John McCarthy (jmc@SAIL.Stanford.EDU)
03 Feb 1995 05:12:50 GMT

In article <3gqjui$> (Phil
Nicholls) writes:

In article <>,
John McCarthy <jmc@cs.Stanford.EDU> wrote:
>Philip Nicolls includes
> The problem with racial typology is that it IS a typology
> and we know that typology is an outdated concept.
>What is the concept of typology and who has declared it outdated and

Typology is the reflection of Neo-Platonism into biology. Let's say
you want to designate a new species of robin. You go out and shoot
a robin and designate it the "type specimen" for robins. Of course
you might have shot a creepy-looking robin as robins go.

Typology reduces all members of a group to a "type" on the basis of
a set of characteristics. Racial typologies reduce all of humanity
to five, ten, twenty or more types. Typology was replaced with the
rise of population biology when it was discovered that most of the
traits used to designate types are not discretely distributed but
are distributed as a cline.

>Does or did typology have its partisans, or is "typology" a word like
>"racist" used by some people to assign types to others?

Typology is a methodology. Anyone who practices that methodology is
a typologist.

I conclude from this answer to my question that "typology" is an
epithet like "racism" or "scientism". People call others typologists,
but no-one calls himself that. Have I got it right?

John McCarthy, Computer Science Department, Stanford, CA 94305
He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.