[Humanist] 26.843 the turn turn?
Humanist Discussion Group
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Mar 3 12:26:59 CET 2013
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 843.
Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
Date: Sun, 03 Mar 2013 10:50:08 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
Subject: the turn turn
For reasons (I assure you) having to do with computing I have found
myself wondering about the outbreak of turns. The OED considers Jonathan
Swift's usage in A Project for the Advancement of Religion, and the
Reformation of Manners: By a Person of Quality (1709), "This is not to
be accomplished...but by introducing Religion as much as possible to be
the Turn and Fashion of the Age", meaning "That to which (the age or
time) is disposed", to be rare. It seems to me to fit our habit of
reference to "the linguistic turn", "the spatial turn", ad nauseam,
rather well. I wonder first when this habit began with reference to
disciplinary inclinations and whether anyone has done the homework and
written about it.
The phrase "the linguistic turn" was still new enough in 1961 that
Richard Rorty, in "Recent Metaphilosophy", Review of Metaphysics 15.2:
304, puts the phrase in scare-quotes. (Rorty cites Edward W. Hall's
Philosophical Systems: A Categorical Analysis (1960) but as far as I can
tell imports it from elsewhere.) Rorty's The Linguistic Turn (1967)
seems to have marked its emergence into common usage. Google's n-gram
viewer has it starting its steep ascent ca 1980 -- and shows it
beginning to descend in 2003. Timothy Williamson's "Past the Linguistic
Turn", published in Brian Leiter's The Future for Philosophy in 2004,
suggests the same.
"The spatial turn" begins its steep rise ca 1986-7. What other turns are
there? Is this a case of linguistic contagion? By all this turning will we
(with apologies to Elder Joseph) in any sense "come 'round right"?
What does the metaphor itself suggest is going on?
Willard McCarty, FRAI / Professor of Humanities Computing & Director of
the Doctoral Programme, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Professor, School of Humanities and Communication Arts,
University of Western Sydney; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
(www.isr-journal.org); Editor, Humanist (dhhumanist.org);
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