Mindwander: On chairs.

I’m a notebooker. I have no clue if that’s even a usable noun, but I’ll take it. English is an evolving language, in any case.

In any case, these notebooks contain a myriad of things from sketches of photo ideas, to recipes, to musings. I’ve been trying to include more philosophical content. In a way, I’ve done it. This is the latest instalment: it looks ridiculous but I am incredibly proud of having written it.

Let the ridicule begin

Right in the beginning of my philosophical education, my teacher dragged his chair to the middle of the room (we were organised in concentric, incomplete rings). He then pointed to said chair and asked:

“What makes this chair a chair?”

This was, of course, another way of asking us to define “chair”.

  • Something with a seat, back and legs
  • Something you sit on
  • Something that was built to be sat on

Of the three above,only two really matter [to me]; the first one is definitely not one of them. Anything can have a back, seat and legs—even humans, depending on your preferred euphemism for “arse”.

Now, I think I’ve figured something out that “marries” the other two definitions: intent.

A chair is an object in which the intent to be sat on coincides in both its construction and its use.

This is to say,if it was built to be sat on and we,as users of this object, project unto it the use of sitting, then it is a chair (or a stool, bench, sofa… there are other semantics regarding physical descriptions). Otherwise, it is a seat (e.g. sitting on a table). If it no longer has the intent of being sat on (as given by users), it no longer is a chair. 

How did this all come about? I read a poem by Alexandre O’Neill, a Portuguese poet from the mid-20th century. It goes as follows (and untranslated; in case anyone cares):

CADEIRA

Puxa uma cadeira e senta-te no chão.

Do chão, olha a cadeira:
pernas—assento—espaldar.

Olha, depois:

As pernas—sem o assento, sem o espaldar.
O assento—sem o espaldar, sem as pernas.
O espaldar—sem as pernas, sem o assento.

Depois:

As pernas com o assento—sem o espaldar.
O assento com o espaldar—sem as pernas.
O espaldar com as pernas—sem o assento.

Depois:

As pernas—sem o assento—com o espaldar.
O assento—sem o espaldar—com as pernas.
O espaldar—sem as pernas—com o assento.

Depois:

As pernas com o assento, com o espaldar.
O assento com o espaldar, com as pernas.
O espaldar com as pernas, com o assento.

Depois:

As pernas—sem as pernas, sem o assento, sem o espaldar.

Etc.

Por fim (ou recomeço)
levanta-te e diz,com os botões que te restarem:

—É A CADEIRA.

Alexandre O’Neill (2005) “Cadeira” em Alexandre O’Neill: Poesias Completas, 4ª edição. Lisboa: Assírio & Alvim. p.393

To compensate for the wackiness of this post, here are some cool chairs a quick look online showed me (pictures link back to source site):

And THIS is my absolute favourite!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s