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A planet by any other name: An exercise in astro-metaphysics

  • Joel Marks

Abstract

Joel Marks discusses the philosophical aspects of a question recently in the news: is Pluto a planet, or not?

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What is especially bedeviling is that the new IAU designation for Pluto and 2003 UB313 is ‘dwarf planet’, which makes it appear that they are still planets, albeit dwarfish ones. But in fact the new term is apparently intended as a kenning, which is a figure of speech that designates something that is not designated by its component terms, as ‘sail road’ for the sea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenning). Thus, according to the IAU, dwarf planets are not planets!

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