Wednesday, December 04, 2019

A bird does not sing because he has an answer. He sings because he has a song

--- Ascribed to Joan Walsh Anglund by Quote Investigator, Dec 2015 (q.v.)

The quote is perhaps best know because of a 2015 stamp issued by the US Postal Service that feature Maya Angelou and the words, "A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."

Sunday, December 01, 2019

definitions make for unreliable epistemology

--- Linda H. Edwards, in "Speaking of Stories and Law" (2016)

As part of her critiqiue of Stephen Paskey’s “The Law is Made of Stories: Erasing the False Dichotomy Between Stories and Legal Rules” (2014), Edwards notes that she is “skeptical about how well we can analyze important issues by redefining terms and then applying those newly defined terms to the questions of the day”. From Section II of Speaking of Stories and Law (footnotes omitted, other ellipses marked by “. . .”):
First, as a matter of epistemology, definitions are usually constructed by human beings in order to support or advance their own project. . . . The problem is unavoidable, however. When we try to define a term, we do so from our own rhetorical situation. We cannot help it. . . .

That inescapable subjectivity is part of the reason that definitions make for unreliable epistemology, and this concern leads to my second. Paskey says that “[t]he concept of a stock story is too valuable to use loosely,” but I wonder whether the concept is too valuable to use precisely. In the epigram to this essay, Marilynne Robinson counsels us to forget definitions and instead to simply “watch.” She reminds us that precise and careful explanations are “too poor and small” to explain reality. . . .

Third, . . .

The Marilynn Robinson epigraph from When I Was a Child I Read Books: Essays (2013):
[F]orget definition, forget assumption, watch. We inhabit, we are part of, a reality for which explanation is much too poor and small.