In the Mutants and Race piece that I'm trying to get into its final form, I'm trying to figure out a good way to avoid using a certain word. Philosophers sometimes use the word 'categorical' to refer to terms that denote categories of various sorts. But there's also the meaning of the word that Kant means when he talks about the categorical imperative, which is opposed to hypothetical imperatives. A categorical imperative is universal (applying to everyone) and absolute (applying in every case). A hypothetical imperative applies only in certain cases, given certain hypotheticals that may not always apply. So the term can mean "absolute/universal" or "having to do with categories".
I explain some problems with thinking of mutants as a race, even if there are analogous features. It really is an analogy, which means it can be pushed too far if you assume the category mutant is an actual example of the kinds of categories that we call races. Yet characters in the various X-Media regularly speak of mutants with racial language? I then try to capture how sometimes this sort of thing can be perfectly fine as long as we don't take the language too strictly. Here's the sentence as most recently returned to me by the editors (with the following sentence for a little context):
On the other hand, we often speak loosely and use certain categorical terms in an extended or even metaphorical sense. For example, people sometimes refer to co-workers as family.
The word 'categorical' was inserted by an editor, and I removed it in my next draft. I'm not entirely sure whether it's supposed to mean that some terms that are normally absolute are sometimes used in an extended sense, i.e. not absolutely, or whether it means that some terms for categories can be used to include things not technically in those categories. Either one is consistent with what I meant. But it's ambiguous, and good philosophical writing removes ambiguities. Also, it's a technical term, and this is a popular-level work that's supposed to explain technical terms. I thought it best to avoid it, so I rewrote several sentences to say what I meant without needing it. A later draft then came back with the word inserted once again. So I'm not sure what I want to do to avoid the word and yet also express what I mean and whatever the editors thought was unclear without that word.
One thought is just to replace 'categorical' with 'category', but I suspect whichever editor keeps inserting this term doesn't approve of that word as an adjective. They obviously didn't like it the way I had it without adjectives, though. I haven't been able to think of a good word instead of 'categorical' if I don't change it much. I'll put the two paragraphs discussing this issue below the fold. I've love any suggestions.