gould and borges on taxonomies

“What other taxonomies might revolutionize our view–for taxonomies are theories of order?”

Steven Jay Gould, Animals and Us (1987)

“These ambiguities, redundancies, and deficiencies recall those attributed by Dr. Franz Kuhn to a certain Chinese encyclopedia entitled Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. On those remote pages it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel’s hair brush, (l) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance.”

Jorge Luis Borges, The Analytical Language of John Wilkins (1942)

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One thought on “gould and borges on taxonomies

  1. Thanks for sharing this– what a great example of the arbitrariness of our categories! Will definitely be incorporating into my classes on the subject.

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