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Posted Tue Nov 10th, 2009 11:58am Post subject: I have a question that needs an answer.

So i thought, who could answer this question? This led me to the stephen fry forums. As we all know, if Stephen Fry said it, it must be true.

Anywho, i was in philosophy, studying necessary and sufficient conditions, when i came upon a poser: what, are the necessary conditions for a chair?

For anyone who does not know what these terms mean, they are defined as:

o A sufficient condition is something that is always true of something. EG: being a terrier is a suffient condition of being a dog. That is to say, one cannot be a terrier without being a dog. One can however be a dog without being a terrier.

o A necessary condition is a condition of something that without which something cannot be the case. EG: having canine DNA is a necessary condition for being a dog. One cannot be a dog, if one does not have canine DNA. However, one can have canine DNA without being a dog.

On to the question at hand: What are the necessary conditions of a chair? I have considered a few options but each have flaws:
o It has to have four legs... but a stool can have 3 legs, and still be a kind of chair, or even a rocking chair has no legs at all, and yet is still a chair.
o It has to be elevated... but if one digs a hole in the ground, and shapes it into a chair, it is not elevated, and still considered a chair.
o It has to be built for the purpose of being sat upon, and yet a ledge in a rock could (perhaps? or maybe not) be considered a chair. Even so, there are chairs made purely for show, and not to be sat on, and yet they are still chairs.

So, any ideas?

Sincerely bemused.

Edit: thanks for the help, and btw, there is a prize of chocolate in it for me if i can find an answer

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Posted Tue Nov 10th, 2009 10:49pm Post subject: I have a question that needs an answer.

But perhaps what we define as a chair visually in our heads does not match the conditions that other people would define as a chair.

I use your rockledge example. I would not define that as a chair, since it has not been placed there for the purpose of seating a human being. That is simply a natural occurance in the world that the person has decided to use as a resting place. However, one would not wish to place said rock into a room on which to sit each night and watch TV.

The purpose of a chair, is to meet the criteria that we humans have made for it. A dog cannot help being a terrier, since that is it's natural state. Chairs however, did not simply "come into being" as a dog did. They did not evolve, but were infact made for simple purposes. They are nothing but a product of someones imagination (perhaps he too sat on a rock and decided it could use some padding - who knows?)

This is just my mind..prattling away as usual. Would love to debate more stuff like this though! It's Quite Interesting. ^^

Natalie: "Are you finished with your coffee cup Stephen?"
Stephen: "Yes Natalie darling I am, although it's not a coffee cup, it's a teacup..."

*5 minute debate later*

Result: The contents of the cup do not determine the name of the cup. The cup is a cup/mug whether it contains tea/coffee/ribena/hot chocolate or any other beverage.

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Posted Wed Nov 11th, 2009 10:22pm Post subject: I have a question that needs an answer.

I understand your point, but it does not solve my probem, i asked a friend who i use as my answer to problems such as this, and he told me to give up, we would be crazy to try to try to reduce everything down to thier necessary and sufficient conditions, which isn't encouraging, but i shall persevere (is that spelt right?). Even so, discounting the rock example, a chair in a doll's house chair, or a few thrones that have been built for show and presence, so i still have failed to come upon a chair's necessary condition.


PS: i am glad someone found this Quite Interesting, because i have been called a troll in the past when i have come to an (dare i say) intellectual forum, posted once, with a really long post and a question that is hard to answer. It's just that i do not often use forums, or at least i do not often stick to any one.

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Posted Thu Nov 12th, 2009 1:02am Post subject: I have a question that needs an answer.

This may be me being stupid, but surely a chair must be something which is portable, capable of bearing the weight of a human adult and, at the same time, something which a human adult may wish to sit upon for the purposes of working, relaxing or dining. Anything else requires a further descriptive i.e. a 'model' of a chair, in the case of the dolls house; a 'miniature' chair, in the case of a children's chair; a 'decorative' chair, in the case of the throne.

To my mind the rock is an example of a 'seat' rather than a 'chair' because it is not portable.

