No Buckets Were Thereby Kicked




Bucket of Fur

Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik.

Since we mentally represent things that do not exist, there is no such property as being represented.

One way of defending the view that there’s no such property as being represented is by the following argument by analogy. The idiom “kick the bucket” means “die” and implies no relation to any bucket. One can kick the bucket in the idiomatic sense with out there literally existing a literal bucket. Kicking the bucket, in the idiomatic sense of the phrase, never entails a relation to a bucket and this is true even in cases in which one dies while literally kicking a bucket or even dies because of literally kicking a bucket. (One might literally kick a bucket while barefoot and have the misfortune of connecting with a sharp poison-coated burr on the bucket’s rim.)

We can summarize this by saying that since, in the idiomatic sense of kicking the bucket, kicking the bucket is something you can do even though no bucket exists, then kicking the bucket in the idiomatic sense is not something you do to a bucket even in situations in which there happens to be a bucket. Another way to summarize this would be to say that when one kicks the bucket in the idiomatic sense, there is no such thing as the bucket that is thereby kicked, where “thereby” is used in a logical, not a causal sense and the latter uses of “bucket” and “kicked” are their literal uses. And this is true even in situations in which one idiomatically kicks the bucket while also literally kicking a literal bucket.

A final way that we can summarize this is by saying that there is no such thing as the property of being the (literal) bucket that is (logically) thereby (literally) kicked when one (idiomatically) kicks the bucket.

By analogy, then, there is no such property as the property of being represented.

One Response to “No Buckets Were Thereby Kicked”

  1. A.G. says:

    Ok, let’s see if I’ve got this. When refering to “death” by the bucket idiom, there is no literal bucket, therefore there is never a literal bucket.

    The response would be, “but this is just a special case”

    And the response to that would be, “Yes, but since we understand the idiom with the same clarity as in the case where “bucket” is literal, it implies that understanding in the general case depends on something more than literal reference or that in fact, literal reference is just an accident”