biologist, and for my daughter. That’s why they will disagree.
And while on the first glance, one might say… “the essence of the concepts is what is important, the appearences are just appearences”, the issue is not so simple, as many of the concepts have the appearences as their root. So, if we want to continue using those “fuzzy” concepts, we will have to accept to live with multiple paradigms.