14.0188 market truth, fingerprint machine

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Sun Aug 20 2000 - 15:18:40 CUT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 188.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: "Chris McMahon" <pharmakeus@hotmail.com> (118)
             Subject: Re: 14.0179 market-driven truth-seeking

       [2] From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com> (34)
             Subject: A humanities "fingerprint machine" to study creative

             Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2000 16:06:59 +0100
             From: "Chris McMahon" <pharmakeus@hotmail.com>
             Subject: Re: 14.0179 market-driven truth-seeking

    Dr Mark,

    I think we might be seeing things in roughly the same way. Can I make a
    couple of points though?

    >The disinterest of academics is a measure of their social autonomy as

    Yes. Like the "disinteretedness" of the state bureaucrats. I'm thinking,
    for example, of Bourdieu's discussion of how disinteredness is a field
    relative symbolic capital in *Practical Reason*.

    and as "truth" (the specific form of symbolic capital
    >that defines who an intellectual is)

    Has there been an important semantic slide here from "disinterestedness" to
    "truth"? Why should the search fro truth be disinteredned? Is not necessity
    the mother of invention?

    gives way to technology (the
    >capital of the New Economy) in the intellectual field,

    I would say that what I see is the academic managment class (deans, proVCs,
    etc) making symbolic capital by rationalizing (cutting, saving money,
    etc.). So yes, the university is beginning to be driven by profit motives
    that make it less distinguishable from the corporation? One style of
    capital transaction (a rather pure restricted symbolic economy productive
    of "the-knowledge-formerly-known-as-truth") is giving way to a different
    style of capital transactions (a material to symbolic economy, becoming
    less restricted, productive of "the-education-that-ised-to-be-liberal"). I
    agree that the universities are beginning to be less *autonomous*. And I
    think IT is mixed up in there somehow (though chicken or egg? - I mean
    Capitalism has progressively reified every field, and maybe IT is just
    speeding up the process?

    >must clothe themselves as entrepreneurs.

    That's what I see too. I do, however, invite you to think about this idea
    "truth" a bit. There may be some kernel of the idea that is a "primary
    proposition" (i.e. impossible to be analysed) by that kernel, even if it is
    not simply a social contruct (which I don;t think it is) does carry around
    a lot of sublated symbolic capital which is pure mystification. And it is
    that mystified capital that is under fire, being transformed into
    perfomativity capital, which is the capitalist cooption of the scientific
    idea of the use value of truth.

    Of course, this is not
    >new: a
    >lot of critical theory is really just technology in the Heideggerian
    >sense of putting the world in standing-reserve, ie creating efficiencies
    >for purposes other than opening our eyes to the truth (like selling cool
    >books in cool bookstores).

    I think so too. But something new is happening. Not that the universities
    are no longer helping to reproduce the social order, or that they are
    becoming reproductive for the first time, but that the rules of the game,
    as you note, are changing. I'm not sure I like the new game any more than
    you do. I'm wondering what sort of new game we can design instead.

    If we confuse technology, the modus
    >and opus operatum of humanities computing, with the quest for truth, our
    >modus operandi, we reinforce the blurring between capitalism and the

    Again, I think so too.

    Information technology has changed the way humanities
    >pursue the truth, indeed what counts as truth, and as a result our
    >perspective has undergone a radical shift. How do we distinguish
    >"humanities" from "computing"?

    That is, if you have come up to speed with IT, which most academics in the
    humanities really have not.

    >Have these two terms become

    Has truth ever been NOT performative? There have been truths that are not
    perfortmative (or are only socially performative). There is a basis in the
    distinction between rational purposive action & symbolic exchange (cf.
    Habermas), and the truths of the latter need not be performative outside
    any given social field where it is the "correctness" of symbolic exchange
    that counts and not the competence of rational purosive action (i.e in
    cases where all is arbitrary). Otherwise the use value of truth has always
    been its performativity. That's how science works. So the two terms could
    not have become incompatable. If anything the pressure towards
    performativity (and against waste) makes more truths. But truths directed
    in the service of certain interests? Althusser's problematic?

