[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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