Distortion by etymology LO19841

Fri, 13 Nov 1998 17:38:19 EST

Replying to LO19824 --

Referring to the etymology of a crucial term--"discipline," for
example--can be enlightening, or it can be a kind of linguistic trick, a
way of changing current understandings so as to undermine the legitimacy
of a position based on today's terminology.

Today we talk of the "academic disciplines," and they include the ways of
looking at and organizing the world that account for the way we live now:
chemistry and physics are disciplines; mathematics is a discipline. So is
dance, and the others arts that require control and technique as well as

If you consult current dictionaries that include etymology, you'll
probably find the following information on "discipline":

from the Latin "disciplina," teaching and learning; from "discipulus,"

Now we recognize that a way of seeing and organizing knowledge is also a
way of not seeing, that the chemist may not understand biology, and
perhaps resists new directions that might emerge if the chemist could
"see" biologically, and/or aesthetically...

That well known and long recognized problem of the "two cultures," or the
twenty cultures, is, however, a far cry from finding an early reference to
Roman tyranny and building from that an interpretation of "discipline"
that equates it with "apartheid" and racialism.

The decision to move in this way, to create such a linguistic path that
erodes the legitimacy of "discipline" is, I submit, a very bad judgment
call: it does not serve the purpose of underscoring the dangers of the
narowness of vision that sometimes accompany the depth of field of the
disciplinary specialist.

Steve Eskow

> Replying to At de Lange in LO19799 --
> >The Romans first used the word "disciplinum" to refer to the method of
> >drilling people to the obedience and subjection of an appointed ruler to
> >make them accepting the ruler as leader. The "disciplinum" was
> one of many
> >methods which the Romans used in their clever strategy of "rule by
> >parting"="divisio". They refered to this strategy is the one
> "belonging to
> >the gods"="divinus".
> To add slightly to what At points out, it is common to hear "Divide and
> conquer" which is actually a misquotation of the original Latin which is
> "divide et empera" meaning "divide and rule" not divide and conquer.
> (Only slightly tongue in cheek, I've always thought this misquotation was
> a deliberate ploy by the ruling class to draw attention away from the
> corollary which would be: "Unite and conquer." Sounds like good old Ben
> Franklin, doesn't it?)
> Fred Nickols



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