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Humanist Archives: May 31, 2019, 7:14 a.m. Humanist 33.57 - the poetic structure of scientific thought

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 57.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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        Date: 2019-05-30 09:32:52+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty 
        Subject: bridge-building

Allow me to recommend a look into Fernand Hallyn's The Poetic Structure 
of the World: Copernicus and Kepler (1987), translated from La Structure 
poétique du monde: Copernic, Kepler (1987) by Donald M. Leslie. This is 
how it begins:

> I intend to grapple with the "poetics" of Copernicus and Kepler. But
> what does this mean? What justification is there for applying the
> term "poetics" to the study of the scientific enterprise? What is
> there in that enterprise to which it can be applied? What relevance
> does the practice of poetics have for the epistemology and history of
> science?

Hallyn's book should help address a lamentable tendency to turn away 
from the natural sciences and so from a deeper understanding of the 
technoscientific machinery that shapes the reasoning we do with 
its help. John Culkin's observation (often attributed to Marshall 
McLuhan) says it in a few words: “We shape our tools and thereafter 
they shape us.”*

It seems to me that there are rich openings for important work that 
obscured by this turning away, e.g. on the subject of AI, probing the 
space between technical efforts to build ever better imitations of us 
and theorising safely abstracted from the machinery and the sciences 
involved in building them. We seem to be awash in notions of what lies 
ahead (the revolution so often postponed for technical reasons), some 
of it quite seriously scary. Well-written fiction based on these notions 
tells us a lot about our dreams and nightmares. But for effective 
scholarship we need something else, I think. 



*“A schoolman’s guide to Marshall McLuhan.” Saturday Review, 
March 18, 1967, 51– 53, 70–72.

Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/),
Professor emeritus, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
(www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20) and Humanist (www.dhhumanist.org)

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