Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Physics is 'just' discourse?

I may not have heard exactly right, but in answer to questions following his talk "Cybernetics's Reflexive Turn" I think Klaus Krippendorff said something like 'Physics is just discourse'. He certainly used the word 'just'. Though his first language is not English, I am sure he is fully aware of the implications of the word 'just' because he is a Prof for 'Cybernetics, Language and Culture'. But I would like to probe his use of the word (I did not think quickly enough to attempt to raise it yesterday.)

My problem is that it is a 'reductionist' word, it is 'nothing buttery'. I could go along with the idea that physics is entirely constructed of language, in the same way that I am entirely constructed of atoms, but this does not make me just atoms nor physics just discourse.

Possibly Krippendorff would argue that there is nothing else for physics to be. But that case the word 'just' is redundant - or I'd rather say that in that case it is gratuitous. You can equally well say 'physics is discourse' as 'physics is just discourse'. Putting in the word 'just' only serves to belittle physics. It is a sort of imperialism...

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