21.429 cognitive science like alchemy

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2007 09:38:46 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 21, No. 429.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2007 09:32:14 +0000
         From: Andrew Brook <abrook_at_ccs.carleton.ca>
         Subject: Re: 21.416 cognitive science like alchemy

On the exchanges between Willard, myself and few others on computing
humanists respecting our history and the history of precursor
activities and the comparison between cognitive science and alchemy:

I won't quote the previous messages, which have tended to be lengthy.

Willard, I entirely agree with you that how the history of an
activity looked to the participants is often, maybe always, very
different from how it looks to later folk who know how things turned
out. What I was unclear about it what you wanted to build on that
fact. Certainly if what we want is accurate, informative history,
reconstructing how things had to have looked to participants is
important, even essential. But what if our interest is in knowing
what our current activities are like, activity where we don't know
the outcome. There are definitely two (or more) schools of thought on
this and I have never known how to resolve the disagreement.

Then there is my original question: How does the issue of doing
history well connect to the chemistry replacing alchemy issue? Part
of my reason for asking is that in the humanities computing game,
there has never been a similar 'paradigm shift', to use Kuhn's
maligned word, just incremental developments -- lots and lot of
incremental developments but no epochs in which one kind of theory
gets trashed in favour of another.

My two cents' worth.


Andrew Brook
Chancellor's Professor of Philosophy
Director, Institute of Cognitive Science
Member, Canadian Psychoanalytic Society
2217 Dunton Tower, Carleton University
Ottawa ON, Canada   K1S 5B6
Ph:  613 520-3597
Fax: 613 520-3985
Web: <http://www.carleton.ca/~abrook>www.carleton.ca/~abrook
Received on Thu Dec 20 2007 - 04:53:27 EST

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