Tuesday, December 18, 2012


There's a line I'm rather fond of, by the American philosopher Richard Rorty: "thinghood itself is description-relative."

We have no assurance that our words "cut nature at the joint."

There has been a good deal of international comparison going on of late concerning things like homicide rates, in which case, the United States looks rather dire, provided of course that you restrict the conversation to "developed" countries.

I think it is at least worth considering the possibility that the words "homicide" and "suicide" are, following Rorty, one "thing." (a suicide is a homicide where the perpetrator and the victim are one.)

Looked at through that lens, international comparisons yield a very different picture. Japan, which gets a lot of attention for having a low homicide rate, actually has a high suicide rate. So much so that it exceeds the combined total of US murders and suicides.

I'm not suggesting that this way of looking at things is "true," certainly not uniquely true. But I will suggest that it is worth considering things from this perspective for a while, to so how that world looks.