11.0450 reasoning in bulk

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Tue, 9 Dec 1997 20:33:21 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 450.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Mon, 8 Dec 1997 09:01:25 -0500 (EST)
From: Francois Lachance <lachance@chass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: 11,564


I've reread often a section from one of your recent postings to
Humanist. It first appeared that you were ascribing to exhaustive
examination a certain warping power. Upon rereading it became clear
that you were making the point that in this one particular case "this
accumulation had given [...] hybris". So I reread your narration:

> I am reminded of a lecturer once who, hoping to get a
> job by impressing her audience, recounted a truly impressive collecting of
> all 11,564 instances in Greek literature of the phenomenon she was studying.
> I don't think anyone doubted that she had actually examined all 11,564
> cases. But what this accumulation had given her was, as it were, the hybris
> of being in command of a huge tank, which she could drive wherever she
> wished, over gardens, houses, public squares, whatever. In the end she drove
> it, alas, into the nearby sea, where she drowned. Makes one think about our
> craft, does it not? About the bold salutory application of reason and
> interpretation to the masses of evidence our machine can deliver to us.

It then appeared, to me, that you were arguing inductively from a
single however exemplary case and I longed to find stories where the
careful inspection of minutiae led to a preservation of humility.
However it was that appeal to the bold and salutory application of
reason that made me understand or gave to me the insight that the
connection between what we do and what we are is far more tenuous than
the grammatical and narrative structure of a "being-given" would suggest.
Of course, what I was applying was "interpretation" rather than
"reason". It is your story (and my rereading of it) that has given me
a greater appreciation for that sometimes disjunctive conjunction
which is "and" in the English language.

Of course, I am curious as to whether the nature of the relation
between "reason" and "interpretation" changes with scale. Does the
existence of "masses of evidence" affect the doing and the being of
the examiner and investigator?

Just being and performing,


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