Sunday, November 6, 2016

Lord willing

"The epistemological sloppiness that, in Western culture, characterizes references to experience before the Scientific Revolution is not a necessary characteristic of pre-scientific societies.  The Matses, an Amazonian tribe, are obliged to specify, whenever they use a verb, 'exactly how they come to know about the facts they are reporting . . . There are separate verbal forms depending on whether you are reporting direct experience (you saw someone passing by with your own eyes), something inferred from evidence (you saw footprints on the sand), conjecture (people always pass by at that time of day) or hearsay (your neighbor told you he had seen someone passing by).  If a statement is reported with the incorrect evidentiality form, it is considered a lie.  So if, for instance, you ask a Matses man how many wives he has, unless he can actually see his wives at that very moment, he would answer in the past tense and would say something like . . . "There were two the last time I checked."'"

     David Wootton, The invention of science:  a new history of the scientific revolution (New York:  HarperCollins Publishing, 2015), 281nxi, quoting Guy Deutscher, Through the language glass:  why the world looks different in other languages (New York:  Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Co., 2010), 153.
     Of course, this would itself be an eminent example of a claim crying out for accompaniment by just such an epistemological "note".

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