Uneasy Humour as Discovery: Collocation and Empathy as Whewellian Consilience

William Louw


In about 350 BC Aristotle committed to writing in one of his major works (Metaphysics) what may well be judged today to be the most enduring linguistic and philosophical paradox of all time. He states it as follows: 'The objects of mathematics are not substances in any higher sense than things. They are only logically prior, not prior in being, to sensible things. Mathematical entities can in no way exist on their own. But since they cannot exist in perceivable objects either, they must therefore not exist at all, or exist in some special way which does not imply independent existence. For 'to exist' can mean many different things.' (Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1077b 12-17). This paragraph demonstrates that the link between logic and metaphysics in natural language was not only sufficient to leave Aristotle confused to the point of reductio ad absurdum (‘they must therefore not exist at all’), but it is only satisfactorily solved 2360 years later by means of corpus-derived subtext and its consilience with the absent lexical collocates of the given. Computers do not suffer from intuitive opacity. They furnish a method, in the interests of induction, for separating the logic of full sentences from their metaphysics. The product of this activity gives rise both to verification and to uneasy humour as diverse theories of their own accord leap to one another's assistance.


codes and ciphers, collocation, consilience, corpus, discovery, instrumentation, intuitive opacity, laughter and tears, logic, metaphysics, method, natural language, subtext (corpus-derived), telos, theory, verification principle

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