[Humanist] 22.439 from 1967

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Jan 10 08:22:08 CET 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 439.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Thu, 08 Jan 2009 12:22:24 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: how things looked in 1967

In an anonymous TLS review of two German books on mathematical studies, one 
of poetry and the other of Jacob Leed's collection of essays on stylometry, the 
following bit of wisdom:

> The number of facts that can be stated about a poem, even about the
> form of a poem, is strictly infinite: the job of the researcher is to
> find out which of those facts are relevant to the problem he is
> trying to solve. A theory may help to indicate them; in the absence
> of a theory the researcher has to find out by trial and error what
> facts are relevant. (TLS for 9 February 1967, p. 106)

I am not at all sure about what might be meant by "theory" here if it is 
any different from a Geertzian "thick description". But, if you would, 
tell me in terms of the work you do, whether the following is a fair 
statement of where we're at: implementing trial-and-error mechanisms 
within a plausible framework of possibilities supplied by current ideas 
of the artefact and by our own experience. If that is fair, then is it 
more or less our eternal condition as computing humanists?


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.

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