Home About Subscribe Search Member Area

Humanist Discussion Group

< Back to Volume 32

Humanist Archives: Dec. 27, 2018, 9:19 a.m. Humanist 32.293 - 'humanities' or 'human sciences'

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 293.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org

    [1]    From: Peter Jones 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.291: more on 'humanities' or 'human sciences' (56)

    [2]    From: Elisa Beshero-Bondar 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.289: 'humanities' or 'human sciences' (43)

    [3]    From: Henry Schaffer 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.291: more on 'humanities' or 'human sciences' (43)

    [4]    From: Jim Rovira 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.291: more on 'humanities' or 'human sciences' (77)

    [5]    From: Bill Benzon 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.291: more on 'humanities' or 'human sciences' (85)

        Date: 2018-12-26 15:02:09+00:00
        From: Peter Jones 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.291: more on 'humanities' or 'human sciences'

As the discussion has referred to subjectivity and (Vs?) objectivity this is key
in health care.

Amid the emphasis on the 'evidence-based' and objectivity, I have always valued
the (ongoing) contribution of medical sociology to health care generally.
So today and speaking more practically within health care - while there is still
much to do - there is talk of:

Universal Health Coverage
Sustainable Development Goals
Health system & Health Care System
In mental illness, there is recognition of employment, debt, housing and other
factors 'beyond' medicine even if policy is to be implemented.

While the above may not be attributable to sociology, and medical sociology in
particular, there is a recognition of the need for mixed methods - to value and
balance the quantitative and qualitative.

Within the model I champion there are four 'boards', but only two (sciences &
politics) are actually - mechanically - 'springy'. **

The other two (intra- interpersonal & sociology) are defined by - imagination,
emotion ... such qualities provide the disciplinary umbilici of humanity
(preferably at its best) and the humanities . **

The four boards (knowledge domains) together can readily incorporate

quantitative and qualitative
subjective and objective
(reasoning and rationality)
This model is not about putting things in boxes and talking opposing views, but
acknowledging these points of view.

There is consequently, much overlap in posts on subjective and objective:

The model can help us to collapse these oppositions (or ameliorate their impact)
to integrate them all at least conceptually - (language again).

** A revolution as a reaction** A revolution from the imagination - a social
Best to all,

Peter Jones
Community Mental Health Nurse & Researcher
CMHT Brookside
Aughton Street
Ormskirk L39 3BH, UK
+44 01695 684700
Blogging at "Welcome to the QUAD"

        Date: 2018-12-25 20:00:53+00:00
        From: Elisa Beshero-Bondar 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.289: 'humanities' or 'human sciences'

I'm nodding in agreement with much of what I'm reading on this thread. As
an undergraduate long ago, I wandered between the natural sciences (chem,
bio, physics) and humanities (literature) and enjoyed much about each. I'm
an English professor now, and very happy to be building digital things that
can help lead me to what looks like quantifiable philological data, subject
to review with analyses and results that others could duplicate. I don't
know that my work would be considered "hard science" but I'm relieved that
I can share the basis of my conclusions and demonstrate something of the
scope of conclusions I draw. It now matters how thinly stretched and
selective is the source of my data, and I appreciate that I'm expected to
call attention to that in my work now. But I have to say I'm embarrassed
sometimes by scholarship in literary studies that takes the basis of
authority as citations and quotes sliced and pared off just as we wish to
support an argument. As I get older and crustier, I want to call out this
kind of work as sophistic, but possibly that's not fair. What were we
trained to think of as scholarly contributions to the field of Literature?
I'm glad I had some window and training in material texts and
manuscripts--that always seemed more "real" and interesting a basis for
scholarly work than yet another interpretation filtered through poorly
translated theory.

But I think, even so, we might be setting up one of those artificial
binaries between "science" and "non-science" in discussing the work we do
in digital humanities. Is there something more here? Quantifiable data is a
lovely thing, but some of our work is creative and constructive--building
resources and interfaces, for example, that provide an accurate and
authoritative view of a resource. Is this scientific work or something else?

Cheers and happy holidays,

Elisa Beshero-Bondar, PhD
Associate Professor of English
University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg
Humanities Division
150 Finoli Drive
Greensburg, PA  15601  USA
E-mail: ebb8@pitt.edu

        Date: 2018-12-24 15:12:08+00:00
        From: Henry Schaffer 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.291: more on 'humanities' or 'human sciences'

Thanks to Jim Rovira for expanding our thinking on this topic. I want to
focus here on one
item in his discussion:

> ...
> I would like to say it's also important how we define science. Hegel
> argued that the physical sciences were not rigorous and not even 
> really scientific, but only logic was. I'm not going to develop the 
> thought, but I wanted to throw it out there.
> ...

Yes, it certainly is extremely important how we define science, and I
submit that Hegel completely misses the point. Today science is defined 
as dealing with the physical world, with the world we observe. We often 
extrapolate from that, but science is based on observation/data. Logic and 
math are not included in that definition. They are flawless (barring 
errors) and are based on axioms, not observations/data.

When I lecture on science, e.g. at the beginning of each science course
I've taught, I always include the mantra, "In science, all 'truth' is 
tentative." In science, a new observation may overturn an old "truth". 
An example:

The "Central Dogma of Molecular Biology" (in at least one of its widely
accepted variations) once stated that information flowed from DNA -> RNA 
and never in the reverse direction. That was the "truth" at that time. 
Whoops - Howard Temin discovered the enzyme "reverse transcriptase" and
from then on the "truth" is that information can flow in both directions
DNA <-->RNA. (Note: 1975 Nobel Prize.)

