Meeting the Universe Two-Thirds of the Way


What is the relation between wishes and witches, between Grice and Freud, between political repression and scientific rendering? What is the relation between ideational and affective phenomena (such as desire and jealousy) and material processes (such as particle scattering and diffusion barriers)? This essay demonstrates the broad similarities underlying conversational implicature and dream interpretation, focusing on the use of communicative intentions and repressed wishes as grounds for motiving inferences. It describes a variety of other hermeneutics that evince a similar logic, albeit with different grounds--witch trials among the Azande, and taboo-reckoning among the Maya. And it details the intimate relation between such hermeneutics and the techniques scientists use to produce and interpret laboratory phenomenon, and thereby render the real. It foregrounds the affective nature of such processes: the pleasures and pains of laboring in productively constrained, and phenomena-creating, inferential spaces.


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