Lyubarsky intro


Introduction for the upcoming meetup, to be updated with discussion highlights afterwards.


Kind of related:


I would like to present a giant review by Georgiy Lyubarsky, The Origin of Hierarchy: the History of Rank in Taxonomy (link in Russian), Moscow: KMK Scientific Press. 2018. 659 p. It's a heavy book in more than one sense. Some parts of it I will omit (like the chapter on De caelesti hierarchia, curiously hard to reduce). If we persevere through antiquity alone it will be worth it, but there will be other hills to die on, could we get past Aristotle.

(It appears that many people have tried to get past Aristotle.)

To simplify, Lyubarsky had set out to trace how the concept of rank appeared and developed enough for biologists to think about, for example, "genera" and "families" as things which exist... somehow... and in the process did rather more. Nowadays we take for granted the ability to discuss nested concepts, but it had to be invented. (And it was developed by titans making progress, ridiculous assumptions, leaps of logic and fortuitous mistakes.) It seems strange to me that in the whole LW corpus so little attention is paid to the way we root and propagate ideas, as opposed to assigning weight to some of them and not the others. We agree that non-apples should not be sold, but that how should one recognize a comparison of "apples" and "citruces"? There are cases where it makes sense, and cases where it doesn't.

I get that it is not a practical thing to do when people think in real time, but a classification is a narration, and we don't have one. Will it take us a thousand years?

So, biological systematics. "In this discipline there is direct creation of objects of scientific knowledge; their borders and procedures of change are discussed, as well as degrees of trueness (veridicality?) and ways to arrange them into a united image of the world". It is built on ranks, but in a backwards way, "there is a built hierarchy of taxa, and one can put forward hypotheses about which trait to consider the hierarchyzing one. Perhaps it is similarity? Or kinship? The only real rule which upholds the hierarchy is ranking. There is a nomenclature rule which forbids dividing an Order directly into genera; an Order necessarily consists of families. "

--- might be a silly thing to try to take from biology, but it's also one I can afford.


That should take an hour, and then we shall talk about other things.