That doesn't happen in logic and math. A theorem, once proven, doesn't
become false because someone observes a new enzyme or particle or ray. 
A theorem may no longer apply when the axioms on which it's based are 
changed - but it remains true based on the axioms used to prove it.
E.g. the theorems proven true in Plane Geometry (at one time the adjective
didn't need to be used) may very well be false when applied to a curved 
surface such as the surface of a sphere, but that doesn't falsify them 
with regard to the axioms of a plane.

I love logic and math, but I don't call them science.

--henry schaffer

        Date: 2018-12-24 14:14:22+00:00
        From: Jim Rovira 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.291: more on 'humanities' or 'human sciences'

I'd like to make one correction to my previous post: this sentence:

"There are still some very uneducated people with very nice looking degrees
who assert otherwise..."

should have had the word "educated" in place of "uneducated."

I really need to stop doing this stuff on my iPhone. Hard to edit well, and
it makes changes I didn't intend. Worse, it shows a correct transcription
of my speech and then changes it. Apologies. There were other a couple of
other errors too, but I won't bother correcting them all.

Jim R

On Mon, Dec 24, 2018 at 4:13 AM Humanist  wrote:

> Much appreciation for Henry Schaffer’s post. What a springboard for
> thought.
> In 1927, Wittgenstein said that Freud’s theory of the mind, or
> psychoanalytic
> theory, was not an empirical science but was a grand mythology. But he
> celebrated it as a great myth. Freud, and the human sciences in general,
> have
> been plagued with this criticism for as long as they have existed, and for
> good
> reason. Psychoanalysis and sociology is not equivalent to physics or
> chemistry.
> There are still some very uneducated people with very nice looking degrees
> who
> assert otherwise, but they are very much in the minority among educated
> opinion.

Dr. James Rovira 
Bright Futures Educational Consulting

   - Reading and History
    (Lexington Books,
   under contract)
   - Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms
    (Palgrave Macmillan,
   May 2018)
   - Rock and Romanticism: Blake, Wordsworth, and Rock from Dylan to U2
   Books, February 2018)
   - Assembling the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Essays on the Social,
   Cultural, and Geopolitical Domains
   Chapter 8 (McFarland Books, 2018)
   - Kierkegaard, Literature, and the Arts
   Chapter 12 (Northwestern UP, 2018)
   - Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety

Active CFPs

   - Women in Rock/ Women in Romanticism
   edited anthology
   - David Bowie and Romanticism
   edited anthology

        Date: 2018-12-24 13:13:15+00:00
        From: Bill Benzon 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.291: more on 'humanities' or 'human sciences'

I agree with Jim Rovira's point below. It is very important. Though I have a
different take on it.

John Searle has made a distinction between the ontological and epistemic aspects
of subjectivity which I discuss in this post:

Subjectivity vs. Objectivity in the epistemic and ontological senses (John
Searle), https://new-savanna.blogspot.com/2016/10/subjectivity-vs-objectivity-

From the post:

For some time now I've been complaining that, unfortunately, 'subjective'
has come to mean something like 'idiosyncratically variable among different
individuals.' But a more basic meaning is simply, 'of or pertaining to
subjects.' Well, Searle informs me that I'm distinguishing between
'subjective' in the epistemic sense (idiosyncratically variable) and
'subjective' in the ontological sense.

Ontologically, subjectivity has to do with existence, being experienced by a
subject. The experience of a literary text is certainly subjective in this
sense. And, as the meaning of texts depends on experiencing them, meaning must
be subjective as well. This is a matter of ontology.

Claims about the meaning of a text must necessarily be observer relative and so
those claims are epistemically subjective. There are no objective claims about
the meanings of texts, though some claims may well be intersubjectively held
among some group of readers (an interpretive community in Fish's sense?).

My claim about literary form is that it is an objective property of the
interaction between texts and readers. It is thus not subjective in either the
ontological or epistemic senses. By studying the form, however, we can learn
about how literary subjectivity works. For literary subjectivity is a real
phenomenon of the human world.


I would note further that color is subjective in the ontological sense, but not
in the epistemic sense. Color is not tightly coupled to specific wavelengths of
light. Rather, it is calculated (if you will) in the visual system. But the
calculations are reliable and, except for organic deficiencies (color
blindness), the same from one individual to another.

Searle says quite a lot about this in The Construction of Social Reality,
Penguin Books, 1995.

Bill Benzon

>        Date: 2018-12-23 15:57:26+00:00
>        From: Jim Rovira 
>        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.289: 'humanities' or 'human sciences'

> One last thought: I think we need to be a bit more rigorous in our use of the
> term subjective. There's a difference between being subjective and being
> arbitrary. From the point of view of the physical sciences, the subjective
> seems > arbitrary because it's based on individual human perception, and that 
> is unpredictable. We don't understand how and why it forms itself the way it
> does.
> That is because we are not programmable: not completely, not yet, not in ways
> we fully understand.
> The subjective, to the extent that it represents a clear and specific point of
> view, is not arbitrary. It is a function of a point of view. We just don't
> understand how the function works. We can't plot it on a graph taking into
> account all elements. But, it forms itself the way it does for a number of
> reasons, and those reasons are worth study.
> Jim R

Bill Benzon





Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted
List posts to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org
Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/
Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php

Editor: Willard McCarty (King's College London, U.K.; Western Sydney University, Australia)
Software designer: Malgosia Askanas (Mind-Crafts)

This site is maintained under a service level agreement by King's Digital Lab.