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Department of Sociology

Sociology Department Staff

Publication details for Emeritus Professor David S. Byrne

Byrne D (2002). Platonic Forehand versus Aristotelian Smash - the use of computers as macroscopes in knowing the social world. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 5(1): 61-69.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper draws on Desrosie `res, Hayles and Tukey in arguing for an exploratory approach to the use of numerical taxonomy and related approaches in quantitative social research. It asserts that rather than trying to develop algorithm (either in the form of equation sets or game rules) based representations which abstract 'variables' as analogies of Newtonian forces, we should centre on cases and deal with classifications. Then trajectories can be explored in terms of changes both in the classification location of particular cases and changes in the actual form of the classification sets themselves. This approach seems to correspond with Aristotle's notion of intuitive induction with computing technology understood as extending the cognitive capacities of the taxonomist.