Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Rules

This post at Organizations and Markets suggests a pangrammatical supplement. Here's the relevant part

In The Institutional Revolution, Douglas W. Allen offers a thought-provoking account of another, quieter revolution that took place at the end of the eighteenth century and allowed for the full exploitation of the many new technological innovations. Fundamental to this shift were dramatic changes in institutions, or the rules that govern society, which reflected significant improvements in the ability to measure performance—whether of government officials, laborers, or naval officers—thereby reducing the role of nature and the hazards of variance in daily affairs.

The phrase that got me thinking was "institutions, or the rules that govern society". The supplement of institution is intuition. The supplement of society is materiality (the social is to power as the material is to knowledge). So intuitions are the rules that govern materiality. But "govern" actually has its own supplement, namely, "inquire" (inquiry is to science as governance is to politics). This raises a grammatical issue.

We can't just say that intuitions are the rules that inquire materiality. We could perhaps say that they are the rules that question materiality. And now we're really getting somewhere. I've never really thought about whether "rule" has a pangrammatical supplement, but it probably does. What is to knowledge as rules are to power? We have constructed a pretty solid hint for ourselves: whatever they are, they will "question materiality" just as institutions "govern society". Also, they must be "the media of immediacy". Intuition, as Kant explained, is that through which knowledge is given to us immediately. Institutions, accordingly, are that through which power is taken from us immediately. That's the sense in which institutions are "rules".

Another clue is that, sometime around the end of the eighteenth century (around the time of Kant!), a "dramatic change" took place in these ________s that question materiality. And these changes meanwhile, should amount to improvements that "reduced the role of culture" (the pangrammatical supplement of nature) in daily affairs. Context suggests that it would be the daily affairs of scientists ("academic inquirers" rather than "government officials", etc.) that were thus transformed, which seems entirely plausible (i.e., that there was such change in our intuitions at about that time). The question remains: what supplements our "rules" in this way?

I'll leave this as a riddle. (To which I don't yet know the answer.)

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