Monday, April 17, 2006

An empirical classification of intellectual concepts and traditions using Lexis

If you have Lexis and some basic programming skills, you could classify the entire field of human knowledge (well, at least legal knowledge) by running searches and noting the overlap between authors or concepts.

Say you start out with "natural law and macintyre and alasdair and property and economic! and right!" and you get 310 results. Then you add "and aristotle" to the end: if your results drop off to nothing (like 5 results), then the terms are largely independent, and conceptually far apart, and so you should put MacIntyre and Aristotle in different bins. If the results stay roughly the same (down to maybe 250), then the authors and concepts are referred to by the same people, and so must be exactly identical. It's true.

Just cook yourself up a metric for distantness and start running the searches. Tell me what you find.

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