
Re: ANTHROL Digest  2 May 1995 to 3 May 1995
Alexandre Enkerli (Alexandre.Enkerli@IMM.UNIL.CH)
Sat, 6 May 1995 22:54:18 +0200
>Enkerli has provided a very nice discussion of the kind of role that
>mathematics can play in anthropology.
Thanks! Well, I'm not used to be called Enkerli but I can live with it.
[quotation from my original posting deleted]
Read replies:
>If we look at a discipline such as physics, mathematics has gone from methods
>used to model reality to being the means to express reality. That is,
>mathematics has gone from being an auxiliary to theorizing to being the means
>by which theorizing takes place through mathematics in certain areas being
>the only means to represent reality.
Exactly! It can be seen as a way of putting reality in more abstract terms.
Equations have grown from being a practical tool to understand physical or
chemical processes to a general conception of reality. As my physicist
collegue has told me, some physicists are even using equations to prove the
existence of God!
>Enkerli draws our attention, as have others,
(I didn't try to be original, I just thought it was something to point out
in the discussion)
> to the potential role that
>mathematics can play in how we think and theorize about reality.
>LeviStrauss recognized this role in his structural framework and refers to
>the needed integration of mathematical thinking.
Yes, but this kind of mathematical method is a lot more flexible than
mathematical equations applied to physical processes, IMVHAWISHIMVVVHO.
>This second role that
>Enkerli discusses is not, in my experience, a very well understood idea.
Because it can be much more complicated to use accurately...
>In
>my experience, to most people mathematics means numbers and possibly methods
Exactly. As if we were seeking for a numerological expression of reality.
>(as Enkerli discusses in the first part of his memo). But this has little to
>do with what mathematics is about.
Yes, but broad definition of maths are not widely used. People prefer to
view maths as a "simple discipline" involved with numbers so as to use it
as a fixed method. Like a recipe or an instruction manual. "Calculate the
proportion of people aged 25 or older who would not smoke if physicians
were to prove it gave cancer to nonsmokers, then add some salt and wait
for the results".
> Mathematics is, foremost, a discipline
>involved with reasoning and drawing out the logical consequences of a
>hypothetical situation.
And it's in this sense that it can be used as a way of organizing abstract
reasoning. Algebra as been really helpful in that sense and graphical
family trees (with a circle to symbolize a woman, lines to symbolize links,
etc.) can be seen in this way...
>To put it in more anthropological terms, if the
>local "universe" defined by such and such groups' cultural constructs frames
>for them how they are to understand, react to and act as individuals, what
>are the implications that can be derived with regard to the logic of those
>concepts? Here the logic refers not to behavior, per se, but to the logic of
>the cultural universe that has been constructed.
And this can lead us to ethnoscience which, without being totally
abandonned, doesn't seem to be very widely studied these days.
>The Tiwi, for example (to
>use an example from a course I teach on Hunters and Gatherers) have a very
>complex (from our perspective) system of marriage, social groupings and the
>like that begin to make sense when we consider the logic of their concepts
>and how constructs in one area (e.g., division simultaneously into
>patrilineally defined moities and matrilineally defined moities) seem to
>arise out of the logic of another area (their kinship terminology).
Yes. Complex systems are easier to schematize in mathematical terms. We owe
a lot to "hard" sciences in that sense.
>As important as the role of mathematics as providing method may be, it is in
>this second role that mathematics can play a far more significant, and far
>more consequential role in our attempts to make sense of what we are about as
>a species.
Yes and this also means that we should maths in the proper way...
_____________________________________
>From: Thomas Love <tlove@CALVIN.LINFIELD.EDU>
>Subject: "Paris of the..."
>
>One of the many little projects I've always wanted to get to  with all my
>spare time :)  is to draw up a list of the places that call themselves
>(or perhaps also including places so called by outsiders) "The Paris of
>the...". For example, Buenos Aires is often called the Paris of South
>America. I understand Noumea, New Caledonia, is called "The Paris of
>Melanesia" or something like that.
>
>I'd be interested in people's responses, which I'll collect and post
>later if this seems at all interesting. Of course the question is what
>makes them Parislike  a history of contact with French
>colonials/colonialism? an architecture and/or urban design like those
>of Paris?
We might even talk of Montreal as the Paris of North America for both
historical and cultural reasons. Paris seems to be a very important symbol
for American intellectuals. It has an aura of a being very much
"Cultureoriented". This refers to a very interesting ideology about
Parisian "lifestyle", IMVHAWISHIMVVVHO.
Alexandre Enkerli aenkerli@imm.unil.ch (UnilLAIP Lausanne)
http://eliot.unil.ch:3434/index.html
"Quand t'es ne sur du beton, tu sais pas les noms d'oiseaux. J'les connais
pas par leurs noms, j'vais m'asseoir sans dire un mot".
