[Humanist] 27.647 disciplinary labels

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Dec 23 10:21:36 CET 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 647.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 23 Dec 2013 09:09:38 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: disciplinary labels

In "Technology is not the problem", in Speaking Minds: Interviews with 
twenty eminent cognitive scientists, ed. Baumgartner and Pyer (Princeton 
1995), Herbert Simon's interviewer remarks that, "The word cognitive 
science exists in German, but there has been, until now, no established 
interdisciplinary research program behind [cognitive science]". Simon 

> There does not have to be a real thing for every noun -- take
> philosophy. The reason why the term cognitive science exists over
> here and why we have a society is that people found it convenient to
> have conversations across disciplinary boundaries: psychology,
> philosophy, linguistics, and Artificial Intelligence. A few
> anthropologists are wandering in now. Cognitive science is the place
> where they meet. It does not matter whether it is a discipline. It is
> not really a discipline yet. Whether cognitive science departments
> survive or whether people want to get their degrees in psychology and
> computer science remains to be seen. Here (at Carnegie-Mellon
> University) we decided that we will still give degrees in computer
> science and cognitive psychology, not in cognitive science. These are
> just labels for the fact that there is a lot of conversation across
> disciplines.  

The interviewer again: "In Europe, labels are treated like boundaries."


> We have this danger here, too. Nouns are tyrants. People think that if
> there is a noun, there must be an idea behind it. The world is much more
> fluid than that.
(p. 234)

Again, all the best for Christmas!


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Research Group in Digital
Humanities, University of Western Sydney

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