Thursday, February 22, 2018

My unwritten book, Apples and Oranges

"Knowledge is classification"
John Dewey, 1925

For nearly fifty years, I collected notes for a book I titled Apples and Oranges: Intellectual Categories and Their History. I last added an item five years ago.

Sure, now that I'm retired, I could actually start writing the book, but it would take a lot of work, and I'm not sure how many people would be interested in it. The other day, I thought I should at least mention it here.

I began thinking about academic departments and majors, but I was also intrigued by the numbered section of Roget's Thesaurus, which I found fascinating. My 1962 edition has eight classes, each with numerous divisions and sub-sections — 1040 numbered entries in all. In the latest edition, there are six classes and 1000 entries. Clearly, there's some history to be told here.

Along the way, I learned about the trivium and quadrivium. I have notes on the history of encyclopedias and the Dewey Decimal System and the Library of Congress classifications.

I have lengthy excerpts (Thanks, Xerox!) of books on the subject by Langridge, Palmer, Herdman, Sayers, Hutchins, Amsler and Sowa; notes about books by Maltby, Ranganathan, and others; quotes from Aristotle, Kant, John Stuart Mill, Wells, Lenat, Landau, Fodor, and Lakoff.

Being a computer scientist, I added notes about clustering algorithms, taxonomies, and the rise and fall of categories and classes in the Smalltalk browser.

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