Two OBHs

I’m at home, recovering very erratically, with many setbacks and fresh issues. Yesterday I narrowly avoided being sent back to the emergency room at SUMC. This is all very difficult — and incredibly tiring. I don’t feel up to going over medical issues right now, but I have a big backlog of draft postings that were ready to go out on June 16th, when everything fell apart, so that I will diverge from SUMC moments to write up some of these for you.

First up, two vaguely related One Big Happy strips that appeared a while ago in my comics feeds: what I’ll call “Naked Lady” and “Define HAT”:

(#1) “Naked Lady”: on the artist’s intentions vs. the viewer’s perceptions of a work

(#2) “Define HAT”: on essence and appearance

Naked Lady. James intended to draw a dirty picture, of a naked lady, but at his age what he produced just looks (to the rest of us) like a generic child’s representation of a woman (you can tell it’s a woman because of the skirt and the hair); no breasts, no beaver, no lascivious pose. It’s hard to see how anyone could be offended by James’s drawing, no matter how much he might snicker over his naughtiness.

The complex relationship between the artist’s intentions and the viewer’s perceptions of the work’s content is, of course, a central issue in aesthetic philosophy — here thrown into stark relief.

Define HAT. More naughtiness from James. Faced with a school prohibition on hats (probably a ban on headgear in general), James flouts the rule by appearing with a big foam finger on his head — an object primarily used by cheering fans at sporting events, normally wielded by, well, hand.

The object has the form of a hand with finger extended, but it’s not an actual hand. Nor if you put it on your head does it become a hat of any sort, because it is not, as NOAD defines the noun hat:

a shaped covering for the head worn for warmth, as a fashion item, or as part of a uniform.

The crucial distinction is between the defining, or essential, properties of a thing (including a characteristic function, or use), and the manifold functions that it might be pressed into service as. Think of all the things a screwdriver can be used for — even as a murder weapon (which doesn’t make it a dagger or knife).


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