Silliness In Dadaism
I was wondering if, from the perspective of Dadaism, you would argue that being serious about anything would in fact be the silliest thing one could do?
Patrick Slater (u5018801)

Yes, probably. Damn!


Well, if being silly may be a good way forward, and if it's silly to be serious… here goes.

I started thinking about this after the first tutorial, when we were discussing what qualities make one theory preferable to another, and then I started thinking even MORE about it after Jason's lecture on dadaism and Feyerabend -
Maybe alterity is actually a very good quality for a theory to have.
Of course, all I know about alterity I found out from Attridge, a lit theory guy, so I'm not 100% sure this concept works the same way in philosophy / science. Lit theory has been heaps influenced by Continental philosophy, so this next part is going to be: 1) a bit jargon-y; and 2) not verifiable in the same way as scientific or analytic concepts try to be.

SO! I understand alterity as the quality of something distinctly "other", something totally alien to one's self (and by extension, to the world one imagines she inhabits), something that entails an "event" in which one's conceptual rubric is reordered - Attridge talks about it in deliberately ambiguous terms that connote both an active accommodation of the new and a passive position where the new irrupts into old frameworks of knowledge and changes them (in a way that's more or less out of your own control)

Anyway, what I'm trying to get at is that if a theory successfully introduces alterity (and maybe some necessary but insufficient conditions would be that the theory is original and inventive), then the effect it will have on other theories and other methods of thought may clear a space in which further problems/anomalies/challenges to theory can be addressed.

Alterity could, then, be understood as one of the major causes of Kuhnian paradigm shifts. Using alterity to explain Kuhn's favourite example of a paradigm shift (the adoption of the Copernican heliocentric system) would suggest that contemporary astronomers' knowledge frameworks were disturbed in such a way that they were forced to consider alternatives in order to fully assimilate this new idea. The alterity that Copernicus introduced into astronomical discourse unsettled long held assumptions and provided a way to think around them, or to consider alternatives that otherwise seemed simply incoherent. This, to me, seems like a fuller explanation than Kuhn's, who resorted to the conclusion that people initially accepted the (still deeply flawed) heliocentric model because they had some kind of innate "ear" for the intrinsic "harmonies" of mathematics.


If a theory shakes things up enough for other, new theories to be considered, maybe that's one sign of its strength or usefulness. A friend informed me that "fruitfulness" or "fecundity" is a well established virtue for theories to have; alterity might be one of the qualities that makes a theory fecund

Steph Cox

Sounds good to me.

Then a question is: why are theories with bunches of alterity so RARELY taken seriously by scientists?