Calculation and Classification as Dimensions of Social Interaction

Paolo Totaro


Cassirer interpreted the transition from medieval to modern theoretical thinking as an epistemological revolution which saw the concept of function to replace that of substance as a guide to knowledge. This article suggests that, in the practical world, classification into classes, types or genres is correlated to the concept of substance, while the concept of function is present in any practical calculation in the form of algorithmic procedures. The way in which algorithmic calculation and classification interact with each other has resulted in the preservation, expansion or loss of social interaction, understood as reciprocity between actors. The action of calculation and classification can then be used as epistemological coordinates to analyze social interaction. Such systematization results in a set of schemes presented in this paper along with ethnological studies supporting the theoretical model.


Algorithms; Classification; Social integration; System integration; Formal rationality

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