Sunday, December 9, 2012

An Example of the Distinction between Metaphysics and Epistemology

Metaphysics is the study of existence. Whenever we ask whether something exists, or in what form or in what way it exists, we are asking metaphysical questions. Epistemology is the study of knowledge and justification. When we ask how is it that we can come to know something, or whether we are justified in believing something, then we are asking epistemological questions. In LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It" we are given two theses. One being metaphysical, while the other is epistemological. Whether they are in fact sexy is a metaphysical claim, while their claiming to know that they are sexy is an epistemological claim. I think it would be a worthwhile project to get clear about which claims LMFAO offer as evidence for the metaphysical and epistemological theses, respectively.

So, we have two theses that need to be justified:
Metaphysical Thesis: "I'm sexy"
Epistemological Thesis: "and I know it."

Now, throughout the song we have evidence for both claims. There are claims that are offered as evidence for their being sexy, and there are claims that are offered as evidence for their knowing that they're sexy. In order to assess which claims are offered to support either the metaphysical or epistemological thesis, let's take a look at the lyrics:

LMFAO, "Sexy and I Know It"

When I walk on by, girls be looking like damn he fly
I pimp to the beat, walking down the street in my new lafreak, yeah
This is how I roll, animal print pants outta control,
It's RedFoo with the big afro
And like Bruce Lee I've got the claw

Girl look at that body (x3)
I work out
Girl look at that body (x3)
I work out

When I walk in the spot, this is what I see
Everybody stops and they staring at me
I got passion in my pants and I ain't afraid to show it

I'm sexy and I know it (x2)

When I'm at the mall, security just can't fight 'em off
When I'm at the beach, I'm in a speedo trying to tan my cheeks
This is how I roll, come on ladies it's time to go
We headed to the bar, baby don't be nervous
No shoes, no shirt, and I still get service

Girl look at that body (x3)
I work out
Girl look at that body (x3)
I work out

When I walk in the spot, this is what I see
Everybody stops and they staring at me
I got passion in my pants and I ain't afraid to show it

I'm sexy and I know it (x2)

Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle yeah (x3)

Do the wiggle yeah

I'M SEXY AND I KNOW IT...

Girl look at that body (x3)
I work out
Girl look at that body (x3)
I work out
(http://www.directlyrics.com/lmfao-sexy-and-i-know-it-lyrics.html)

Now that we are able to refer to the lyrics we can assess which claims are offered as support for either the metaphysical or epistemological thesis. Let's first turn to the evidence for the metaphysical claim; i.e., the evidence that is offered for the claim that LMFAO is sexy.

Support for the Metaphysical Thesis

In the first verse Redfoo makes four particular claims that seem to be offered as support for the metaphysical thesis. First, he is walking down the street in his new Lafreak. Second, he rolls with animal print pants that are outta control. Third, he has a big afro. Finally, he's got the claw (like, Bruce Lee). While I cannot claim to know to what 'the claw' refers, nor am I that familiar with 'Lafreak,' there does seem to be support here for the metaphysical thesis. The support seems to be referencing Redfoo's fashion sense/aesthetic.

Next we are given the command to "look at that body." I think it is fair to assume that "look[ing] at that body" will provide us with evidence that LMFAO is in fact sexy. If "look[ing] at that body" doesn't suffice as evidence, we are provided with additional support in the form of the claim "I work out!" Thus, working out is provided as evidence for LMFAO's being sexy.

Then LMFAO claims that they've got a passion in their pants that they're not afraid to show. Taken as an example of LMFAO's confidence, we can also assume that the confidence stems from the passion in their pants being legitimate. Not being afraid to show the passion in pants, while not always being morally acceptable or appropriate!, does seem to demonstrate a strong sense of confidence; and if you take confidence to be sexy, then they have provided you with yet another reason concerning why they are sexy.

Given that security cannot fight off the people at the mall, and given the other contextual clues in the song, we can assume people are storming LMFAO due to the fact that they are so sexy.

There is also the evidence provided in the fact that such a strong social standard/custom as "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service" doesn't apply to LMFAO (because, I assume, they are so sexy). Not only do they not get in trouble for not wearing shoes and a shirt, but they are still provided service!!! If that doesn't signal sexiness I don't know what would...

Lastly, while the command to 'wiggle' does not itself support the metaphysical thesis, if taken as a demonstrative meant to show the endowment of Redfoo, then, if he is adequately endowed, it could support the metaphysical thesis! If you take being well-endowed to be a sign of sexiness (which I think we all do), then LMFAO certainly seems to be sexy.

