Tuesday, October 25, 2011

note taking/posted elsewhere. old wine in new bottles
Language is never stable, whether in common life, Catholic doctrine or the meaning of the US Constitution. Rituals may stay the same, as spelling may, but meanings change. Only reactionaries such as Antonin Scalia argue otherwise.

See Balkin, Levinson, and Richard Taruskin

From Text to Performance: Law and other Performing Arts

The major problem with the contemporary theory and practice of social science is the assumption that the meanings of research will not be subject to change as are other texts. Concomitant with this is the fiction that "scientists" are on one side of the glass and that "the folk" are on the other.

Historians read and interpret the past as lawyers and concert pianists do. None of them engage in science and none require a god. All require a faith in the representational power of their own language, even while acknowledging that that power will not be shared in the future. All that the future will share with the past will be the form, the rituals, the words, the notes, the numbers. And the last is where scientists get their fiction.

Numbers are seen by most as modeling the world, but they do not represent it. Representation is a function of meaning and meanings are private. An engineer of highways and an engineer of public transport systems will be of different faiths regarding the use of the same formulae. In a humanist sense the formulae are as meaningless as rocks, all that matters is what's done with them. The collapse of simple facts, of rocks, with meaning has allowed science to take on the role of a self-supporting faith: that the function of logic presupposes a logical (reasonable) goal. It does no such thing.

Science does not know irony. The best model of the secular "belief in belief" is the faith of the lawyer, historian and fiddle player.

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