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I [heart]...


for coining the phrase "embrace the power of neither" on alt.poly a few days ago.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 7th, 2003 12:40 pm (UTC)
i want that in latin now!

who has a sticker on her driverside door that says "jesus hates me" and one on her passengerside door that says "yoda loves me"
Aug. 7th, 2003 04:36 pm (UTC)
Hmm... In general that kind of embrace would be called necing.

Aug. 7th, 2003 10:37 pm (UTC)
So, not Latin obviously, but: {nec} ?
Aug. 8th, 2003 08:30 am (UTC)
Latin for either "neither" or "nor." It's a shortened form of neque, used when the meter requires it.
Aug. 8th, 2003 09:02 am (UTC)
So one way to say "em*brace* the power of neither" would be:


Another way would be:

amplectere potestem 'neque'
amplectere potestem 'nec'
Aug. 7th, 2003 01:01 pm (UTC)
Here's something I wrote on a simialr approach last year.

*Embrace the Power of Nor*

Clifford Geertz is a genius. He created _thick description_ as a role for anthropology where it's something other than a way of trying to dress up like a Real Science, and that's only one of his contributions. For instance, there's the essay "Common Sense as a Cultural System" (the title itself offers information many people need), which discusses the folly of trying to maintain sex as a fixed and absolute natural distinction even though a small percentage of new babies are not obviously one or the other.

His latest book, _Available Light_ (Princeton tpb), includes a marvelous essay about "Anti-Anti Relativism," which he compares to anti-anti communism and anti-anti abortion. Cultural relativism may lead us to refrain from criticizing differently civilized tribes that mutilate little girls' genitals to protect them from ever enjoying sex, but antirelativism tends to sweep a lot of valuable information under the rug in the name of one's own Big Story (sociobiology, Marxism, whatever).

This sort of plague-on-both-your-houses approach has many uses. People are always trying to make us say Yes or No or choose between two supposedly exclusive and exhaustive alternatives. This has long been a specialty of Richard Viguerie's fund-raising questionnaires, going back to "Do you want an increased defense budget, or do you want the Russians to come over here and violate our women and children?" Or there's Erich Fromm's division of the world into biophiles, who love Life Itself, and necrophiles, who wallow in blood, violence, and disease. I am neither, and I know people who are both.

Some wish to tell us that two-valuedness is logic. It isn't. Logic is a tool that does precisely one thing: It guarantees that your conclusions are no worse than your premises. If your premises do not divide the world properly, neither will your conclusions; "Garbage In, Garbage Out" did not begin with computers.

Jon Elster offers the useful concept of External Negation. You can believe that something is false (I believe not-X); that's internal negation. Or you can believe that the question is ill formed, or that we don't know enough to believe one way or the other. In that case you can say, "I don't believe X." (Common speech is careless about this. Perhaps we should distinguish between "I don't believe..." and "I disbelieve...") I would suggest that we do more not-believing, in that sense.

We are all fallible, and we keep getting more ignorant all the time (in the sense that the sum of knowledge grows much faster than an individual's can), so it behooves us to recognize that all our knowledge is provisional. Bernadette tells me that's the main message of Seventeenth-Century Skepticism. Time has not aged it, nor custom staled.
Aug. 7th, 2003 01:55 pm (UTC)
Aug. 7th, 2003 02:03 pm (UTC)
I thought about "nor", because it made more immediate sense to my ear, but "nor" didn't mean anything without "neither". I'm glad I didn't pick it, because it makes a better title for your particular rant.
Aug. 7th, 2003 02:55 pm (UTC)
You and I seem to have embraced different parts of the same beats, which sounds pleasantly kinky.
Aug. 7th, 2003 06:55 pm (UTC)
Logic is a tool that does precisely one thing: It guarantees that your conclusions are no worse than your premises.

I love this line.

Bernadette tells me that's the main message of Seventeenth-Century Skepticism.

*shudders* I hated reading that stuff. I agreed with the points they were trying to make, but c'mon. Evil demons out to delude me? Bah.
Aug. 7th, 2003 07:28 pm (UTC)
walking away from binary valuation
me, i embrace the gripping hand.
Aug. 7th, 2003 10:41 pm (UTC)
I remember this essay. It's great.

It seems that Babylon 5 has helped a bit to deconstruct the either/or overemphasis, by means of a single piece of dialog that's become frequently quoted:
Kosh: "They are alone. They are a dying people. We should let them pass."
Sinclair: "Who? The Narn or the Centauri?"
Kosh: "Yes."

-- "Midnight on the Firing Line", Babylon 5

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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