6.0165 Textual Criticism Challenge (1/35)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 29 Jul 1992 16:04:34 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0165. Wednesday, 29 Jul 1992.

Date: Wed, 29 Jul 1992 09:27:08 +0300
From: Victor_Caston@brown.edu
Subject: Re: Textual Criticism Challenge

I, for one, was impressed by the results of applying cladistic analysis to
textual criticism--the analogy seems so obvious (and fruitful). In fact,
while flipping through a recent issue of The Economist, I came across an
article on cladistic analysis that drew the analogy in the *other*
direction, explaining evolution in terms of manuscript transmission. This
is how the article began:

"Imagine a medieval library with dozens of copies of Aristotle's "On
Comedy", all slightly different. Such differences, which came about
because the monks made errors when copying, can be useful. By studying
them you can see the order in which the copies were made. Texts with a lot
of errors in common are recent and closely related. Their shared mistakes
are echoes of those in the text from which they were copied--their most
recent common ancestor. Texts with fewer error are closer to the original.

"This technique--cladistic analysis--works as well for those writing the
history of | life as for those studying medieval manuscripts. Instead of
working with monastic errors, you use the changes which evolution brings to
one species or group, and which it then bequeaths to its successors--shared
derived characteristics . . ." ("Charting Evolution: The Power of Two,"
The Economist, 11 July 1992, pp. 80-81)

If this is just coincidence, it's scandalous somebody didn't make the
application sooner.

Victor Caston victor_caston@brown.edu
Department of Philosophy
Box 1918 off: (401) 863-3219
Brown University dept: (401) 863-2718
Providence, RI 02912 fax: (401) 863-2719