Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An MemeThat Must Die

Google has released a new tool; they've scanned millions of books in English and other (mostly European) languages, and slotted every word from those books into a data-base. So you can run words you're interested in through their database and, based on their frequency of occurrence within the sample, get an idea of when the concept behind the word was born, when it peaked in its influence in society, and when it died away.

Here's a word/concept I especially dislike:

Deconstruction: a philosophical movement that took The Left out of the game for 20 years during the 1980's and 1990s as trendy Pomo Theorists announced a revolution "at a distance of several centuries"--if I am quoting Derrida correctly--rather than doing anything so soiling as leaving their arm-chairs and organizing at street level (which of course the less hygienically concerned Right was happy to do).

So I'm glad to see its popularity finally beginning to fade. Furthermore, I suspect that it is more prevalent nowadays in the popular rather than the academic literature, where it has been superseded by equally stupid Frenchy concepts rather than the good, Anglo/German, hardcore analytic stuff.

Word up: the French make good wine and great novelists. Their philosophers have sucked since Bergson.

And just to add a bit o' scholarliness here. One of the preliminary results of analysing the database has been the conclusion that (sorry, I can't find the link) Freud is more deeply embedded in world culture than Darwin...

...which is true enough, and interesting in that Darwin's results remain well-established and Freud, while hardly gone away, has gone through all sorts of reputational to-ing and fro-ing.

PS. The graphs look better if you click on them.


Jim (Progressive Right) said...

Apparently, "ipod" and "podcast" were a things back in 1900. Right after the decline in podcasts, there's a spike in time travel talk.

Coincidence, I think not.


I think Doc is alive!

Dr.Dawg said...

Ah, yes, anglo analytic philosophy. Logical atomism. The world is made of facts. (German philosophy is quite a different matter--viz. Heidegger, Jaspers, etc.)

And so the "hard" philosophers avoid grappling with every single one of the important questions. The logical positivists' response? Those questions are nonsense.

I'll take an ounce of existentialism and another of deconstruction (demystifying language) over a ton of that "analytic" stuff. Spend too much time on the latter and you disappear right up your fundament.

bigcitylib said...

The German side of the equation is Carnap, Schlick, Wittgenstein,and etc.

The most difficult question that arises in respect to Heidegger is WTF is he talking about?

Mark Richard Francis said...

What the heck are any of you talking about?

Such a bunch of elitists! Go sip your lattes, and stick that in your pipe, ya kooks!

Sorry... just thought I'd bring in some modern right-wing philosophy.

Terrence said...

It's not fair to conflate the logical positivsts (who did consign a lot of interesting questions to the nonsense pile) with analytic philosophy more generally.

Most analytic philosophers these days don't think, e.g., that morality is nonsense. Even the modern non-cognitivist/emotivist type folks have made advances over A.J. Ayer.