A search for meaning

Around Christmas time I found a dic­tion­ary of post­mod­ern terms, which I didn’t buy on the spot. I planned to buy it later as it defined Linear Thinking as “Unfortunate, con­trolling, impov­er­ished, male vari­ety of think­ing that’s all hung up on logic, evid­ence, chro­no­logy, caus­a­tion, and pedantic in-the-head stuff like that.” Unfortunately I for­got the title and couldn’t find it on Amazon. It turns out the authors of the book edit a site I’ve been vis­it­ing every so often for the past few months, Butterflies and Wheels, and the book is called “A Dictionary of Fashionable Nonsense”.

The dic­tion­ary is avail­able on site. The book has over 500 entries but I don’t think that many are avail­able on the web. I don’t know for cer­tain. I could count them to find out, but that would be an appeal to Empiricism (absurd notion that obser­va­tion and meas­ure­ment are use­ful in get­ting to know about things).

I am open to the idea that post­mod­ern­ism might have some­thing use­ful to say if it’s done well. However the appeal to obscur­ity that is tol­er­ated in aca­demia means that there’s no par­tic­u­lar need to do it well. In fact for many, doing it well and mean­ing­fully would be miss­ing the entire point. I was temp­ted to try and prove this, either by adapt­ing the Postmodernism Generator to pro­duce archae­olo­gical the­ory, or else give a com­puter gen­er­ated con­fer­ence paper. However, I’ve been beaten on this last point by a couple of people who cre­ated a CompSci paper gen­er­ator and got one ran­dom paper accep­ted at WMSCI 2005.

Is it any good? You can try it out for your­self at SCIGen.

This could poten­tially have very pos­it­ive uses. I’ve got an exper­i­ment run­ning which I hope to report on in a couple of weeks.


When he's not tired, fixing his car or caught in train delays, Alun Salt works part-time for the Annals of Botany weblog. His PhD was in ancient science at the University of Leicester, but he doesn't know Richard III.

3 Responses

  1. Hi Alun,

    Glad you like the Dictionary! (If it’s not immod­est to assume you do, since you quote from it.) Tragic about for­get­ting the title…brought scald­ing tears to my eyes, read­ing that.

    No, nowhere near 500 entries avail­able on the site. About 150 there. Not that I coun­ted or any­thing — that would be too linear.

  1. May 22, 2005

    A search for meaning

    […] I could find an athe­ist mon­as­tery. It’s a col­lec­tion of about 500 (as Ophelia has kindly told me) entries on… well I can’t call it philo­sophy. Fashionable Nonsense is the […]

  2. May 31, 2005

    A search for meaning

    […] rribly wrong Early Modern Notes: This is why I should remem­ber to track­back more often* […]