Some Mereology & Discourse Semantics (perhaps redundantly, cf. Note)
As a segue into a topic which is far from pleasant or expediently and completely solvable, the CRU emails (specifically, the Final Report, June 7, 2009, by Sir Muir Russell et al.), consider historian and philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn’s qualification of science  as “self-correcting” – academics on the “jury” were correcting other academics. 

Some might object to the Kuhnian notion at face value, and insist that science does not correct itself, but some scientists correct other scientists, or rather, the science those others (and they themselves) make. Based on the hermeneutic potential of discourse semantics, I submit that Kuhn is correct at the level of text as well as against the backdrop of the interpreter’s situatedness, thus the broader discourse shaped by social imaginaries.

His qualification applies to the extent that metaphoric transfer and metonymic scaling operate in the discourses that embeds (the word) “science” or science (note 1, discourse 1 and 2). Science being the process and product of scientists doing science can extrapolate to some in the set of scientists making the corrections, to some part of science under review, as well as to the science part in question, which may be contributed by themselves or by some colleagues, all of whom are part of the scientific community and discourse, whether co-situated in time and/or space or not.

In other words, agency is brought in the discourse metaphorically if scientists are treated as being external to the semantic structure of “science”, and the discourse is considered to trigger meaning transfer/association, or metonymically if they are considered part of science/the scientific process. The product or process of science are constitutive of the lexical semantic structure of “science”, thus independently of context (are listed in dictionaries). Given either of the discourse semantic processes above that “agentize science”, the reflexivity of science correction obtains by indirect equating: science = community of scientists and scientists correct science). Science corrects science, that is, it “self-corrects”.

At a secondary hermeneutic level, metonymic scaling obtains: not all belonging to the set of scientists are engaged in correction, nor does all of science get rectified in one go. Thus, we are dealing with narrowing of semantic scope, or downscaling, where the whole stands for part of the whole.

Multi-level containment
Compare the above to an expression with analogously mereological discourse semantics, “He shouldn’t scratch himself, measles can leave bad scars!”, which can also illustrate parthood hierarchies much more straightforwardly than the case above.

We are not being literal and spelling out the body part inclusivity, saying “(such and such finger (tip) of such and such finger(s) of) his right and/or left hand must not scratch such and such other part(s) of his body or (a) part(s) thereof, or each other, or itself/themselves”. The scratching would actually be executed–including possible parthood participation–by one or both hands, applied to a particular spot anywhere on the body, including the hands, or all over the body (sequentially, one would imagine).

But… let us proceed with head-scratching (which is a case of self-scratching) over CRU issues settled, unsettled, (possibly never) to be settled, where “settled” implies self- (of oneself) and other– (of others), auto– (by oneself) and hetero– (by others) correction.

Check out Academics Judging Academics Part II (still “almost done”)


Upgraded: July 15-16, 2010

NOTE: In most general terms: mereology = (theory of) parthood relations; discourse = 1. continuum of text/speech, usually (much) larger than a language or speech sign; 2. communication flows across media and (social) spaces, invested with literal and symbolic meanings; semantics = (theory of) meaning system and structure; metaphor = figure of speech, whereby an expression is used to stand for the concept expressed by another expression (also used in visual arts theory); metonymy = figure of speech, whereby an expression signifying the whole is used to stand for part of the whole (for which there is at least one other verbal expression), or vice versa, a part is used to stand for the whole (for which there is at least one other verbal expression); hermeneutics = (theory of) meaning and interpretation; rhetoric(s) = (theory of/approaches to/skill in) the fine use of language