[Humanist] 24.117 knowledge from belief

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Jun 16 10:29:05 CEST 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 117.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2010 13:27:25 +0200
        From: Øyvind Eide <oyvind.eide at iln.uio.no>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.110 knowledge from belief
        In-Reply-To: <20100614052837.F1ADF5BF16 at woodward.joyent.us>

Den 14. juni. 2010 kl. 07.28 skrev Humanist Discussion Group:

>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 110.
>         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>        Date: Sun, 13 Jun 2010 16:29:00 -0400 (EDT)
>        From: lachance at chass.utoronto.ca
>        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.96 knowledge from belief
>        In-Reply-To: <20100610052252.644B15D776 at woodward.joyent.us>
> Øyvind,
> You asked:
>> At what level do you mean? The level of sound of a voice or the marks
>> on paper or screen representing letters? On the level of  
>> understanding
>> words in the text ("London", "the other side of the river") in a
>> geometric way? Or something else?
> Since I had in mind the work of Jean Petitot, (Morphogenèse du Sens,  
> 1985
> ; trans. Morphogenesis of Meaning, 2003), I intended to encompass  
> research
> at the phonological, orthographic and semantic aspects of verbal  
> artefacts
> as well as aspects of non-verbal artefacts.  In a sense I see the  
> modeling
> offered by catastrophe theory and the topologies it explores as rich  
> in
> possibilities fro they can account for traversal of the textual  
> object by
> an interpreter.
> For short overview of Petitot's work see the online lectures by  
> Franson D
> Manjali housed at
> http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/epc/srb/cyber/manout.html
> Jerome McGann in "Marking Texts of Many Dimensions" (2004) devotes  
> some
> space to the topological work of Rene Thom [suggestively marked as  
> "Thorn"
> throughout the online version] and how it can be linked to  
> autopoiesis.
> McGann concludes: "Imagined as applied to textual autopoiesis, a
> toplogocial approach carries itself past an analytic description or
> prediction over to a form of demonstration or enactment."
> In short, a consideration of geometry could lead to a greater  
> appreciation
> for the dynamic nature of textual instances. The traversal of any  
> given
> textual instance produces an object held in memory and that object  
> changes
> shape as decisions are made along the traversal.
> Some might consider such ventures as abstracting from the textual
> instance, as straying into another sphere. I have a partial answer.  
> Some
> time ago (in the mid 90s)  in a different context, I wrote  
> "Abstraction
> makes possible the synonymity between structure and syntax.  
> Abstraction
> also enables the comparison of discursive formations including those  
> of
> mathematics and semiotics. [...] Within an idiom of algebraic  
> structure,
> logical formalization is not so far away from topological  
> schematization."
> http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance/S4.HTM
> I dream of a mature humanities computing where comparisons are  
> facilitated
> by the ease with which mathematical modeling can be accomplished both
> within any given textual instance and across instances. And that the
> comparisons not be limited to verbal artefacts alone but also  
> encompass
> inter-media relations.

Thank you for this short, but clarifying introduction! I will have to  
study it and the references in more detail to find out if this is  
something I will go deeper into.

What you say is indeed quite abstract, but also connects to something  
much more concrete, the actual storage and use in the human mind of  
what you above call the object produced by a traversal of a textual  
instance. I will go in that direction for a few sentences.

Have you made any attempts to connect to research in neuroscience, or  
heard of such attempts? One example of neuroscience that may be  
relevant is the Moser Group, claiming to have provided "some of the  
most important insights so far into how spatial location and spatial  
memory are computed in the brain." [1]

This is an area where many of us face a major problem with cross- 
disciplinary work; I have no training in biology myself, so everything  
has to be based on either popular presentations or a quite limited  
understanding of research articles. As I understand their research  
there are grids of neurones representing landmarks in relation to a  
place you (well, really, a rat friend of yours) are at or remember, as  
well as the orientation you have: grid cells, place cells, head- 
direction cells, and border cells are the key computational units of  
this network. Move around, turn around; different neurones fire.

Then there is the question of geometry as an object of textual  
reference on one hand (e.g. travel narrative) and geometry as a  
"modelling system" on the other. Given that grids of neurones in the  
brain are used for spatial information management: Is the system for  
storing abstract information that can be modelled in a spatial way  
(such as networks of friends) stored the same way? Or will that depend  
on which metaphors the person thinking about this uses? I do not have  
any idea about the answer to this, but it should --- at least  
partially --- be an empirical question. Has anyone seen any links to  
neuroscience in this area?

[1] A presentation of the Moser Group: http://www.ntnu.no/cbm/moser



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