Seating for Three


In another life, I was a philosophy major.  In one of our first classes, the professor asked the class to define a seat.  At first this seemed like a silly thing to do, and pretty easy.  It soon became a process of deconstruction.  It was clear that a seat (or maybe it was a chair) might have a back on it, but it might not.  It could have any number of legs, or no legs at all.  There had to be something to sit on, but you couldn’t define a chair just because you could sit on it, since you could sit on any number of things that weren’t chairs.

And yes, although no one could arrive at a good definition that included the properties needed to call something a chair, we all knew a chair when we saw it.  Though we held one class at the professor’s house, and he had one blow-up chair that was sort of like a plastic balloon with a deep indentation for your rear end.

One conclusion we reached was that it wasn’t possible to define a chair by accumulating necessary properties, and we also couldn’t define it by how it was used.  The best we could come up with was that the chair could usually be known by the label we put on it.  In other words, a chair by any other name might not be a chair.

I have to admit, that I didn’t stay in the philosophy department very long after that.  Although I already had nearly enough credits for a degree in philosophy, I switched to English literature and somehow managed to graduate eventually with a degree in Philosophy and English Literature.

Logic could only get you so far.  It was fine for making logical things, but I got more useful knowledge from reading novels.  Even back then, both sides of the brain were at war with each other.  I think that I finally ended up as a photographer because it is part science, and part art.  Most people have either a dominant right brain, or a dominant left brain.  But when both are equally strong – you may very well end up as a photographer.  It would be fascinating to do a study of photographers and see if this turns out to be true.

I do see, as I look around, that a lot of photographers have day jobs which involved computer programming.  That may be a clue.


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My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a photographer and programmer working in New York City.

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