5.0460 Rs: Methodology/Metaphor; Hares; Errors (6/142)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 19 Nov 1991 17:52:01 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0460. Tuesday, 19 Nov 1991.

(1) Date: Mon, 18 Nov 91 19:53:27 EST (24 lines)
From: Michel Pierssens <R36254@UQAM>
Subject: Methodology and Metaphor

(2) Date: Tue, 19 Nov 1991 08:45 EST (19 lines)
Subject: Method as metaphor

(3) Date: Mon, 18 Nov 91 20:55 CST (58 lines)
From: "Robert J. O'Hara" <RJO@macc.wisc.edu>
Subject: Re: 5.0455 Rs: Methodology as Metaphor (3/67)

(4) Date: Tue, 19 Nov 1991 08:08:59 -0500 (7 lines)
From: warkent@epas.utoronto.ca (Germaine Warkentin)
Subject: Hares

(5) Date: Tue, 19 Nov 91 12:17:26 GMT (17 lines)
From: David Shaw <djs@ukc.ac.uk>
Subject: Hare

(6) Date: Tue, 19 Nov 1991 09:46 CST (17 lines)
Subject: quotes on errors

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Mon, 18 Nov 91 19:53:27 EST
From: Michel Pierssens <R36254@UQAM>
Subject: Methodology and Metaphor

The very type of question Marc Bregman raises is addressed specifically in
a collection of essays edited by Isabelle Stengers (who wrote a famous book
with I. Prigogine). But you have to read french! The title: "D'une science
a l'autre. Des concepts nomades". Paris: Seuil, coll. "science ouverte",
1987, 400p. This is a path-breaking work on the notion of conceptual transfer
and dissemination. Michel Serres has based most of his books on that same
principle as it applies between sciences, between sciences and literary
works, between literary works, etc. This kind of research I labeled
"epistemocritique" (If I may quote my own work) in: Versions du savoirs,
essais d'epistemocritique, Presses Universitaires de Lille, 1990. There is
a great deal of interest in those matters among French researchers. A
colloquium on "epistemocritique et cognition" will take place in Paris in
march 1992 precisely to discuss ways to apprehend such phenomena and to
set new methods of linking the study of scientific discourse to literary
analytical methodology.

M. Pierssens
etudes francaises
Universite de Montreal
e-mail: PIERSENS@ere.umontreal.ca
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------28----
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 1991 08:45 EST
Subject: Method as metaphor

As I tell my introductory linguistics students, both the goals
and the processes of science are metaphor. We seek to explain natural
phenomena by constructing models that predict them. We test and
construct those models by examining the degree to which and ways in
which they predict falsely or fail to predict. (One of the traps
linguists most easily fall into is that of interpreting
model-theoretic constructs as having psychological reality, a term
that gets tossed around as if we know what it means.) A philosopher
might challenge this statement, but it is in the nature of dialectic
as method that science proceeds by successive approximation and as
highly predictive as the models become, they remain models and not the
reality they describe.

Herb Stahlke
Ball State University
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------66----
Date: Mon, 18 Nov 91 20:55 CST
From: "Robert J. O'Hara" <RJO@macc.wisc.edu>
Subject: Re: 5.0455 Rs: Methodology as Metaphor (3/67)

Regarding "method as metaphor", the tree metaphor in the historical sciences
(natural history, linguistics, stemmatics) is an old one, and predates even
Darwin. The tree was used as a model for "the natural system" - the abstract
notion of the order in living diversity - by systematists in the late 1700s,
and was very much a mainstream notion when it was given an evolutionary
interpretation somewhat later. The excellent volume edited by Hoenigswald
and Wiener, _Biological Metaphor and Cladistic Classification_ (U. Pennsylvania
Press, ca. 1988) was already recommended, and I second that recommendation;
it's a really excellent collection of papers. Interestingly, among pre-
evolutionary systematists (students of natural diversity), the tree was only
one of a number of models or metaphors in use: circles, maps, stars, and
chains were also used to represent the natural system. I have written a
couple of papers on such diagrams myself, and would be happy to supply
reprints to anyone who is interested.

Beyond the question of particular visual metaphors, one of the strongest
comparisons one finds in the development of the historical sciences is the
comparison of those sciences (particularly geology) with human history itself.
Buffon in the 1700's says: "Just as in civil history one refers to titles,
looks for medals, or deciphers ancient inscriptions, in order to work out
the epochs of human revolutions and establish the dates of intellectual
events, so also in natural history is it necessary to rummage through the
archives of the world." de Luc in 1794 refers to geological strata, "where
it is as easy to read the history of the Sea, as it is to read the history of
Man in the archives of any nation." The greatest of the historical geologists,
Charles Lyell, declares in 1830: "As we explore this magnificent field of
inquiry [geology], the sentiment of a great historian of our time may
continually be present to our minds, that 'he who calls what is vanished
back again into being, enjoys a bliss like that of creating.'" Hensleigh
Wedgwood, author of _A Dictonary of English Etymology_ wrote to Darwin in
1857: "I have often thought that there is much resemblance between language
& geology in another way. We all consider English a very mixed language
because we can trace the elements into Latin, German, &c. but I see much the
same thing in Latin itself & I believe that if we were but acquainted with
the previous state of things we should find all languages made up of the
debris of former tongues just as every geological formation is the grinding
down of former continents." Examples like these can be multiplied
endlessly. Species, for example, are often compared to human individuals,
in that they are born, live out a life span, and then die. One particularly
good source on historical analogies in geology is:
Rudwick, M.J.S. 1977. Historical analogies in the geological work
of Charles Lyell. _Janus_, 64:89-107.

The opportunities for work on these topics, in history of science, history
of ideas, rhetoric, and half a dozen other areas, are great.

Bob O'Hara

Robert J. O'Hara, Department of Philosophy and The Zoological Museum,
University of Wisconsin - Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, U. S. A.
RJO@WISCMACC.bitnet RJO@macc.wisc.edu
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------19----
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 1991 08:08:59 -0500
From: warkent@epas.utoronto.ca (Germaine Warkentin)
Subject: Hares

Many thanks to all those who sent me information about "where the hare
layed." Another triumph for the e-lists in the footnote department! Germaine.

(5) --------------------------------------------------------------28----
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 91 12:17:26 GMT
From: David Shaw <djs@ukc.ac.uk>
Subject: Hare

<Hic iacet lepus> is echoed in the 1542 text of Rabelais's Gargantua.
In his ridiculous speech to ask for the return of the bells of
Notre Dame (stolen for use on Gargantua's horse), the university
orator Janotus de Bragmardo (Johnny Cutlass) terminates a list
of silly arguments with 'Ibi jacet lepus'.

Screech's edition of the text refers also to Rabelais's Tiers Livre
chapter XLI, 83 'Ce n'est la que gist le lievre'. He also
cites Cotgrave's dictionary (published 1611) as giving the
meaning 'voila le noeud de la question' (That's the heart of the

David Shaw, Univ. of Kent at Canterbury, U.K.
(6) --------------------------------------------------------------24----
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 1991 09:46 CST
Subject: quotes on errors

I am not sure of the context for the recent quote from Hegel on errors (I have
missed recent humanist discussion on this subject apparently), but if
someone is looking for quotations on the function of errors (which the heading
tag leads me to believe), I should mention Frank Kermode's "The Uses of Error"
a sermon first preached in King's Chapel at Cambridge I think, and now
published in his most recent collection of essays (the title eludes me). It
was also published in a theological journal recently (Journal of Theological
Studies). Sorry to be so vague on sources; I'll look up the reference is
someone is really interested.

Mikeal Parsons
Baylor University