Claude Lévi-Strauss on pseudo-theory
Claude Lévi-Strauss has died at age 100. Here is The New York Times obiturary.
The chapter on evidence corruption in my Beautiful Evidence opens with this brilliant paragraph from Levi-Strauss:
First you establish the traditional "two views" of the question. You then put
forward a common-sensical justification of the one, only to refute it by the other.
Finally, you send them both packing by the use of a third interpretation,
in which both the others are shown to be equally unsatisfactory.
Certain verbal maneuvers enable you to line up the traditional "antitheses" as
complementary aspects of a single reality: form and substance, content
and container, appearance and reality, essence and existence, continuity
and discontinuity, and so on. Before long the exercise becomes the merest
verbalizing, reflection gives place to a kind of superior punning, and
the "accomplished philosopher" may be recognized by the ingenuity with
which he makes ever-bolder play with assonance, ambiguity, and the use
of those words which sound alike and yet bear quite different meanings.
Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques (Paris, 1955; London, 1961), 54.
-- Edward Tufte, November 4, 2009