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Darwin-L Message Log 1:10 (September 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<1:10>From LBRYNES@vax.clarku.edu  Sun Sep  5 11:39:46 1993

Date: Sun, 5 Sep 1993 12:41 EST
From: GIVE PEAS A CHANCE <LBRYNES@vax.clarku.edu>
Subject: A tid bit following David P.'s note
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

I often email orts to Musuem staff as, HOPEFULLY!, a stimulus to
thought. We have quite a mix.
So, re: David Polly's note on classification, I thought some of
you may enjoy this:

Thought for the day...Taxonomy

from Foucault, q.i. Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge
..This passage quotes a certain Chinese encyclopedia in
which it is written that animals are divided into
	belonging to the Emperor
	embalmed
	tame
	sucking pigs
	sirens
	fabulous
	stray dogs
	included in the present classification
	frenzied
	innumerable
	drawn with a very fine camel-hair brush
	et cetera
	having just broken the water pitcher
	that from a long way off look like flies
In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing that, by
meansof this fable,  we apprehend in one great leap,
is demonstrated as the charm of another system of
thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark
impossibility of thinking THAT.

Greenhill analyzes...
..presumably the list was regarded as rational, as a
valid way of knowing...To be able to make sense of the
list wouldbe mind-expanding and would offer new
possibilities of classifyingthe world, and even new
ways of living in it.

It would certainly demand new ways of organizing
Museum and art gallery collections. The separations
we know between fine and decorative art and natural
 history, for example, would collapse...collections
would need to be reordered; painting, artifacts and
specimens would need to be place differently within
display cases....

IF NEW TAXONOMIES MEAN NEW WAYS OF ORDERING AND
DOCUMENTING COLLECTIONS, THEN DO THE EXISTING WAYS
IN WHICH COLLECTIONS ARE ORGANIZED MEAN THAT
TAXONOMIES ARE IN FACT SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED
RATHER THAT TRUE OR RATIONAL... [emphasis mine]

Do existing systems of classification enable some ways of
knowing, but prevent others? Are the exclusions, inclusions,
and priorities that determine whether objects become
part of collections, also creating systems of knowledge?....

Don, can you get zoo staff on reworking signage!!!
Thanks

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