Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 713. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: 2020-03-30 11:06:43+00:00 From: William Pascoe
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.708: tree diagrams Hi, Love it or hate it, Deleuze and Guattari perform a very influential deconstruction of tree structures and how it influences thought and reason in the first few chapters of A Thousand Plateaus. Contra the assumptions inherent in the analogy of a tree-like root structure reflecting the tree above that we so often use to understand the world, they propose their famous 'rhizome' - where the root system is not a mirror image of the plant above ground, and rather than being heirarchical it is a decentralised network. Despite Deleuze and Guattari reaching a pinnacle of the obtuse obfuscating language that post- structuralism is so often derided for, IMHO it remains an important and valuable critique. In relation to this I don't think it would be hard to find many critiques of the mania for (mutually exclusive) hierarchical classification in Enlightenment thought and science. Although I haven't read it, I'm guessing Umberto Eco's 'Kant and the Platypus' would be a popular example, and probably a bit more intelligible than D&G. Something about the platypus defying categories, having attributes of mammals, birds, reptiles, marsupials, being amphibious, etc etc. Incidentally, on a DH note, I found a fair understanding of this invaluable when working with LDAP in contrast to heirarchical directories like the old Novel and Active Directory systems it was replacing when it came in. The important thing was that there were always 'entities' that belonged in more than one branch of the tree (in this case for granting permissions), so there was always a problem of associating and connecting multiple instances in different places - the beauty of LDAP was that it is a flat 'heirarchy', just a big long list, and everything is done by attributes, and filters querying those attributes - so instead of forcing things into mutually exclusive tree structures and then trying to figure out where on earth to put the platypus, you just have a huge list of things with properties, and just query whatever is relevant to the purposes - so instead of 'all entities under mammal' you can go 'all egg laying creatures' or 'all lactating creatures' depending on what is relevant to the problem at hand, and a platypus is no problem. Anyway, in terms of the history of reasoning across fields, in the history of Western thought, probably the most important part of the origin story is Aristotle. Clear and thorough categorisation of everything, across and within all fields was a core part of his philosophical method. A brilliant, and one of the most important exponents of Aristotelian approach, leading to modern science is Ibn Sina / Avicenna. In just the first few pages of his Metaphysics, with an apparently effortless flick of the pen, he summaries absolutely everything that may be reasoned about by the art of distinguishing categories - and then proceeds with a project of comprehending everything by this technique, inventing clinical method, among other things, along the way. Just because I happen to have it handy, see how deftly he analyses all that is into categories that remain our basic assumptions to this day ('household' is obviously a vital aspect of Islam, but Westerners can also understand this as 'economics' coming from Greek 'oikonomia', dealing with household management, particularly in the sense of managing incomings and outgoings, such as what the farm produces, what is in the stores, etc as well as the level described of mid level relationships between society at large and the individual): 1. The beginning of first philosophy First Chapter: the number of philosophical sciences For each science there is a subject matter the condition of which is investigated by that science. Subject matter is of two kinds: the one which depends for its being on our action, and the other which does not depend for its being on our action... The one which informs us of the condition of our action is named practical science... The other informs us about the nature of the being of objects... This science is named speculative science. From each of these two sciences we derive three sciences. There are three practical sciences. The first is the science of public management which assures us about associations for which there is a need to be orderly. And this is of two kinds. The first concerns the nature of religious laws, and the second concerns the nature of the science of politics... Another is the science of household management which is meant to regulate the associations taking place in a house between husband and wife, father and child, and master and slave. The third is the science of the self, specifying how man should be with his own self. Since it is man's condition to be alone or to be in association with others, and since associations are either with members of a household or with fellow citizens, there are three kinds of practical sciences governing these associations: that of civic management, that of household management, and finally that of management of the self. The speculative science is of three kinds: one is named first philosophy, the science of primordials of that which is beyond nature; another is an intermediate science which is called the science of syntax and mathematics; the other is called a natural science or inferior science to the fact that things are classified only into three kinds. Either their being (ie: that the subject matter of these sciences) is in no way connected to sensible matter, mixture and motion... Or (2) there are other kinds of subjects whose beings are not separated from sensible matter and things in motion... Or (3) other kinds of subjects that are such that their being is in materials, and defining and imagining them are related to matter and to the nature of motion, as was clarified by means of our previous example. - Avicenna, Metaphysica, pp11-12 Bill Pascoe _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: email@example.com List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php
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