Is a keyhole an object?
August 26, 2018 4:57 PM   Subscribe

Is a keyhole (hole in the ground, etc) an object? Dictionary definition isn't really helping. Thank you in advance!
posted by ftm to Writing & Language (38 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
You need to define object first.
posted by thesockpuppet at 5:06 PM on August 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


In what sense? A keyhole can be a grammatical object, as in the object of a sentence, but whether it can be considered a physical object seems context dependent.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:07 PM on August 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Start with the entry for "holes" at the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, and then consider reading the bibliographic entries.
posted by standardasparagus at 5:08 PM on August 26, 2018 [22 favorites]


I would say no. The lock mechanism that the keyhole is part of is an object, of course, but a hole doesn't exist independent of its context - in other words, if you remove everything around the hole, you don't have a hole, you have empty space.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:08 PM on August 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


Also read the subsection titled "The restriction to concrete entities" on the SEP entry for "Nothingness."
posted by standardasparagus at 5:11 PM on August 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


An escutcheon is what defines the hole. It guides the key into the mechanism and protects the wood from wear when the key is inserted. An escutcheon is definitely a thing.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:12 PM on August 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


To approach it from a Samuel Johnson-esque direction, can you remove a keyhole from a door, carry it home in your pocket, and install it in another door? No, not without tortuous semantic games. So no, by any day-to-day perspective, it’s not an object.
posted by ejs at 5:28 PM on August 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


Non sequitur, but your question made me think about Mark Strand's poem, "Keeping Things Whole":

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.
------
posted by correcaminos at 5:30 PM on August 26, 2018 [24 favorites]


An escutcheon is definitely a thing, but in a construction context (like installing a bunch of doors) I think I would be much more likely to hear someone say, "Hey, go grab those keyholes and bring them over here." Of course, they'd probably actually say "locksets."
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:40 PM on August 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


I would say it's a place rather than an object.
posted by lollusc at 6:28 PM on August 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


Yes it is. Is a cup an object? A cup holds liquid and is defined by its borders. A keyhole insinuates a specific shape fitting into its hole, implying borders.
posted by pintapicasso at 8:02 PM on August 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


If you could slap em on a surface Looney Tunes styles I'd vote yes.
posted by CarolynG at 8:26 PM on August 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


"Naive, untutored descriptions of the world treat holes as objects of reference, on a par with ordinary material objects"- the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy
posted by pinochiette at 8:26 PM on August 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


> Yes it is. Is a cup an object? A cup holds liquid and is defined by its borders. A keyhole insinuates a specific shape fitting into its hole, implying borders.

Disagree. You can go to the store and buy a cup, but not a cup-hole. Likewise you can go to the store and buy a lock, but not a keyhole.

The lock is the object. The keyhole is the name given to a blank space within the object. This blank space has a specific name because there is a specific object expected to fit that hole - in this case, the key. Cup-hole doesn't have a name because a cup can hold all sorts of objects (or fluids or whatever).

Just because a void in an object has a specific name doesn't mean that the void is an object to itself.
posted by komara at 8:49 PM on August 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


Sometimes a hole is just a hole.
posted by rhizome at 9:01 PM on August 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


i'm a nominalist about holes. there are only things and space. Holes are the space between things. Insofar as that space is relevant to us or to the things, we call them holes. but there are lots of puzzles about holes and the whole thing is either really interesting or really boring, depending on how you feel about this sort of philosophical argle-bargle.
posted by dis_integration at 9:04 PM on August 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


Nope. See also "is a cup a straw?"
posted by aspersioncast at 9:16 PM on August 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Consider a bubble in a tank of water. The bubble is pretty clearly an object, and yet its primary description is "place where water isn’t".

Keyholes are places where keys aren’t.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:18 PM on August 26, 2018 [2 favorites]




A bubble is a set of atoms in gas form taking up space in a liquid, often moving upwards due to gravity or bouyancy. And the type of gas might be important.

A hole is not a set of atoms in a solid. Rather, it is the absence of atoms.

If I blow air into a water ballon, I'm adding matter to it.

If I drill holes into my house or punch holes into a sheet of paper, I'm removing matter. If I do it enough, there's just a bit of house or paper left.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:51 PM on August 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Keyhole is a word and a concept so yes, in the sense that in English we think of a nostril as an object.
If a keyhole meant a hole in a key it would not be an object. But we define it as an object meant for a key, not just a hole in the lock apparatus. It is an object that happens to be a hole.
A grave, too, is an object. A donut hole (the actual hole) is not. I think it's an object if we use it as an object, even if that use depends on space held by borders.
posted by nantucket at 11:09 PM on August 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


According to my personal, idiosyncratic, unofficial but internally pleasing ways of organizing my understanding of the world, the quality of being an object is not a binary but a shading. Things with positive masses and relatively well defined, relatively static boundaries have strong objecthood. So a billiard ball is pretty much canonically an object; a candle flame less so, being more of a process; and a hole, scarcely at all.

