13.0346 history & philosophy of research?

From: Humanist Discussion Group (willard@lists.village.virginia.edu)
Date: Sat Jan 15 2000 - 13:58:56 CUT

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                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 13, No. 346.
          Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

            Date: Sat, 15 Jan 2000 13:53:06 +0000
            From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
            Subject: philosophy of humanities?

    Dear Colleagues,

    Recently I have been reading around in the history and philosophy of
    science, noting parallels between the sciences, especially physics, and
    humanities computing. These readings have convinced me that we have much to
    learn from the historians and philosophers who have concerned themselves
    with experimental, empirical research. I have been increasingly puzzled,
    however, by the scanty attention that research in the humanities has
    attracted from scholars in history and philosophy. Why is this so? Why now
    that computing has become so important to humanities research does the need
    for this attention seem (at least to me) so acute?

    So far the only answer I have been able to manage points to the fact that
    we must objectify our research methods before we can compute the artefacts
    we study, and in so doing we bring out into the open what has formerly been
    hidden from view. Hence as a direct consequence of humanities computing new
    areas for historians and philosophers to study are opening up. Am I wrong
    about this?

    Part of the problem has been the attitude in the humanities by which the
    physical bits and craftsmanship of research, its technology, are relegated
    to a lesser status. (Do we smell here traces of the the old mind/body
    problem, i.e. the pure mind vs the corrupt flesh?) Thus we do not have an
    intellectual history of the concordance -- a badly needed study waiting to
    be researched and written. Correct me if I am wrong, but is it not the case
    that the history of the book, of the alphabet and alphabetization and
    palaeography (with emphasis on the techniques by which letterforms were
    produced) are typically marginalised subjects? Why is it -- correction
    again most welcome -- that research methods courses are typically not given
    much emphasis in our postgraduate/graduate programmes? Might this in part
    be because so few of us, until we begin to compute our research, have any
    idea of how we do what we do, and why?


    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
    voice: +44 (0)171 848 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 848 5081
    <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
    maui gratia

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