• "Pretend to be upset" - seems broadly possible?
  • "Pretend to lift your right arm" (for a person who has the capability of doing this action ) - not sure if this is possible
  • "All experiences are real (in the sense of actuality) experiences" - unsure how one would know.

So, what does it take for something to be "pretendable" (or perhaps if there's no such word, capable in a certain sense, of being either one of "pretend" or "not-pretend")?


Thinking about @jobermark 's comment below, the context is more about nonverbal appearance than misrepresentation. "For some - but not all - classes of action, experience or internal state x (and if necessary under what conditions) it is not possible to give the appearance to other persons that x is true, when x is false, because the fact of the falsehood of x necessarily precludes creating the appearance that x is true. Why is this and what conditions or classes apply?"

  • What makes something "pretendable" is its distance from empirical observations. One can easily pretend to be upset because upset is a mood, having which is only hinted at by some visual and behavioral clues. Pretending to lift your arm is much harder because it is directly observable (one would need some fake prosthesis to imitate that). But note that pretending to attempt to lift your arm, but being unable to, or faking effort generally, is as easy as pretending to be upset. This is because effort, like mood, is not observable directly, but only inferred.
    – Conifold
    Jul 10 '17 at 23:40
  • If I am on the phone, I can pretend to lift my right arm. Pretense is just misrepresentation on purpose. So there is going to be a lot of context involved. You might want to choose a framing that removes the context, like verbal lying. Is there anything it is impossible to lie about?
    – user9166
    Jul 11 '17 at 5:07
  • Hmm.... thoughts prompted by this. See update.
    – Stilez
    Jul 11 '17 at 7:07
  • I can pretend to be dead but can't pretend to be alive.
    – a_z_s
    Jul 11 '17 at 8:56

I don't think you'll necessarily agree with this answer, but in the spirit of Wittgenstein, he'd probably view this as a confusion over language. Take an adjective like colour. We know adjectives can be used to describe nouns. We know the basic adjective noun relationship is "X is y" where "X" is a noun and "y' is an adjective. Knowing that colour adjectives describe nouns, we can say things like "tigers are striped" or "polar bears are white". These are all fine. You could then get confused, wondering what happens when you apply colours to other nouns. " The singer's voice was purple" or "London was indigo". These sentences are excluded from the language by the grammar of colour words. These sentences do not have a use within the language. When you look at your question, you're asking why can't you apply "pretend" in situations like "he pretended to move his feet". I don't really think there is an explanation out there for this kind of question. It's really one of those things that you see or you don't. You understand English so you know the exact situations in which it is acceptable to use the word "pretend". So what purpose would an explanation serve? Perhaps you are looking to see, what is common to all the cases in which you use the word " pretend". The thing is, there may not be one thing in common to all the uses of pretend. As for why the falsehood of x precludes the appearance that x is true? There is no answer to this question apart from restating the same thing in different words. I think it might be easier to see in the colour example - do you think it is a difficult problem to get over, how do we know when to apply colour words correctly? What are the set of criteria that mean you can use one? I think the answer to this problem is not in finding a solution, but reaching a point where you realize where the problem came from and seeing it no longer is confusing. It's really right in front of you all along, assuming you know English.

  • I like wittgenstein. This is an interesting answer. Thank you!
    – Stilez
    Jul 15 '17 at 12:32

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