Wednesday 27 February 2008

Everything in miscellaneous

I think Weinberger is on to something, in his book 'Everything is miscellaneous'

I'm reading it at the moment - OK I'm always behind the times, but it was only published last year - and it is resonating with lots of things that I'm thinking about.

As always, there's lots more that I want to say about than I have time to do at the moment. For now, start with a quote from Chapter 9:
To know what a thing is, thought Aristotle, is to see what is essential about it [...] and not be fooled by just what happens to be true about it [...] The definitions of those essences determine those things that are in a category and those that are turned away. Here there is no messiness, only an order so precise and harmonious that it is beautiful.

Or so Aristotle and generations of thinkers assumed. So do we when we argue about, for example, how to define race, knowledge management, or blogging. But suppose this sort of Aristotelian categorization-through-definition were shown to be an essentially artificial way of approaching the world. Suppose messiness is not a flaw in our thinking but enables it.

I think there is a link here to Michael Frayn's "The Human Touch: Our Part in the Creation of a Universe". We create the universe by defining order. The order does not exist out there independent of us, waiting for us to find it. We make it.

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