Support for the Epistemological Thesis

Let's turn now to the evidence provided for the epistemological thesis; i.e., the evidence that is offered for the claim that LMFAO knows that they are sexy. First, as is stated in the opening line of the song by Redfoo, when he walks on by "girls be looking like, 'damn he fly!'" While 'fly' may not be synonymous with 'sexy,' I believe it's fair to say that flyness can be taken, at least, as evidence of sexiness. If people are consistently looking at you and thinking 'damn they're fly!', then I take it that there is pretty strong consensus that you are in fact fly; and, if you are in fact fly, then that can be taken as support that you are sexy (even though it cannot be sufficient justification in-and-of-itself: e.g.,although Rick Ro$$ may be fly, that does not entail that he is sexy).

We are then told that when they 'walk into the spot' (whether 'the spot' is broadly construed to mean all places or a particular place I am not sure, but let's use the principle of charity and assume by 'the spot' they mean 'all places' or 'everywhere') everybody stops and is starring at them! I'm taking this as pretty strong evidence for sexiness just because it's not often that EVERYBODY both (i) stops and (ii) stares when you enter a particular area. Given that everybody stops and stares, I think we can assume that they are justified in thinking they are sexy.

Now, whether all the testimony that has been provided is true is questionable. However, most of the issues seems to be easily settled by empirical investigation. We can check and see if Redfoo does indeed workout (at least enough so to claim that he is sexy). We can also check whether people are looking at him like, 'damn he fly! when he walks on by. If these claims turn out to be empirically justified, then it seems like LMFAO has sufficient reason to think that they (at least Redfoo) are sexy; i.e., he is justified in claiming that he knows it. If these claims turn out to be empirically false, however, then it may not be the case that LMFAO knows that they are sexy. However, we can still claim that if such justifications were true, then LMFAO would be justified in believing that they are sexy. In fact, anyone for whom the preceding justifications apply seem to be justified in believing that they are sexy. So, while the argument may not yet be sound, it is still valid. Anyone fitting the above description can claim to know that they are sexy!

As much as it may pain you to hear it, it seems like LMFAO has presented a pretty convincing case for why they know they are sexy. While not having presented a completely deductive argument, there does seem to be sufficient evidence to suggest that LMFAO is sexy and justified in thinking so. If only philosophers could provide such evidence  for their claims...

P.S. - I don't know that their being sexy and being justified in believing that they are sexy provides you reason to watch the video, but if you are interested in empirically checking the evidence you should check it out and see for yourself :)


3 comments:

  1. Epic post.
    Although, I think that LMFAO may be conflating the epistemic and the metaphysical claims here. It seems that they only present the evidence for the epistemic claim, and let us infer the metaphysical. In fact, this diddy only seems to support sexy as being a social convention, and not of itself a concrete facet of reality.

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  2. If they succeed in showing the epistemic claim, however, that suffices to show the metaphysical claim. After all, knowledge is factive: knowing that p entails p. So in particular, if Redfoo justifies that he knows that he is sexy, then since you cannot know something false, he has basically shown he is sexy as well.
    Also, given certain norms of conversation, it turns out that appropriately asserting that p entails that you know p (for a suitable sense of 'know'). Thus if Redfoo asserts the metaphysical claim, and in doing so he is following Gricean co-operative maxims, then he knows that he is sexy. For among other things, the Gricean norms command that you do not assert what you do not know. Granted, however, if he justifies the metaphysical claim, he does not thereby justify the epistemological claim. For that, he would also need to justify that asserting the metaphysical claim is conversationally appropriate.
    One can raise skeptical questions, however, about whether Redfoo can ever know that he himself is sexy. Arguably, in order to know that he is sexy, he must know that he knows it. After all, if he has a justified, non-Gettiered, true belief--yet does not know that fact, then for all he can tell, he may not actually know that he is sexy. And that suggests he does not really know. But in the same way, to know that you know that you are sexy, one would need to know that you know that you know that you are sexy, by a parallel argument. And so you're off on a regress. Perhaps Redfoo holds the Wittgensteinian view that there is a way of following the rule for knowing which does not demand knowing that you are following the rule. He follows the rule "blindly" yet he knows insofar as he is subject to communal norms of reason-giving and correction.

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  3. This makes me wonder if there is actually a distinction between metaphysical evidence and epistemic evidence. Metaphysical evidence is seemingly all of the type "x is true because y, and y entails x." Yet how can we assert y without knowing y? It seems more appropriate to say "x is true because I know that x, and I know that x because I know that y and also know that y entails x" (here I ignore the regress that forms from trying to determine why I know y). It seems like any metaphysical evidence is going to have to go through the epistemic lens. This leads me to think that epistemology has a sort of priority over metaphysics. Yet this is sort of weird, because choosing between different metaphysical views is going to determine crucial aspects of our epistemology.

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