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Christina's LIS Rant
Sunday, December 02, 2007
  Musings on categories...
I have to narrow my studies somehow, and one way has been to not study categories and to spend as little time as possible on knowledge representation (maybe not a good idea but there you have it). But it's not easy, as these topics keep jumping out in my way like deer in mating season (ok, so you won't get that unless you've driven around here and have had to dodge Bambi on every wooded road).

This topic clearly belongs to philosophy, psychology, sociology (including SSS) and then there's also things like post-colonial studies and feminist studies and... other places where they look more closely at how people and cultural items are put into bins. (keep in mind that I really know nothing of this and have not studied it)

So you have some sort of Kantian or objectivist or external a priori deal where the categories can be a priori and well, objective. Natural categories that are properties of the thing, not having to do with the observer.

Then you have as DS calls it, an organism centered view. Embodied cognition vs symbolic representation (copied directly from course notes). From psychology, people have schema or internal knowledge representations and they try to match new experiences into their existing schema. The nature of the person doing the thinking impacts the categories.

So what jumped out to me just this week was the finitism version. If not directly part of constructivism, it's at least discussed in the same papers. Jan Golinski's review [*] has been particularly helpful in clarifying a bunch of stuff from SSK. Golinski quotes Barnes "finitism denies that inherent properties or meanings attach to concepts and determine their future correct applications; and consequently it denies that truth and falsity are inherent properties of statements" (p.16). (of course this definition is not helpful for building library catalogs or thesaurii!). The sort of constructivist thing is that meaning is constructed through social interaction.

Ah, I'm throwing in the towel on this.. I just wanted to write something before moving to a different subject.

Update: Best if I leave philosophers' names out of this (one reason I didn't mention Wittgenstein in the basis for finitism) - Thanks Steven for the help - btw which Steven are you?

[*] Golinski, J. (1998). Making natural knowledge: Constructivism and the history of science. New York: Cambridge University Press. (Chapter 1)
 
Comments:
"So you have some sort of Kantian or objectivist or external a priori deal where the categories can be a priori and well, objective. Natural categories that are properties of the thing, not having to do with the observer."

I would say this is a misreading of Kant, or Kant should not be included with "objectivist or external a priori".

For Kant, perception of the external world is of course a posteriori. When it comes to ordering, classifying and judging, all parts of reason, these are a priori and internal to the observer. Which means we don't see the world as it actually is, but we see it in the form we submit it to. Which means we don't see the noumena, or the "things-in-themselves", but only the phenomena, or the things after we have added our perception to them.

There may be an issue classifying this epistemology as subjective or objective, as we are supposed to share these faculties of cognition with everyone. However, Kant does have a huge influence on later phenomenology, and both would deny the possibility of seeing the properties of things and classifying them "as they are".
 
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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

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