two things

Sun, 27 Feb 1994 11:09:24 CST

Dwight, I understand your frustration, but give Danny his due--he understands,
as you do, that any system has the inherent capability of infinte regress. So
the system is nested in (a subsystem of) a larger system, which is nested in a
yet higher level of system, etc., ALL IN RELATION TO (AN) SOME OBSERVER.
The observer in included in the definition of a system, and, therefore, what
level of system the observer focusses on is a matter of the observer's
analytical convenience. "The larger system" may be a bit more ambiguous than
you or I might like for starters, but it can be specified once the observer is
ready to design the details of his/her research. And--the beauty of a systems
framework--the observer is not stuck with the level of system he/she starts
with. If the data point to a higher or lower level of logical type, then you
just go with it. I think Danny is on firm ground. We always start with fuzzy
logic to get our juices flowing and become more rigorous as we get down to
deciding what data we're after.

Second. I was very touched by Maureen Korp's elegant testimony to her mentor.
It reminds me of a practice that is becoming more common in anthropology now--
letting mentors know how important they are while they're still alive. I
remember a symposium at AAA some years ago in honor of Mervyn Meggitt. When I
saw the announcement, I thought the old rapscallion had died. I was delighted
to hear that he hadn't, and that his colleagues and students had simply decided
it was time he knew how important he was to people. Three weeks ago, I
attended a testimony to Eugene Ogan at the Association for Social Anthropology
in Oceania. Gene's colleagues, students, and advisees organized a session in
honor of Gene's retirement from teaching (at Minnisota). No one I know
deserved the recognition more than Gene. Becuase he is such a mensch, it is
easy to forget how smart and incisive he is (until he reads YOUR ms). It was
heartfelt without being maudlin, and as we left the session, all of us felt as
if we'd taken a nice, long warm bath. I'd like to see more of this. Maybe
anthropology is coming of age--we don't have to slay our parents anymore.

Mike Lieber