August 17, 2010
These ambiguities, redundancies, and deficiencies recall those attributed by Dr. Franz Kuhn to a certain Chinese encyclopedia called the Heavenly Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. In its distant pages it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the emperor; (b) embalmed ones; (c) those that are trained; (d) suckling pigs; (e) mermaids; (f) fabulous ones; (g) stray dogs; (h) those that are included in this classification; (i) those that tremble as if they were mad; (j) innumerable ones; (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's-hair brush; (l) etcetera; (m) those that have just broken the flower vase; (n) those that at a distance resemble flies."The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge's Taxonomy wikipedia page says that no one was quite sure how seriously to take this. I like the note that "Keith Windschuttle, an Australian historian, cited alleged acceptance of the authenticity of the list among many academics as a sign of the degeneration of the Western academy."