Human ecology
Language

Observations on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
Draft
Classifications of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

"Two countries separated by a common language" (attr. George Bernard Shaw)

(Introduction)

The previous sections have introduced some classifications that need further study. The ones I would like to draw attention to are the following.

Objectivity and Subjectivity

Objective

Subjective

The distinction between objective and subjective is fraught with dangers. A simple categorisation would say that science considers itself objective whereas cultural studies denies that access to any objective world is possible. These two disciplines appear to take these positions as starting definitons. Considering the arguments that might arise from this disagreement, it is perhaps best here to avoid the objective-subjective classification.

(Note: It is worth noting that the 'strange loops' used by Stewart and Cohen are based on Hofstadter definitions. In Hofstadter's 'strange loops' and 'tangled hierarchies', object and subject are inextricably mixed.)

"On this view, then, the historical raison d'etre of political power is to be found in the economy." (Foucault, 1980, p.89)

"What means are available to us today if we seek to conduct a non-economic analysis of power?" (Foucault, 1980, p.89)

"So, no sooner do we attempt to librate ourselves from economistic analyses of power, than two solid hypotheses offer themselves: the one argues that the mechanisms of power are those of repression. For convenience sake, I shall term this Reich's hypothesis. The other argues that the basis of the relationship of power lies in the hostile engagement of forces. Again for convenience, I shall call this Nietzche's hypothesis" Foucault (1980, p.81)

How then can we assess the SWH without looking at the OSC? Following Foucault's methodology, I would suggest that the alternative classifications offered below allow finer distinctions to be made. Further more, they may allow us to put the OSC into context.

Absolutism and Relativism

Absolutism:
In Ernest’s criticism of absolutism, he defines this view as being one in which "mathematical truth is absolutely valid and thus infallible, and that mathematics (with logic) is the one and perhaps the only realm of incorrigible, indubitable, and objective knowledge" (1998, p.9)

Relativism:
"[C]ultural relativism implies that we must accept even violence, and such patriarchal and exploitative institutions and customs as dowry, female genital mutilation, India’s caste system and so on, because they are the cultural expressions and creations of particular people. For cultural relativists, traditions... are always considered as particular and beyond criticism." (Mies & Shiva, 1993, p.11)

"Dissolutism"

Reflectivity, Constructivity, and Intentionalism

These approaches are based on three different classifications of representation. The following version of these classifications is taken from Hall (1997b, pp.24-26)

These classifications are used in cultural studies to distinguish between, on the one hand, an absolutist position that language merely reflects nature and, on the other hand, an intentionalist view that language can mean whatever we what it to mean. The constructivist view is used to define what is meant by ‘relativism’ (O’Riodon, et al., 1994, p.169), and what is meant by subjectivity (Woodward, 1997b).

Agreement and Action

Broadly speaking three moderate positions can be proposed.

Excised

Objectivity
Pertaining to the object; relating to whatever is exterior to the mind.The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology defines objectivity as "avoiding bias or prejudice".

A & R
These classifications are sometimes used inchangably with objective and subjective. This is perhaps where


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Created 15/1/00
Last modified 19/1/00