11.0506 evidence the nemesis of argument

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Sun, 11 Jan 1998 20:42:06 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 506.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Wed, 7 Jan 1998 22:46:12 -0500
From: Francois Lachance <lachance@chass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: evidence & class wars


As you know, I was struck by the invocation of hubris in one of your
timely mediations on the nature of evidence. It is with a certain
amount of pride that I have probably rediscovered a humanist

evidence is the nemesis of argument

For example if one were to read non-response, or rather, the lack of
response traces (i.e. counter flames or rants) to the recent glowing
endorsements of class warfare appearing on Humanist as a sign of
consensus, one would have to contend with an equally elegant
interpretation that read the same non-evidence as a sign of the
sophisticated irony of the audience reading the missiles or missives.
And of course, neither generalisation is quite correct though they may
both be, on the whole, totalizingly and tantilizingly to the right.

I was pondering your evidence questions at the same time as I was trying
to understand how Chris Floyd's listing in point form of elements from
Domenico Fiormonte's text appeared to be a concatenation that due to its
order gave the impression of wanting the reader to conclude that the
series represented a chain of causation. The listing/syntagm is
narratologically intriguing. Allow me to refresh your memory:

>a) lowered admission requirements standards;
>b) affected dramatically the quality of teaching;
>c) reduced or frozen the stipends of the staff without improving
>social benefits;
>d) made obtaining tenure a mirage and turned into legalised
>exploitation part-time contracts of postgraduate students and staff.

Evidence is stacked as the cause of the next piece of evidence. And the
great unnamed first mover we are led to believe is cutbacks or
underfunding. If we decouple labour practices from enrolment policies,
we might then be able to argue that quality of education has
significantly improved for with less resources per capita great numbers
of students are making the grade. In my books, one measures
the quality of education by the difference between entry and exit. The
greater the spread, the greater the accomplishment of both learners and
teachers. But assessment is a cost. A cost, and this is where I join Dr.
Floyd in his characteristic condemnation of past administrators, which
should have been built into the post-secondary system long before the
cutbacks came and while the axe was falling and continues to fell. There
just was no EASILY READ evidence to prove that the expansion of the post
secondary system in the post war period was a social good. Yes this is
a rather defensive posture but certain to score some recruits to the
game if not a winning goal.

Unlike Huizinga in Homo Ludens, I am not about to make the rapprochement
between war and game. I will however conclude by a sketch of how the
play of critical reading with the aid of digital technologies is not
unlike a great deal of serious play.

Electronic processing of text teaches us that the old questions remain.
In mark-up we appreciate a crux. We teach ourselves and our students to
ask how categories shape the answers to the either/or questions. (Is it
the case that?) In placing the crucial moments of reading, we produce
frequency series that need to be adjusted for the presence of stop words
or not. This is but a rather technical variation on the basic question:
what counts when?

If not now when?

By the way, I invite all interested parties, to download a small version
of the Humanist logo, affix to some of their WWW pages and point people
in the direction of Humanist. For their convenience such a file exists
at <http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance/humsmall.gif> I'll be
checking Dr. Floyd's home page regularly. It would be my com-radical
duty to do so.

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