Am I missing the point?

It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes. - Thoreau

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Posted Thu Nov 12th, 2009 3:15pm Post subject: I have a question that needs an answer.

I agree with you, cresson. I think a 'chair' must be man-made (otherwise, it's just a sitting place), and must be built with the intent on being sat upon. Specific form and shape are not necessarily conducive to being a chair.

If an objet d'art is built to look like a chair, it is not a chair, but as alluded to earlier in this sentence is LIKE a chair (only useless )

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Posted Fri Nov 20th, 2009 3:19pm Post subject: I have a question that needs an answer.

well i see everyones point.But must i point out that a chair is a chair but it can become whatever You want it to become.For example it can be a rocket.
Overall, it how we see and interperet these things.
so i think depends what person sees things.

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Posted Sun Dec 6th, 2009 10:25am Post subject: I have a question that needs an answer.

In the broadest sense I think there is only one condition for 'chair'

Sufficient - It can be sat on

I'm not sure there are any necessary conditions for 'chair'

It could be argued it is necessary that an object muct be constructed or manufactured or similarly processed somehow with a design intended to be a chair. This renders unprocessed geological features that resemble chairs not chairs but mearly chair-like things.

For a more definite answer I think more stringent guidelines are required for what is and is not a chair otherwise the borderline cases make necessary/sufficient analysees (spellcheck) more objective than logical procedure.

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Posted Fri Dec 18th, 2009 6:32am Post subject: I have a question that needs an answer.

allow me to go for the Universal discourse angle if I might:

"it" is a chair if

A; one non-irrationally believes it is a chair


B; can be argued or communicated on the stage of universal discourse that it is a chair.

I saw a little bird in search of food,
The winter's cold; he'll die I think.

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James Patrick Joyce


Posted Sat Dec 19th, 2009 6:23pm Post subject: I have a question that needs an answer.

"what, are the necessary conditions for a chair?"

I think the problem you are facing is the matter of interpretation.

There is a general consensus as to what a dog is. There would be a slightly smaller consensus as to what a Terrier is (only pure breed? Mixed, if at least 80% Terrier? Etc.) So you couldn’t arrive at a “Rule” regarding the “necessary conditions for a Terrier”, because those conditions are:

Situation Dependent.

A dog-show would have very specific Necessary Conditions, for what a Terrier is. But your average dog owner could be very happy with their Terrier, who is actually a mix-breed. The average dog owner is going to have broader Necessary Conditions, regarding breed. Dog breeders would say that those average dog owners are wrong, but he’d only be saying, in essence, “Average Owners define “Terrier” incorrectly, IF you use MY definition”. However, that is merely a difference of perspective and not an objective statement of accuracy.

Note that even “dog” is subject to situationally dependent definitions.

The problem with Chair is that there aren’t even locally-dependent rules. Yes, a rock is a chair. So is a tree stump, a log, a fire hydrant, or the Queen’s throne. At the same time, not a single one of them is a chair. It depends upon perspective. If you represent a major hotel chain, you will have a set of Necessary Conditions for what a chair is, to enable proper serving of customers. These necessary conditions will be reflected in the hotel’s furnishings. Perhaps British High Society will have specific expectations and sub-sections regarding different things one can sit on and what they are called. Villagers in a desperately poor country may define chair as being “anything you sit on”.

If you must have a set of Necessary Conditions for “Chair”, then you must make them up or adopt someone else’s. But keep in mind that you are simply choosing an arbitrary set of rules, serving little purpose.

And keep in mind that the conditions can be transitory. One may define a stool as a “chair”, when sitting on it. Then, when lunch is sat on it, it becomes a “table”.

There are no Absolute Necessary Conditions, for anything. In every case, there are situationally-dependent and subjective guidelines at play. In most cases, when we think of something as an Absolute Necessary Condition, those guidelines are unconscious. Normally we don’t think about chairness, our identifications are unconscious and automatic. However, ask someone if a settee is a chair and those uncertainty arises. Face the uncertainty and we realize it is because we are attempting to make the subjective into an objective.

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