17.775 ancient Greek word formation? metaphorical autism?

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Fri May 07 2004 - 16:59:12 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 775.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

       [1] From: Hartmut Krech <kr538@uni-bremen.de> (15)
             Subject: Ancient Greek word formation

       [2] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> (39)
             Subject: metaphorical autism?

             Date: Wed, 07 Apr 2004 06:55:50 +0100
             From: Hartmut Krech <kr538@uni-bremen.de>
             Subject: Ancient Greek word formation

    Dear list members,

    the influence of programming languages upon the shape of human reasoning
    has repeatedly been the subject of discussions on this list. I am
    interested in possible forerunners to this interrelationship between
    language morphology and scientific conceptualization. How has the formation
    of new philosophical terms in ancient Greek been furthered by the
    availability of suffixes like -eia, -ika, -tor, -mat etc. ? I will be
    grateful for any references to secondary literature from the field of
    classical Greek philology as well as on the interrelationship between
    language and scientific terminology at large. Thank you in advance.

    Dr. Hartmut Krech
    Bremen, Germany
    The Culture and History of Science and the Humanities

             Date: Wed, 07 Apr 2004 07:00:42 +0100
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: metaphorical autism?

    The entry for "autism" (mod. Latin, autismus) in the OED defines it as, "A
    condition in which a person is morbidly self-absorbed and out of contact
    with reality"; all the illustrative quotations attest to a clinical
    meaning, from the first,
    >1912 Bleuler in Amer. Jrnl. Insanity LXIX. 874 When we look more closely
    >we find amongst all normal people many and important instances where
    >thought is divorced both from logic and from reality. I have called these
    >forms of thinking autistic, corresponding to the idea of schizophrenic
    The word is used metaphorically, however, e.g. by the computer scientist
    Peter Wegner (Brown), who in a number of places argues that, "algorithms
    are autistic" (see e.g. http://jeffsutherland.com/papers/wegacm.pdf); and
    by a group of delightfully renegade economists in the "post-autistic
    economics network" (http://www.btinternet.com/~pae_news/news.htm), among
    the members of which the term is attested in Spanish and French. As the
    editor of the Post-Autistic Economics News says, the 1941 Webster's
    definition, "Absorption in phantasy to the exclusion of interest in
    reality" is "a perfect fit for the current state of economics". He claims
    that from childhood he knew the term in the metaphorical rather than
    medical sense.

    Wegner's line of argument roughly coincides with Terry Winograd's, for what
    the latter calls "interaction design". Wegner says basically that the
    Turing Machine model of computing is transcended by the interaction machine
    model, quoting Alan Perlis's term, "Turing Tar-pit". (See the 54th of
    Perlis's Epigrams, "Beware of the Turing tar-pit in which everything is
    possible but nothing of interest is easy",
    http://www.cs.yale.edu/homes/perlis-alan/quotes.html; those here who are
    not American may not detect the implicit reference to the La Brea Tar Pits,
    for which see http://www.tarpits.org/.) Since at least for us the really
    interesting bits of computing happen when the machine interacts with the
    world, Wegner's use of autism is relevant here. Can anyone shed light on
    the non-medical occurrences of the word, e.g. on other domains of application?


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