Darwin-L Message Log 1:172 (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.

<1:172>From loring@maroon.tc.umn.edu  Sat Sep 18 13:05:47 1993

Date: Sat, 18 Sep 1993 12:54:33 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Anne M Loring-1" <loring@maroon.tc.umn.edu>
Subject: Women, Fire and Dangerous Things
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

On Sat, 18 Sep 1993, Mary P Winsor wrote:

> You suggest that those interested in the supposed Chinese taxonomy
> found in Borges should read Lakoff "WOmen, fire and dangerous things"
> from which I assume you have read it.  I'm sure others in the list
> besides me would be helped if you would tell us in a sentence or three
> what Lakoff is about.

Will do.  Lakoff is a linguist at UC Berkeley.  His book _Women, Fire and
Dangerous Things_ (U of Chicago Press, 1987) is subtitled "What categories
reveal about the mind".  Those of you interested in taxonomy might wonder
what any of this has to do with classifying ferns, lizards, minerals, or
the like.  Lakoff is interesting because he challenges us to look at our
(pre?)conceptions about categorization.  He quotes the passage from Borges
with the commentary that "people around the world categorize things in
ways that both boggle the Western mind and stump Western linguists and
anthropologists", going on to cite an actual classical system used by
speakers of Dyirbal (an Australian aboriginal language) that rivals the
list of categories in Borges for mind-bogglingness. (see pages 92-93 for a
quick read)
Get back to me if any of you want to discuss Lakoff further.

Anne Loring

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