The Order Of Things

ISBN 0679753354 A book on philosophy by MichelFoucault; one of the works that defined French structuralism.

While the book itself is of only indirect relevance to software development, one passage is often used by critics of pervasive categorization in knowledge work; Foucault said:

This book first arose out of a passage in Borges [JorgeLuisBorges], out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought -- our thought -- the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography -- breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other.

The Borges passage in question (which once again has a page of its own, viz., BorgesClassificationOfAnimals, and is no longer shamefully relegated solely to this Foucault-centric page):

This passage quotes "a certain chinese encyclopedia", the (completely fictional) "Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge", in which it is written that animals are divided into:

   1. those that belong to the Emperor,
   2. embalmed ones,
   3. those that are trained,
   4. suckling pigs,
   5. mermaids,
   6. fabulous ones,
   7. stray dogs,
   8. those included in the present classification,
   9. those that tremble as if they were mad,
  10. innumerable ones,
  11. those drawn with a very fine camelhair brush,
  12. others,
  13. those that have just broken a flower vase,
  14. those that from a long way off look like flies.

See also DaveBarry's classification of musical instruments: http://www.harrogate.co.uk/harrogate-band/humour55.htm
Borges has been subordinated, here, to Foucault, a mere sectarian Post Modern figure, yet Borges is the great Nobel Prize in Literature writer. Who edited the wiki pages to make Foucault implicitly the greater of the two? Shame, shame.

(This is a matter larger than this one wiki page; other Borges references on wiki have been similarly edited to remove references to Borges or to subordinate them to PoMo hacks.)

Not exactly. Whether or not someone around here has a pro-PoMo, anti-Borges slant, I don't believe this quote was refactored from another page to here. Unless my memory is completely gone, I added this page a long time ago in the context of PleasePleaseDontCategorizeEveryPageOnWiki. I had just recently run across the Foucault quotation in another source (TheNameOfTheRose?, maybe?), and the categorization discussion reminded me of it. --TimLesher


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