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fig.54—“Dogs are people too” and other half­-truths


 A Biaxial Plot effectively situates an object, process or event relative to two variable scales or categories. By crossing two pairwise oppositions, a Plot may reveal complex fluidity within categories we normally treat as fixed. For productive constraint, we board our cat and dog nouns on the X­-axis of fig.54. Both are animal (not plant), both are vertebrate (not invertebrate), etc.—but we need a Y­-axis criterion that cut across both kinds—that is, what can divide each—‘dogs’ and ‘cats’—within itself? We could oppose wildlife to pets, but chattel—movable property—is a more ‘loaded’ term. Every culture grants the act a ‘supernatural power’; to name a thing is to grasp it—to capture it mind and body. What can we learn simply quartering cats and dogs, wild and domestic? For one, we don’t typically speak along Feline and Canine taxonomic lines; we readily call leopards and tigers ‘cats’—but we call a wolf a ‘wolf’—why? cats ‘domesticated’ themselves, meaning, roughly: unlike dogs, we have done nothing to change their nature.

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c.1730, Carl Linnæus packed the portmanteautaxon­-nomy” from  two well­-travelled morphemes: Gk nomos, Lat nomen ‘manage’; cf. Sanskrit nama; P.Gmc *namon to OHG namo to Ger/Eng Name (all from PIE *nomn­-) met Gk tassein ‘arrange’, taxis ‘order’ to Lat taxare ‘evaluate’ to O.Fr taxer to Eng tax; cf. Gk taktikos to Lat tactica to Eng tactical, tactile, tag, tack, tangent; cf. Nor/Swe tagg ‘thorn, prong’; Gk tagma ‘regiment’, Turkic tamgha/damga ‘seal, mark, brand’; cf. tame, dame, doom, deem, dharma, domestic, dominate (all from PIE *tag­- ‘to touch, handle’ so as ‘to set aright’). 


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When faced with resistant contraries—symmetric, asymmetric, or dissymmetric—we need not mystify them. Conceptual models simplify complexes and complicate simples. To dismember the unity of the many per Pico, put the multiple to the elemental for Feynman? To decompose prose posits, from Aristotle to Zermelo, or recompose repostes, from Anaxagoras to Žižek? We analyze, synthesize, tag and bag—but, as Wittgenstein put it—“My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb up beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.”

© 2008-2012 Ian C Thorne. all rights reserved. about credits privacy contact share