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Philosophy in the Contemporary World

Volume 25, Issue 1, Spring 2019

Rob LoveringOrcid-ID
Pages 61-73

“That’s Just So-and-So Being So-and-So”
On Some Possible Meanings, Functions, and Moral Implications of an Explanation

When it comes to explaining someone’s puzzling, objectionable, or otherwise problematic behavior, one type of explanation occasionally employed in the service of doing so is as follows: “That’s just so-and-so being so-and-so.” But what, exactly, do explanations of the type “That’s just so-and-so being so-and-so” mean? More specifically, in what way, if any, is it meaningful or informative to say such things? And what is the precise function of such explanations of someone’s behavior? Is it merely to present what one takes to be the underlying causes of the behavior, or something beyond that? In what follows, I lay out a few possibilities—basic possibilities, to be precise, given philosophy’s keen interest in fundamentals—with respect to the various meanings, functions, and moral implications of explanations of the type “That’s just so-and-so being so-and-so.” While doing so, I apply these basic possibilities to three tokens of this kind of explanation: “That’s just Manny being Manny” (in reference to Manny Ramirez, the former professional baseball player), “That’s just Charlie being Charlie” (in reference to Charlie Rose, the former television host), and “That’s just Trump being Trump” (in reference to Donald Trump, the current President of the United States).

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