[ExI] Kripke is in trouble!

Gordon gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Wed May 8 17:02:12 UTC 2013

Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:

>I am reminded of this good heuristic by Dennett for spotting weak arguments: look for the word "surely".

>An opponent in a debate once pointed out to me and the audience that I was clearly a bioethicist since I was using the word "we" (as in "should we enhance ourselves?") - bioethicists always do that, dragging everyone into >their universalistic grouping. 

Interesting. Dennett's observation about "surely" in turn reminds me of some sage advice given me by a retired English professor and personal friend of mine. In his view, all sentence adverbs should be avoided. "Surely" is often used as a sentence adverb, modifying an entire clause or sentence, as in "Surely, the sun will rise." 

Most grammarians are aware of the controversy surrounding the sentence adverb "Hopefully," as in "Hopefully, I will win the lottery." It has become common usage such that the AP style guide, as of a few months ago, permits it. Other style guides still advise against it. The AP's approval of "Hopefully" irritates my friend as he always instructed his students to avoid not only "Hopefully," but all sentence adverbs. "Fortunately, I won the lottery" should be written "I am fortunate to have won the lottery."

The author Stephen King takes it a step further, advising his fellow writers to avoid not only sentence adverbs, but all adverbs. In his view, similar to Dennett's observation about "surely," adverbs are almost always evidence of laziness in thinking and writing. Sentences like this: "The stone fell quickly to the ground" can be improved by removing the adverb and replacing it with a more powerful expression, for example, "The stone plummeted to the ground."

I am not disciplined enough to follow King's advice, but I do try to follow my friend's advice about sentence adverbs. 

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