Please, please Mr. Postman (THREAD ONE)

Fri, 22 Jul 1994 23:43:20 -0400

Hey anthropoids,
Was reading some of Neil Postman's _Technopoly: The Surrender of
Culture to Technology_ the other day. At the risk of restaring the
pomo/left-right brain wars, I felt I had to quote a passage from it, p.
154. (Hope this constitutes 'fair use.' Also hope nobody takes this to mean
something simple like "I agree with it" - it just seems to make some of the
points I've been making about relativism, fiction, science, etc.)

"Science itself is, of course, a form of storytelling too, but its
assumptions and procedures are so different from that of social research
that it is extremely misleading to give the same name to each. In fact, the
stories of social researchers are much closer in structure and purpose to
what is called imaginative literature; that is to say, both a social
researcher and a novelist give unique interpretations to a set of human
events and support their interpretations with examples in various forms.
Their interpretations cannot be proved or disproved but will draw their
appeal from the power of their language, the depth of their explanations,
the relevance of their examples, and the credibility of their themes. All
of this has, in both cases, an identifiable moral purpose. The words 'true'
and 'false' do not apply here in the sense that they are used in
mathematics or science. For there is nothing universally and irrevocably
true or false about these interpretations. There are no critical tests to
confirm or falsify them. There are no natural laws from which they are
derived. They are bound by time, by situation, and above all by the
cultural prejudices of the researcher."
Elsewhere: "We may say that processes refer to those events which
occur in nature... such processes have nothing to do with human
intelligence, are governed by immutable laws, and are, so to say,
determined by the structure of nature. But *practices* (my emphasis) refer
to the creations of people - those events that result from human decisions
and actions, such as reading this book, forming a new government, or
falling in love. These events are a function of human intelligence
interacting with the environment, and although there is surely a measure of
regularity in human affairs, such affairs are not determined by natural
laws, immutable or otherwise. (This part must be from Geertz.) In other
words, there is an irrevocable difference between a blink - a physiological
act - and a wink - which must be classified as a practice filled with
personal and to some extent unknowable meanings and, in any case, quite
impossible to explain or predict in terms of causal relations."

Discuss among yourselves!

Seeker1 [@Nervm.Nerdc.Ufl.Edu] (real info available on request)
CyberAnthropologist, TechnoCulturalist, Guerilla Ontologist, Chaotician
Discordian Society, Counter-Illuminati Operations Branch
"The map is not the territory." -- Alfred Korzybski
"The menu is not the meal." -- Alan Watts