Monday, February 27, 2012


Within any field there has to be some basic agreement about etiquette, but not just in an interpersonal sense. When making claims, researchers have to know how to present them to each other for consideration. These presentations must follow recognizable forms because it has to be possible to gauge the consequence of one scholar's claims for the validity of another's. This is why the logical positivists wanted scientific knowledge to be traced back to simple "protocol sentences", which were supposed to be (under particular circumstances) unambiguously true or false.

Today, we're much more accepting of ambiguity, and even in social life there's a great deal of uncertainty about "protocols", i.e., the set of rules that govern our interactions. But I think it is important to try to learn how to speak in a way that is appropriate in your community. In diplomacy, the idea was to make it possible to discuss important matters of state among people who, as it were, "knew their place" in the conversation. This was not just a way of keeping them in the place, but of securing them a place, regardless of language or rhetorical skill. In research, too, there must be a way of letting claims be made, letting someone "state the facts", in order that they can be discussed seriously.

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