Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 813. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org  From: Francois Lachance
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.811: on the uses of arithmetic (123)  From: Peter Boot Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.811: on the uses of arithmetic (46) -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: 2020-04-30 14:45:43+00:00 From: Francois Lachance Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.811: on the uses of arithmetic Willard Thank you for bringing our attention to Jacqueline Rose's LRB piece, "Pointing the Finger". This bit from what you quoted struck me not for its setting up and demolishing a dichotomy but its possible links to the importance of number for storytelling and the joys of playing with fingers: [quote] Counting is at once a scientific endeavour and a form of magical thinking. [/quote] There is something very fundamental at play here. Something alchemical. A long while ago I was keen on learning how humans as processors of sequences might tackle the information flows. I settled on an example of counting ... [quote] The pathways between perception and narration are particularly evident in non- linguistic narrative. Set in the context of general semiosis, narration crosses sensory modalities. This does not explain how a series of events becomes a sequence. Sequences arise from learning. They develop from bodies attempting to preserve and process knowledge. Sequences disentangle synaesthesia. For example, teaching children to count aloud on their fingers is enhanced by the introduction of slight pauses. The teacher touches the child's finger, pauses, voices a number, pauses, and makes eye contact with the child, pauses, makes eye contact with the touching fingers. The pattern which consists of tactile sensation, oral marking, aural sensation, and concludes with an invitation to shift to a visual mode, can of course be varied. With two or more teachers the potential for variation increases: sequences can be assigned either solo or group performance and can be distributed according to sensory modality. One teacher voices, an other points, the child connects. [/quote] Numbers and their manipulation are rooted in our embodied existence. It comes as no surprise that Jacqueline Rose, known for her work on the relationship between psychoanalysis, feminism and literature intimates this strong connection between bodily processing and counting.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacqueline_Rose << accessed April 30, 2020 1, 2, 3, ... 0, 1, 2, 3 ... 0, 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0 ... Infinitely yours in the interstices, F ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ François Lachance Scholar-at-large Wannabe Professor of Theoretical and Applied Rhetoric http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance https://berneval.hcommons.org to think is often to sort, to store and to shuffle: humble, embodied tasks > On Apr 30, 2020, at 4:02 AM, Humanist wrote: > > Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 811. > Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London > Hosted by King's Digital Lab > www.dhhumanist.org > Submit to: email@example.com > > > > > Date: 2020-04-30 07:55:14+00:00 > From: Willard McCarty > Subject: on the uses of arithmetic > > Jacqueline Rose's "Pointing the finger"*, a review centred on Camus' The > Plague, has much more worth our attention than her thoughts on the uses > of counting, as follows, but these seem particularly relevant to what > many of us do with a machine that makes juggling numbers so compelling: > >> When trying to track the spread of a virus, tallies... are always >> approximate and imperfect, but knowing this appears to make no >> difference to their quasi-sacred status. It is as if intoning numbers >> according to the same recognisable formula, however scary, allows us >> somehow to feel on top of a situation which everyone knows â and not >> just because of government incompetence â is out of our control... >> [A]t the very moment we appear to be taking the grimmest reality on >> board, we might also be deluding ourselves. Counting is at once a >> scientific endeavour and a form of magical thinking. It can be a way >> of bracing ourselves for and confronting an onslaught, and at the >> same time a doomed attempt at omnipotence, a system for classifying >> the horror and bundling it away... >> >> Mathematics flattens. It is a killing art. Counting humans, alive or >> dead, means you have entered a world of abstraction, the first sign >> that things have taken a desperate turn. Of course counting can also >> mean the exact opposite. If someone counts, they matter, with the >> further implication that they can be held answerable for their own >> deeds. Not to count, on the other hand, is to be overlooked or >> invisible... > > Comments welcome. > > Yours, > WM > > ----- > *London Review of Books 42.9 for 7 May 2020, online at > (https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n09/jacqueline-rose/pointing-the-finger). > > > -- > 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) -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: 2020-04-30 11:28:18+00:00 From: Peter Boot Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.811: on the uses of arithmetic Dear Willard, and all, You ask for comments about two paragraphs in Rose's review of The Plague. I start with the second one: > Mathematics flattens. It is a killing art. Counting humans, alive or > dead, means you have entered a world of abstraction, the first sign > that things have taken a desperate turn. Of course counting can also > mean the exact opposite. If someone counts, they matter, with the > further implication that they can be held answerable for their own > deeds. Not to count, on the other hand, is to be overlooked or > invisible.. Now, it is clear that there is absolutely nothing in mathematics that is 'killing'. That is merely a personal association from someone with an overgeneralizing mind. There is nothing in abstraction that signals that 'things have taken a desperate turn'. On the contrary, abstraction, and more specifically mathematics, is a wonderful tool and an enriching way of looking at people and at the world, in any situation. Things take a desperate turn when a president with utter disregard for science advises people to inject disinfectants and half a country continues to applaud him. Mathematics, like everything else in the world, doesn't mean anything by itself. The idea that it should be killing or flattening or a sign of desperation is ludicrous. I write this as a mathematician, but also as a citizen. In the first paragraph Rose describes, without any justification, the counts many of us follow as 'a doomed attempt at omnipotence'. Omnipotence indeed! Everyone knows that these numbers have serious limitations. No-one believes that any single number can clearly show how to proceed in the emergency. But it is surely irresponsible to disregard them, and to attack them as a delusion is to ally yourself with the irresponsible. There is also a cheap remark about government incompetence, just as if, if Rose had had her way, Corona would have been eradicated. As we know, there are singularly incompentent governments but most of them are just struggling with a new and unforeseen situation. How could it be otherwise? As a digital humanist, I am surprised by the suggestion that Rose's thoughts should have relevance for our own 'number juggling'. To me, she sounds like our detractors, people who have no sense for numbers, who do not care for patterns, and who, as I see it, don't really care about an empirically grounded understanding of (in her case) the pandemic, or (in our case) human culture . Best wishes, Peter Boot _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: firstname.lastname@example.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
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