Darwin-L Message Log 2:168 (October 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.

<2:168>From WILLS@macc.wisc.edu  Sun Oct 31 23:03:57 1993

Date: Sun, 31 Oct 93 23:06 CDT
From: Jeffrey Wills <WILLS@macc.wisc.edu>
Subject: Re: Pronouncing "palaetiology"
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

To amplify Sally Thomason's comments:
	The _Cratylus_ (named for a major interlocutor in it) is the first
extant attempt, in the western tradition at least, to discuss the origin of
language. Much of the dialogue centers on whether language is purely a matter
of convention (nomos) or one of nature (physis) or somehow a combination. Plato
has Cratylus take the position that all words are naturally appropriate (and
therefore falsehood is impossible). To test this Socrates offers many
etymologies, some patently absurd. Probably contemporary theories of language
are being satirized (i.e. Plato is not initiating this topic in Greek
philosophy) but we don't know the references.
	As to pal(ae)-aetiology, the Classicist in me doesn't really like this
compounding type (even if sedimentary processes are being referred to ;)). How
would palae(o) "ancient, antiquated" help the meaning here anyway? The problem
is that *aetiology*, the study of causes, had already been coopted by the
Greeks for the origin of customs and names. The options are either to find a
compositional stem that is explicit as to this subdiscipline (historio-) or to
find another Greek stem for cause (alas aetio- is pretty much it) or
explanation (but exegesis, hermeneu-, are taken).

Jeffrey Wills

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