    Bourdieu has an explanation for this difficulty that
    >of us as humanities computing scholars experience:
    >If agents are possessed by their habitus more than they possess it, this
    >is because it acts within them as the organizing principle of their
    >actions, and because this modus operandi informing all thought and
    >action (including thought of action) reveals itself only in the opus
    >operatum. (Outline of a Theory of Praxis, 18)

    If we think hard enough we might realize that the idea of "agent" here is
    quite redundant. The rules of the game are certainly changing. The question
    is not why, on which we agree, but "is truth suffering"? Now i think we
    both see truth as suffering but you seem to be constructing a sort of 'good
    old days" scenario, the fall from truth and disnterestedness into
    technocapitalist market-driven performativities. It's Lyotardian? On the
    other hand, I think truth is not really suffering any more now than it has
    been in the past, even though the rules of the academic game are changing,
    and what depreses me is that we don;t seem to be able to liberate the use
    value of truth from the interested of the dominant groups (which would
    include those "disinterested" men of state, et al.)

    >I suppose from the perspective of the New Economy, with its emphasis on
    >streamlining and efficiency (just look at all the consolidation taking
    >place in the dot.com world as IPO money runs dry and companies devour
    >each other), waste could be a tactical measure for waking people from
    >passivity in cyberspace. But in any economy, symbolic or material,
    >waste cannot be tolerated for long. If what we do is perceived as
    >waste, universities will either outsource their teaching and research or
    >people will invest their time and resources elsewhere.

    I agree. That's how "official production" works after the death of God.
    With the rise of the capitalists everything that their regime of "official
    production" does not like - for any reason - is labelled "waste". The logic
    of late capitalism is just a refinement of the logic of early modern
    capitalism. I'm just saying if we really were to be autonomous, we should
    look again at this so-called *waste*. If we do not, then we are already,
    for all our "disinterestedness" just the lackies of the inhuman
    cyberbourgeoisie (the great mind of globalised money).

    Hope I have managed to make my position clearer. I hope you will agree with
    me that we are quibbling over details? I have made my ideas about what we
    should do sort of clear (redesign the academies as "public spheres") - But
    I would like to ask you what sort of project you suggest for overcoming the
    conquest of the academy by corporatism?

    :) Chris

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             Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2000 16:07:34 +0100
             From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com>
             Subject: A humanities "fingerprint machine" to study creative genius

    Dear Colleagues:

    In my opinion, we are close to the stage where we can take "theoretical
    fingerprints" of candidates for creative geniuses in the past to see whether
    they really were creative or whether they were imitators or "ingenious
    followers" (one step ahead of whoever they were following, in a sense).
    This has applications not only to the obvious field of literature
    (Shakespeare, Ovid, etc.), but to music (Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Vivaldi,
    etc.), sculpture (Michaelangelo), invention/discovery (Leonardo Da Vinci,
    Pierre De Fermat, Newton, Faraday, Edison, etc.), and so on.

    The profile of a creative genius which emerges involves the following
    characteristics. 1. Open-minded to new ideas and to change of one's own
    erroneous wrong ideas and those of one's colleagues or friends (Steven
    Weinberg and Paul Dirac in quantum theory, the Strausses in Vienna). 2.
    Experienced severe long-term emotional traumas in childhood (e.g.,
    Beethoven, Paganini, Mozart it appears). 3. Experienced the creative
    process subjectively as a giant orchestrated process either full blown
    instantly or slowly/laboriously (respectively Chopin and Vivaldi versus
    Beethoven). 4. Was the first to invent/discover/create an important new
    school of thought or emotion (Leonardo Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Steven
    Weinberg, Shakespeare, Dirac, Pierre De Fermat, Newton, Socrates, the
    Strausses, Edison, Mahatma Gandhi, Democritus, Heraclitus, Mendeleyev,
    Cantor, Saint Thomas Acquinas, Christ, Old Testament Prophets, Montgomery,
    Slim, Crick, Watson, Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, etc.). 5. Had a severe
    physical or mental disorder for much of life (Godel, Beethoven, Schumann,
    Milton, Stephen Hawking, possibly Einstein physically, Buddha it appears,
    etc.). 6. Was extremely secretive (Newton, Pierre De Fermat, Sir Roger
    Penrose, etc.). 7. Was an interdisciplinary person (Shakespeare I think,
    Pierre De Fermat, Newton, Beethoven, Haydn, Weinberg, Dirac, Eddington, Cao
    of Boston University, Aristotle, Kursunoglu, Socrates, Plato, Agatha
    Christie). 8. Was not strongly motivated by anger or blame (Mahatma Gandhi,
    Christ, Buddha, various winners of the Nobel Prize for Peace, Socrates it
    appears, Freud). 9. Was very courageous (Socrates, Christ, Old Testament
    Prophets, Field Marshalls Montgomery and Slim, Beethoven, Hawking, Gandhi,
    various winners of the Nobel Prize for Peace, Saint Thomas More).

    Osher Doctorow

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