3858Re: [John_Lit] Re: The purpose of "critical exposition or interpretation"
- Dec 2, 2003At 07:38 AM 12/2/2003 +0000, you wrote:
>Greetings Bob,I don't think that the key is in my sentence; I think the key is in what
>Just a few short responses to your latest remarks, though I feel
>we're reaching the point of diminishing returns. At the outset, a
>kind of exegesis (:-) on your opening paragraph, which begins:
> > It cannot be true that only etic categories have definitions.
>Since I don't recognize this either to be the claim I was making,
>or to be derivable from it, when I wrote:
> > To my way of thinking, [exegesis] is (or ought to be) -emic,
> > [definition] -etic.
>... the task for me was to try to figure out why you would think I
>was claiming something that I agree "cannot be true". The key turned
>out to be the phrase 'of course' in your next sentence:
you wrote. To provide the full quote, you wrote:
>There seems to be an unappreciated difference here between exegesisIt seems quite clear from this that you think definitions should be "etic",
>and definition. To my way of thinking, the former is (or ought to
>be) -emic, the latter -etic.
and since you do not qualify definitions in any way, it is only reasonable
to conclude that you think *all* definitions should be etic, whether the
thing being defined is an emic or etic category.
> > Emic categories must also have definitions, but of course theyThis is the natural conclusion to the work you yourself cited, i.e., that
> > will be in emic terms.
>The "of course" here gives away the presence of a presupposition,
>viz. that an etic word or concept must be defined etically, and an
>emic word or concept, emically.
>...The purpose of "critical exposition or interpretation" ... is toIt seems to me that this entails entering into the author's thought system
>explain what the author meant.
(whether the author is a first century Christian, or a 21st century
critical scholar). We perhaps differ in that I think the type of
"explanation" called for in your citation would be an explanation with
which the author would agree. This is different from what you think the
author should have meant, if he had only been half as clever as you.
Therefore, if the author is writing emically, then the explanation should
be emic, i.e., within the author's own explanatory understandings.
Similarly, if the author is writing etically, then the explanation should
be in etic terms, i.e., again within the author's own frame of reference.
>This would explain why it was thatI'm glad you've convinced yourself of this; no need to convince me.
>when I suggested that definitions should be etic, you understood
>that to be a claim that only _etic_ words/concepts can be defined.
>(On your presupposition, emic words can only be defined emically,
>hence if definitions are etic, emic words can't be defined at all,
>which is absurd of course.) As it happens, however, I don't share
>that presupposition. In fact, it seems fairly easy to show that
>it's not the case.
>... Etic definitions of theirOK, I've got no problem with that at all.
>emic terms, on the other hand, might be constructed by either non-
>Tortoisists, or by anyone who wanted to avoid presupposing the
>belief system of the Tortoisists - including perhaps sociologists,
>anthropologists, historians of religions, etc.. So I would not at
>all agree that "of course" emic "categories" must be defined in
>emic terms. But I would modify my original statement to read that
>critical scholarship calls for etic definitions of emic terms.
>...BTW, since which is which between 'emic' and 'etic' isn't easy toMercy me. Are you asking me to stop being so academic, and to write in
>remember, and since they're deadly-dull words anyway, how about
>something more stimulating and mnemonically helpful?
Deadly dull? Doesn't that describe about 90 % of critical scholarship? What
makes it seem deadly dull is that it is precise, and academics are taught
to take pains to not overstate their case, so that academic prose is
cluttered with "maybes" and "perhaps" and "ordinarily". Furthermore,
academics are taught that it is bad to become too personally involved with
their work, so that simple declarative sentences involving first person
pronouns are re-written in the passive tense.
The terms "etic" and "emic" were designed, in fact, to be mnemonically
helpful. They were originally coined by the linguist Kenneth Pike on
analogy with the difference between phonemics and phonetics, so he was of
course assuming an audience that was familiar with those terms. The terms
then got seized upon by anthropologists, especially Marvin Harris (who,
BTW, was NOT deadly dull).
>"local"Well, if we're shooting for conceptual utility and accuracy, without
>vs. "global"? "parochial" vs. "universal"? "object-language"
>vs. "metalanguage"? Any of these strike you as acceptable subs?
pejoratives, as an anthropologist I'd rather stick with emic and etic.
However, among the terms you suggest, local vs. global, and parochial vs
universal both have too much in the way of pejorative overtones.
"Object-language" vs. "metalanguage" is probably a better (more neutral)
duality, but I fail to see that they are less "deadly dull" than emic and
etic. Some people confuse "emic" with "subjective" and "etic" with
"objective", but that's really not a good equation because emic is meant to
refer to a community of speakers, whereas "subjective" is meant to refer to
a personal condition.
So actually, I think the terms emic and etic are quite appropriate and
Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
Northern Arizona University
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