Jun 17, 2009

Rapid Rhetoric: NOMOTHETIC

Raphael's depiction of Plato defining the difference between true and false rhetoric This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.

nomothetic (noh-moh-THEH-tick) adj. related to or involved in the search for abstract universal principles or general scientific laws.

I came across the word nomothetic today while proofreading the work of another scholar. The Greek root word nomothetikos translates into an English equivalent of "law-giving."

Different disciplines have alternative uses for the term "nomothetic." Sociologists contrast nomothetic explanations - which involve a generalized understanding of a given case - with idiographic explanations, which present full descriptions of a given case. In law nomothetic propositions are those that are invariable facts of life that cannot have viable alternative explanations, such as "the sun rises in the east because of the Earth's rotation and orbit."

I should also mention the phenomena of the nomothetic fallacy, which can be summarized as the idea that simply naming a given problem solves it. As an example, a psychiatric patient might temporarily find some relief upon hearing a diagnosis of panic disorder, but the temporary relief gained from the acquisition of this knowledge does not constitute a cure.

No comments: