Archival appraisal

and the concept of representation

Dom Taylor, MA, MLIS

Philosophy, Peace & Conflict Studies, Catholic Studies, and Religion Librarian                                          September 20, 2018


University of Manitoba–Trier University Biennial Partnership Conference

Archival distance and the view from nowhere

1.

2.

3.

Archival distance and representationalism undermine Booms + Cook's social-oriented approach

The concept of representation needs to be infused with a healthy dose of anti-representationalism

Key claims

Emphasis on community and personal archives provide more accurate and just means of representation

Representationalism

The primary function of language is description

The matching game

WORLD

MIND

"Triangle."

"Circle."

Trouble spots

  1. Moral claims: "Killing is immoral."
  2. Statements about possibility, such as counterfactuals: "If time were money, then I'd be rich."
  3. Context-sensitive statements: Someone asks, "Is that blue ink?" and expects the ink to be blue in the bottle and on paper. The ink seller replies, "This is blue ink" pointing at a bottle of invisible blue ink (that is only visibly blue when in the bottle).  

THESE STATEMENTS DO NOT CLEARLY CORRESPOND TO OBJECTS IN WORLD

Mitigating problems of representationalism

Non-descriptive statements are either:

  1. Translated into descriptive statement + emotive force (e.g., "It is immoral that X murdered Y" = "X murdered Y" + disapproval ["Boo! Murder"]
  2. Rendered meaningless (e.g., "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" = structured nonsense)(Chomsky, 1956)

Representation: Booms + Cook

Booms

  1. Archivists have privileged, yet qualified, access to accurate representations of history through distancing themselves from subjectivity and contemporary society
  2. Subjectivity cannot be entirely removed, so representation is necessarily flawed.

Cook

  1. Quasi-Kantian/Rationalist emphasis on transcendental structures underlying creation of records to reduce subjectivity. Transposes this to the "corporate mind." Mind over matter.
  2. Pushes back Representationalist agenda one step.
  3. Private/personal records are secondary/supplemental.

Anti-representationalism with a pragmatist flavour

3 aspects of representation

  1. External representation: Similar feel to Representationalism.  Seeming covariance between word and world. Context specific. Nested within internal representation.
  2. Internal representation: Based on coherence and conceptual holism. To use words is to rely on their relationships to other words. Such relationships can be described inferentially (e.g.,"If X then Y," "X means Y," "X entails Y," or "Y is entailed by X"). Nested within operational representation.
  3. Operational representation: Action-guiding and context-dependent. Identifies important interrelationships between concepts/words to deal with a situation (i.e., conduct-guiding).

Example: the grass is green

(a) The statement,"The grass is green," feels like it matches the way the world is (external representation) ,

(b) But it is dependent on a multitude of concepts and their interrelationships (internal representation).

(c) However, one also needs to adjust internal and external representations to specific contexts of use, by narrowing down what inferences are applicable and how much the statement is meant to feel like it matches with the world (operational representation). Aside from highly controlled philosophical abstraction, "The grass is green," has a context-specific purpose. It is representation for something.

mind + world:    the view from the middle

INTERPRETER

INTERPRETER

COORDINATION/COMMUNICATION

"Chien."

"Dog."

{

HARMONIZATION OF SHARED

 "DOG"/"CHIEN" CONCEPT/CLASSIFICATION

KNOWLEDGE OF OTHER MIND'S

+

SELF-KNOWLEDGE

KNOWLEDGE OF A SHARED WORLD

+

SELF-KNOWLEDGE

KNOWLEDGE OF A SHARED WORLD

+

triangulation: objectivity through intersubjectivity

1.

2.

3.

Totalization through appraisal can be reduced and objectivity enhanced by bolstering subjectivities.

Dropping the Representationalist model makes subjectivity a requirement for just and accurate representations.

Conclusion

Emphasis on community and personal archives is entailed by the multi-aspect/operational model of representation

Questions?

Thanks

Aune, B. (1970). Rationalism, empiricism, and pragmatism : An introduction. New York, NY: Random House.

 

Ayer, A. (1952). Language, truth, and logic. New York: Dover Publications.

 

Booms, H. (1992). Uberlieferungsbildung: Keeping archives as a social and political activity. Archivaria, (33).

 

Booms, H. (1987). Society and the formation of a documentary heritage: Issues in the appraisal of archival sources. Archivaria, (24).

 

Brandom, R. (1997). In W. Sellars (Author). Empiricism and the philosophy of mind. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

 

Chomsky, N. (1957). Syntactic structures. London, UK: Mouton.

 

Cook, T. (1992). Mind over matter:  Towards a new theory of archival appraisal. In B. L. Craig (Ed.). The archival imagination: Essays in honour of Hugh A. Taylor (pp. 38–70). Ottawa, Canada: Association of Canadian Archivists.

 

Cook, T. (2013). Evidence, memory, identity, and community: Four shifting archival paradigms. Archival Science, 13(2), 95-120.

 

Davidson, D. (1990/2001). Epistemology externalized. Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective (pp.193-204).Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.(Original work published 1990).


Davidson, D. (1991/2001). Three varieties of knowledge. Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective (pp.193-204).Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.(Original work published 1991).

References

Dennett, D. (1991). Consciousness explained. New York, NY: Back Bay Books. Retrieved from https://zodml.org/sites/default/files/%5BDaniel_C._Dennett%5D_Consciousness_Explained.pdf

 

Dewey, J. (1920). Reconstruction in Philosophy. Rahway, NJ: Henry Holt & Company. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/40089/40089-h/40089-h.htm

 

Foucault, M. (1970/2006). The order of things: An archaeology of the human sciences (Repr). London, UK: Routledge. Retrieved from: https://is.muni.cz/el/1423/jaro2013/SOC911/um/Michel_Foucault_The_Order_of_Things.pdf

 

Maher, C. (2012). The Pittsburgh School of Philosophy: Sellars, McDowell, Brandom. New York, NY: Routledge.

 

Markie, P. (2017) Rationalism vs. Empiricism. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from: https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/rationalism-empiricism/

 

McDowell, J. H. (1996). Mind and world: With a new introduction (1st Harvard University Press paperback ed). Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

 

Price, H., Blackburn, S., Brandom, R., Horwich, P., & Williams, M. (2013). Expressivism, pragmatism and representationalism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

 

Schroeder, M. (2010). Noncognitivism in ethics. London ; New York: Routledge.

 

Sellars, W.(1956/1997). Empiricism and the philosophy of mind. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

 

Stalnaker, R. (2008). Our knowledge of the internal world. Oxford ,UK: Oxford University Press.


Travis, C. (2000). Unshadowed thought: Representation in thought and language. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Archival appraisal and the concept of representation

By Dom Taylor

Archival appraisal and the concept of representation

University of Manitoba–Trier University Biennial Partnership Conference (September 20, 2018)

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