Ultimately, the question of whether or not a thing is an object really depends on the problem you're trying to solve by using that label for it, and whether or not that thing shares qualities you care about with other things you've also chosen to label that way. For example, if all you cared about was identifiability, enumerability and classification, it might make perfect sense to lump holes in with other kinds of thing that also display all those attributes and call them all objects. But if you're thinking along more physical lines and have already decided that objects have positive masses, not so much. Then again, if you're interested in semiconductors and you've encountered the idea of an electron hole as a carrier of positive charge, you might well consider an electron hole to be as much an object as an electron even though its mass is negative and it may or may not also be a particle.

I strongly believe that attempting to reduce the use of words to something akin to an exact science is always going to be a doomed quest, because language is just messy. Best we can ever do is make sure the way we use words serves our present purpose. Most of the time it will make sense to figure out what the person you're talking to means by "object" and adopt the same definition for the purpose of removing unnecessary distractions to productive discussion. But sometimes it's more fun not to.

In any case, it remains perfectly clear to me that there are endless numbers of things that are not objects and that using those two words as synonyms is probably an error.
posted by flabdablet at 11:15 PM on August 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


The word "object" can be used in various ways. A keyhole that let a burglar enter your home could become the "object of an investigation". If a keyhole is covered by a sheet of paper, your understanding of "object permanence" lets you know it's still there underneath. An "object recognition" algorithm could identify a keyhole just as easily as anything else with a well-defined shape.

But even if a strong person can "lift any object", it's hard to imagine them lifting a hole. A bag that can "hold all kinds of objects" is unlikely to hold any holes. Or if I tell you that bag is "full of objects", you'll be surprised to find it empty and full of holes.

Ultimately, words don't really have a meaning outside the context of their use. Discussing the "real" meaning of a word can be fun, but it's pointless without some connection to the specific ways you're trying to use it.
posted by panic at 12:50 AM on August 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


Cognitively, yes: we can talk about it with the same kind of noun we use for other objects, if you ask me to draw three keyholes I can do it, and I will bet even people answering "no", if offered $20 SAIT to do so, could count how many keyholes were in that picture.

Physically, no. They have no mass, they don't exist outside of the lock mechanism that defines them, you can't pick one up.

IOW, knowledge is knowing that a tomato is (botanically) a fruit, wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad (because culinarily it's a vegetable).
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 2:52 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


The hole in theory and thought previously on the green.

(on edit: ooo spooky that question was asked a year ago to the day, nearly)
posted by Joeruckus at 4:16 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Previously, from the Blue: David Lewis & Stephanie Lewis (1970): Holes, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 48:2, 206-212 (.pdf).
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:18 AM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


We need to know a lot more about the context in which you are trying to answer this question in order to help you answer it at the appropriate level.
posted by Kwine at 7:41 AM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yeah, something’s missing from this ask.
posted by notyou at 8:02 AM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


I dunno, I think the vagueness of the question led to an interesting variety of answers. Who knew academic philosophy had so much to say about the nature of holes?
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:21 AM on August 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


I think part of it is a misconception that nouns have to be touchable.
posted by rhizome at 10:20 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Well, a noun isn't the same thing as an object. 'Honesty' is a noun. 'Name' is a noun. But I don't think anyone would claim that those things are objects.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:27 AM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Is a keyhole (hole in the ground, etc) an object?

There's no master list of Things Which Are Definitely Objects, so about half of everyone will say that keyholes are objects, and about half of everyone will say that keyholes are not objects.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:24 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


My school biology teacher used to argue that the digestive tract was not part of the human body, because it was a hole through the body. Just in case you're in need of a more obtuse example of the same idea.
posted by pipeski at 12:50 PM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


"Yes it is. Is a cup an object? A cup holds liquid and is defined by its borders. A keyhole insinuates a specific shape fitting into its hole, implying borders."

A cup is an object but the void in the cup isn't.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:12 PM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


$5 says this is for an argument about a D&D spell description.

(I like the discussion tho.)
posted by Horkus at 3:17 PM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


I still say it's context-dependent and unanswerable beyond that except in defined contexts. Super boring, I know.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:04 PM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Eventually you make your way back to the pre-Socratics.
posted by rhizome at 5:54 PM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Thanks so much for all the input, y'all. I definitely wasn't trying to make a stunt post or anything, but, I knew it was unanswerable in a sense. Just one of those things that I woke up in the middle of a night wondering whether a keyhole was an object.
posted by ftm at 8:52 AM on August 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


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