Is a map an argument?
I read something the other day that has occupied my head ever since: the author was talking about the lukasa, a sacred object that the Luba people use in various rituals and which has a wealth of information encoded in its designs, cognitive cues meant to help the skilled reader tell stories, give advice, render judgment, and so forth. Many ritual objects serve this purpose, of course, but then the author went on to say that it was “more of a map than an argument.” The author is quite fastidious about acknowledging western bias elsewhere, so it’s not just that he is denigrating the lukasa, he is in fact delighted and amazed by it. He just thinks that maps are not arguments. I certainly understand his distinction; maps do not make overt attempts at persuasion… but they do, really, they persuade the person reading the map that the map is an accurate representation of whatever it is mapping, that it will help the reader get from here to there, and the act of successfully reading and using a map argues that maps are good for this kind of thing. And yet, maps leave out so much, they reduce 4 dimensional space (yes, I’m including time) to 2 dimensions, even the measurement of time is reduced to a 2-d coordinate plane. Maps have to reduce and impoverish the reality they describe, or they would be ineffective, since the map that takes everything in is not a map. Then there are maps to celebrity homes, and to fancy restaurants, and there are argument maps, and the musical artist maps, and–well, maps are a language, they are part of our grammatical brain structure, the means by which we constantly reduce and inflate the real and try to make it manageable. So, is language an argument? Perhaps defining terms would help, and no, that’s not meant as a joke. So, I’ll check the dictionary, which is a map, and also makes an argument:
a representation, usually on a flat surface, as of the features of an area of the earth or a portion of the heavens, showing them in their respective forms, sizes, and relationships according to some convention of representation: a map of Canada.
a maplike delineation, representation, or reflection of anything: The old man’s face is a map of time.
Slang . the face: Wipe that smile off that ugly map of yours.
–verb (used with object)
to represent or delineate on or as if on a map.
to sketch or plan (often fol. by out ): to map out a new career.
off the map, out of existence; into oblivion: Whole cities were wiped off the map.
put on the map, to bring into the public eye; make known, famous, or prominent: The discovery of gold put our town on the map.
1350–1400; ME mappe- ( mounde ) < ML mappa mundī map of the world; special use of L mappa napkin, said to be < Punic
Wow, napkin? That makes weird sense. A map is a representation of something, often put on flexible material (like napkin?)
an oral disagreement; verbal opposition; contention; altercation: a violent argument.
a discussion involving differing points of view; debate: They were deeply involved in an argument about inflation.
a process of reasoning; series of reasons: I couldn’t follow his argument.
a statement, reason, or fact for or against a point: This is a strong argument in favor of her theory.
an address or composition intended to convince or persuade; persuasive discourse.
subject matter; theme: The central argument of his paper was presented clearly.
an abstract or summary of the major points in a work of prose or poetry, or of sections of such a work.
an independent variable of a function.
Also called amplitude.
the angle made by a given vector with the reference axis.
the angle corresponding to a point representing a given complex number in polar coordinates. Compare principal argument
Computers . a variable in a program, to which a value will be assigned when the program is run: often given in parentheses following a function name
and used to calculate the function.
a matter of contention.
1325–75; ME (< OF) < L argūmentum. See argue
Well, the definition of “argue” worked better, actually, but this definition helps, I think: an address or composition intended to convince or persuade; persuasive discourse.” A map is an address or composition, yes? And every time we use language, we are trying to persuade… what language use would be non-persuasive? I know I’m dithering here, that the usual, accepted connotations of “argue,” “map,” and “language” are intended to keep them distinct, lest our concepts become a soup–but even the way we conceptualize and distinguish between concepts, linguistically, is a kind of mapping, and a kind of argument. Boy, I’m hungry.
282) Gnarls Barkley: The Odd Couple
The bend of Cee-Lo’s voice and Dmouse’s hyper-perfect production is cool, a fine veneer, but they also make some good songs, when they don’t get lost in the veneer. “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” sounds like Billie Holiday wandered into Blake Edward’s The Party
and made everyone feel self-conscious, in a good way.
283) Captain Beyond: Sufficiently Breathless
If classic rock stations played classic rock everyone hadn’t heard a bazillion times, and if they didn’t pick the worst goddamn songs to play in the first place (“Feel Like Making Love”? “Whole Lotta Love”? “Could This Be Love”? Sheesh), then maybe they’d play Captain Beyond
. Of course, they’d also play Uriah Heep
, which would be not a good thing at all….
284) The Be Good Tanyas: Blue House
Didn’t I just listen to a Be Good Tanyas CD? Yep, I sure did
. This one is equally fine, quiet and a little scary, as any group covering “Coo-Coo Bird” should be.