[Humanist] 23.247 at the BBQ

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Aug 24 07:36:34 CEST 2009


Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 247.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

[1]   From:    Randy Radney <radney at mac.com>                             (61)
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.242 yet another BBQ

[2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (30)
Subject: clever raven

[3]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (42)
Subject: patience and impatience

--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Sat, 22 Aug 2009 12:25:41 -0700
From: Randy Radney <radney at mac.com>
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.242 yet another BBQ

In my (actual) experience, the sort of events that best keep us from
mature-boredom are in the category of "terrifying changes". In my case
the perfect job and location (not suburbia, but then, I'm a bit of a
"farm boy", myself) were reached, Canadian citizenship (finally!)
obtained, and all was well (if a bit predictable). Suddenly, the
university I was working for decided to cancel the online classes I
was teaching, the local university decided that my doctorate in
humanities was not suitable certification to teach any of the
(English, Anthropology, Sociology, etc.) courses it offers, and the
economy "went south" (or went west, for those of you in the UK).

After sending my CV everywhere I was willing to move to, I decided to
start a small business offering face-to-face educational support for
local people taking online courses at university. The learning curve
has been steep, but boredom is very much a thing of the past. (I'm
trying to keep a record of some of my reflections and thoughts as this
business develops at http://thelearningcoach.blogspot.com)
Regards,

J. Randolph Radney, Ph. D.
Paradox Educational Services
bclearningcoach at me.com

"Get the Education You Want in the Community You Love"

On 20 Aug 2009, at 22:46, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:

>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 242.
>         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>
>
>        Date: Fri, 21 Aug 2009 06:45:04 +0100
>        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>        Subject: boredom comes with maturity?
. . .
>>
>
> We're not running to catch baseballs, but we are developing, quite
> successfully, habitual behaviours and standard products. While I do
> take
> the argument about standards etc., I worry about research in this
> utilitarian age sunk to its bottom line. I worry about what happens
> when
> one reaches a promised land, buys a house in suburbia and settles in.
>
> Comments?
>
> Yours,
> WM
>
> --
> Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
> King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
> Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
> Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.
>

--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Sun, 23 Aug 2009 10:36:58 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
Subject: clever raven

Clever raven, curious when young and acquiring the programming to
survive and make more ravens, just truckin' along when old, waiting to
die -- or contemplating existence in ravenish quietude, perhaps. But
we're talking about humans here, and so a distinction I'd introduce
between the peripheral and the central. Northrop Frye's (very Canadian,
one might say) solution was to make his own life as uninteresting to an
observer as possible so all his energies could go where they went. Or as
my partner said earlier today, with reference to our exciting, largely
working-class neighbourhood, "I want everything middle-class and boring
so that I can do my work". It's that work -- and the disciplinary field
where where it finds its society -- that needs the never-ending
curiosity and for which being settled in, suburban, all standardized and
conformant is spiritually fatal.

To get back to the raven as a guide to our mental life. I give you
Norbert Wiener's comparison of the human to the great apes. "It has
frequently been observed", he writes in The Human Use of Human Beings,
"that man is a neoteinic form: that is, if we compare man with the great
apes, his closest relatives, we find that mature man in hair, head,
shape, body proportions, bony structure, muscles, and so on, is more
like the newborn ape than the adult ape. Among the animals, man is a
Peter Pan who never grows up" (1954: 58).

And so the Paradise within us, happier far than (we know, thanks to Freud
et al and to ruthless introspection) actual childhood actually was?

Yours,
PP (alias WM)
--
Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.

--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Sun, 23 Aug 2009 11:19:49 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
Subject: patience and impatience

We have before reflected on our quite understandable impatience that
after all these years since Busa met IBM (1949-2009) we are still mostly
playing our own games in a corner of the room, largely ignored by the
Major Players. So I offer some bracing solace from the clinical
psychiatrist Henry W. Brosin, who in 1948 at the Hixon Symposium was
asked to summarize and comment on the papers given there (by John von
Neumann, Warren McCulloch and others).

Looking over the contributions from the areas of inter alia mathematics
and formal logic, neuropsychiatry, primate biology, psychology and
medicine, he saw no philosophical differences that would stand in the
way of their forming a coherent way of talking about the one subject on
which these diverse fields were convergent. "At least we are often
talking to the same point," he said. "However, this isn't enough. We
must learn a common vocabulary by living and working together. Reading
and experimenting in isolation are inadequate. It may take a century for
men working at the molecular and neuronal levels to become thoroughly
and intimately acquainted with the world view of a person whose days and
nights are steeped in the concepts of man as a social unity" (Cerebral
Mechanisms in Behavior. The Hixon Symposium, ed. Jeffress, p. 291).

The solace - we're still 40 years shy of that century - is bracing not only
because the gap of silence or at least inadequate vocabulary between the
interpretative humanities and such sciences is so much wider than the one he
envisioned. It's more bracing because Brosin was thinking in terms of people
such as von Neumann and McCulloch, who were wholly dedicated to asking the
hardest of questions they could imagine -- indeed, being employed and
supported to do exactly that.

So few of us are thus employed, and so perhaps it's not surprising that
question-asking in their mode seems rather thin on the ground. Of course
it's hardly surprising that people whose work happened to coincide with the
well-funded purposes of warfare would be given the keys to the city and
allowed to wander in and out as they wished. But then (as Jim O'Donnell
says) we're a cheap date. The real problem, it seems to me, is our
conception of what we're here for. Without the focus of  McCulloch and von
Neumann, 40 years will find us more or less in the same place.

Comments?

Yours,WM

--Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.




More information about the Humanist mailing list