19.020 tools for imagining

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 12 May 2005 06:53:57 +0100

                Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 20.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Thu, 12 May 2005 06:48:14 +0100
         From: "Bonnett, John" <John.Bonnett_at_NRC-CNRC.GC.CA>
         Subject: tools for imagining

Going through my mailbox I saw Willard McCarty's April 29 message (see
below) on tools and their role in supporting thought. I thought I'd forward
the following abstract from the May 14, 2002 Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences 99 (Suppl.3): 7288-7295. [This may be found at
http://www.pnas.org/content/vol99/suppl_3/ --WM.] It offers an interesting
take on the emerging role agent-based modeling is playing in the
epistemology of the social sciences, and, presumably, the humanities.

-- John Bonnett

Foundations of "new" social science: Institutional legitimacy from
philosophy, complexity science, postmodernism, and agent-based modeling
Leslie Henrickson and Bill McKelvey

Graduate School of Education, University of California, Moore Hall, Box
951521, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1521; and The Anderson School, 110 Westwood
Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481

Since the death of positivism in the 1970s, philosophers have turned their
attention to scientific realism, evolutionary epistemology, and the
Semantic Conception of Theories. Building on these trends, Campbellian
Realism allows social scientists to accept real-world phenomena as
criterion variables against which theories may be tested without denying
the reality of individual interpretation and social construction. The
Semantic Conception reduces the importance of axioms, but reaffirms the
role of models and experiments. Philosophers now see models as "autonomous
agents" that exert independent influence on the development of a science,
in addition to theory and data. The inappropriate molding effects of math
models on social behavior modeling are noted. Complexity science offers a
"new" normal science epistemology focusing on order creation by
self-organizing heterogeneous agents and agent-based models. The more
responsible core of postmodernism builds on the idea that agents operate in
a constantly changing web of interconnections among other agents. The
connectionist agent-based models of complexity science draw on the same
conception of social ontology as do postmodernists. These recent
developments combine to provide foundations for a "new" social science
centered on formal modeling not requiring the mathematical assumptions of
agent homogeneity and equilibrium conditions. They give this "new" social
science legitimacy in scientific circles that current social science
approaches lack.

-----Original Message-----
From: Humanist Discussion Group
To: humanist_at_Princeton.EDU
Sent: 29/04/2005 3:06 AM

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 754.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                       Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

           Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2005 08:02:30 +0100
           From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
           Subject: tools for imagining

In The Work of the Imagination (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), Paul L. Harris
argues for development of imaginative capacities as the significant turning
point in our species. Palaeolithic cave-art is his introductory example,
children's early fantasy-life his focus. Citing the tools of homo sapiens,
he argues that,

>In a nutshell, the material record testifies to a new power of the
>imagination. Some of the newly emerging artefacts have much the same
>function as props in children's games of make-believe. They help to
>transport participants out of reality and into some imagined setting.
>These artefacts have three characteristic features: (i) they are
>collectively produced and socially recognisable; (ii) there is a
>discrepancy or mismatch between the imagined world that they help to
>instantiate and the actual situation in which the props themselves are
>constructed and displayed; (iii) their manufacture calls for a capacity to
>move back and forth between those two contexts - to take account of actual
>physical constraints, while simultaneously creating a meaningful artefact.
>(p. x)

In children, he goes on to say,

>the capacity to imagine alternative possibilities and to work out their
>implications emerges early... and lasts a lifetime. This capacity is
>especially obvious in children's games of pretend play, but it invades and
>transforms their developing conception of reality itself. (pp. xi-xii)

Indeed, let us look to our tools.


[NB: If you do not receive a reply within 24 hours please resend]
Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
Humanities | King's College London | Kay House, 7 Arundel Street |
WC2R 3DX | U.K. | +44 (0)20 7848-2784 fax: -2980 ||
willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/wlm/
Received on Thu May 12 2005 - 02:04:46 EDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Thu May 12 2005 - 02:04:46 EDT