[-empyre-] Re:science

Julian Priest julian at informal.org.uk
Thu Sep 11 23:23:32 EST 2008

>> Michele wrote:
>> Science has always seemed quintessentially metaphoric, full of
>> images of invisible states and imagined processes as we apprehend it
>> through embodied experience. Science can be seen as a kind of fiction
>> that has (unusually) traction across a large number of bodies and
>> worlds. Like other kinds of fiction the scientific fiction has agency.

On Mon, Sep 08, 2008 at 07:22:56PM -0700, h w wrote:

>      It's only metaphoric, because much of it is mathematical, and unless you
>      can wrap your head around the math, any description will, by necessity,
>      be metaphorical and filled with images you can understand. Otherwise,
>       communication gets very difficult.

On Wed, Sep 10, 2008 at 11:08:14PM +1200, Danny Butt wrote:
>    I think we know from a few decades of science studies that to say that a
>    scientific process is full of metaphor, and thus as Michele says *can be
>    seen as* a kind of fiction, is not the same as saying that it is in any
>    way untrue or ineffective, or the same as a novel. It is simply to say,
>    that the development of categories that occurs within scientific processes
>    is a human-driven process of sense-making, involving both non-humans and
>    humans and genre and history. And metaphor, all the way down. (I am not a
>    mathematician, but I know enough math people to know that simply
>    "understanding the math" is not enough to rid it of metaphor. And that's
>    not a bad thing.).

#2s metaphor

2 chalks
are like 
2 cheeses
not in shape
not in colour
not in taste
not in texture
not in weight
not in provenance
not in chemical composition
not in suitability for scrawling hop scotch squares on sticky summer culdesac tarmacadum 
nor in acceptability as post sub-urban dinner party cracker and port accompaniment
in maths
in number
in twoness
like 2 chalks and 2 cheeses
the same


This idea crops up in the strong programme of the sociology of science.

"The transition or link between arithmetic and the world is the link
of metaphorical identification between initially dissimilar objects"

David Bloor, Knowledge and Social Imagery

A similar idea appears in cognitive linguistics, that mathematics is
built on a basic innate human cognitive ability (subitizing) to do
simple arithmetic, which is them structured into more complex forms by

"We will argue, in all these topics and more that conceptual metaphor
is the central cognitive extension to such sophisticated applications
of number"

Where Maths Comes From, George Lakoff



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