14.0760 method

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Wed Mar 21 2001 - 01:43:16 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 760.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2001 06:37:19 +0000
             From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: Re: method...


    The little bit you quoted from Paul Standish nicely sets up the aura of
    mystery surrounding method in the second quotation you offer:

         In the Times Literary Supplement for 16 Match 2001, issue 5111, the
         historian Michael Bentley (St Andrews) writes in "Revive the Croaker"
         (rev of William Thomas, The Quarrel of Macaulay and Croker),

         "But 'method' is a second-order thing; it derives from deeper
         assumptions and forms a visible outcome of intuitions obliquely stated."

    If I am able for an instant to abstract Standish's pride in content as
    well as your invitation to profess humility in the teaching of "method", I
    seem to enter into a country where the inhabitants are engaged in the
    discursive game of trying to place value on sets of activities by
    differently valuing which of two questions to apply: what to do and how to
    do it. I apologize for the verbose formulation.

    There are two skills at stake. The skill of manipulating acquired
    information appers to be the skill that Standish places under the rubric
    of "content". The other skill is that of acquired novel content would be
    what Standish seems to mock under the appellation of "transferable
    skills". I've recast the terms in a fashion that may bring to the fore the
    implicit "defense of tradition" line of the argument. The sad and tired
    tune of the "demise of mandarin culture" is not the best of work songs to
    help rebuild a dynamic and active academy. Life long learners be they
    preparing for entry into the work force or be they refreshing themselves
    by returing to the leisure of intense intellectual work after a number of
    years in position of paid labourers want quality in both substantive
    content and meaningful ocassions to hone their skills.

    I have ridden this hobby horse before and no doubt will again (with a bit
    of Erasmian grace, I hope, so that I do not repeat too many of the same
    phrases over and over again). While the horse is stabbled for the moment,
    I thought I would invite you to contemplate a passage from Alan Pasch,
    _Experience and the Analytic: A Reconsideration of Empiricism_. In the
    opening chapter of his book, Pasch struggles with the analytic-synthetic
    distinction (a distinction not far from your ruminations on method and
    those of Standish on skill/content). At the conclusion of that chapter he
    points to Carnap and the terms _internal_ and _external_. He writes:

    [...] a question of degree is an external question; once a decision about
    a convention has been made and a context determined, then -- and within
    that context -- any question about the context is an internal question.
    Furthermore, the answer to an internal question will have the form of a
    definite ("yes-no") assertion, and this answer is determined by the nature
    of the context which gives the question significance. The answer to an
    external question, however, will be a statement of degree, or a proposal
    about establishing a convention.

    To some subscribers of Humanist this just might suggest a semiotic square
    (degree, context, internal, external, each taking a corner). Of course,
    why one might indulge in such an excerise depends upon one's knowledge of
    semiotic squares and skill in operating such machines. The range of
    reasons encompasses sheer intellectual curiousity and pecuniary-motivated
    sophistry. As Norman Hinton can attest, Chaucer will send up an interest
    that claims to be disinterested and any interest that is a little too
    focussed. I wonder if Standish would count Chaucer in his his personal
    stock of lore. I wonder if he (Standish) would have the skill to gloss
    Michael Bentley: depth is to content as visibilty is to skill?!

    I hear the hobby horse neighing about Marx and the nature of worth....

    Thank you once again, inestimable comrade, for provoking a little wee bit
    of thinking in this poor soul with so little skill and such meagre content
    and yet ever grateful for the gleanings from the TLS.

    Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
           some threads tangle in tassles, others form the weft

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