Friday, May 12, 2023

I have long been interested in classifications of people, in how they affect the people classified, and how the affects on the people in turn change the classifications. We think of many kinds of people as objects of scientific inquiry. Sometimes to control them, as prostitutes, sometimes to help them, as potential suicides. Sometimes to organise and help, but at the same time keep ourselves safe, as the poor or the homeless. Sometimes to change them for their own good and the good of the public, as the obese. Sometimes just to admire, to understand, to encourage and perhaps even to emulate, as (sometimes) geniuses. We think of these kinds of people as definite classes defined by definite properties. As we get to know more about these properties, we will be able to control, help, change, or emulate them better. But it’s not quite like that. They are moving targets because our investigations interact with them, and change them. And since they are changed, they are not quite the same kind of people as before. The target has moved. I call this the ‘looping effect’. Sometimes, our sciences create kinds of people that in a certain sense did not exist before. I call this ‘making up people’.

What sciences? The ones I shall call the human sciences, which, thus understood, include many social sciences, psychology, psychiatry and, speaking loosely, a good deal of clinical medicine. I am only pointing, for not only is my definition vague, but specific sciences should never be defined except for administrative and educational purposes. Living sciences are always crossing borders and borrowing from each other.

Emergence is about the past, yes, but it is subtitled A Philosophical Study. I never called it history. It was the first long piece of writing, in any language, that captured, adapted and applied “the new kind of analysis that Michel Foucault called archaeology. At the time, few readers who came across the book were familiar with his work. Today his achievements are almost too well known, beloved by some, loathed by others. I continue to be a fan, but I have no intention of writing about Foucault. I continue to use him in my own way, with no thought about whether I am faithful to the traditions he began. 

From idealism to mannerism (negative idealism) to humane irony. That's how it works. I'm too much of a determinist to be impressed by the obvious. And the thought of Foucault beginning a tradition is annoying. 

"...the impersonal in art and technocracy, though the product of the same events are very different things."

"[Weber's] value-free science is as much the product of an age as he was."

Panofsky, Auerbach, et al.

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