Systematics Preface 2002 notes

 Created: 21 Jul 2020  Modified: 23 Jul 2020   BibTeX Entry   RIS Citation  Print

Notes from the 2002 Preface to Systematics in Prehistory (Dunnell 1971)

  • The philosophical stance that would become “scientific perspectivalism” — inherited from Hanson 1958, which RCD knew well, and modern folks like Giere, which he may not have.
  • The applicability of “systematics” to all sciences, not just archaeology or even anthropology. RCD knew this all along, but of course generations of students mainly ended up thinking about “classification” as a specialized thing that archaeologists did, mostly hated, mostly avoided.
  • The need for explanatory theoretical context as examples to illustrate formal theory and systematics, without tying the resulting principles too tightly to (a) any specific explanatory theory, and, if desired (b) any specific discipline or science.
  • The recognition that the “relativism” of post-processualism (and postmodernism in the social sciences in general) really stemmed from being lazy about the theory-laden ness of observation — as RCD writes:

“Systematics is nothing if not a debunking of the ‘objectivity’ of science, all science, by demonstrating that its ‘facts’ are constructions. The crucial distinction is not between objective and subjective, however, but between explicit and implicit formulation. Consequently postprocessualists miss the methodological point of Systematics: Recognizing the constructed nature of kind allows one to control the construction, to be able to sort observation into artifact and ‘reality’.”


References Cited

Dunnell, Robert C. 1971. Systematics in Prehistory. New York: Free Press.