[Humanist] 27.717 reparations? relations?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Jan 19 11:49:31 CET 2014


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 717.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (25)
        Subject: stages in disciplinary development

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (31)
        Subject: instrumental reparations


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sat, 18 Jan 2014 13:01:53 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: stages in disciplinary development


Allow me to share with you the following from Michael Oakeshott's "The
activity of being an historian" (1962) -- because it states simply and 
clearly where I think we may now be with this discipline of ours:

> ... a direction of attention, as it is pursued, may hollow out a
> character for itself and become specified in a 'practice'; and a
> participant in the activity comes to be recognized not by the results
> he achieves but by his disposition to observe the manners of the
> 'practice'. Moreover, when an activity has acquired a certain
> firmness of character, it may present itself as a puzzle, and thus
> provoke reflection; for, there may come a point at which we not only
> wish to acquire and exercise the skill which constitutes the
> activity but may wish also to discern the logic of the relation of
> this activity (as it has come to be specified) to others and to
> ascertain its place on the map of human activity.

What, do you suppose, is the logic of the relation of our activity to 
others in the humanities and beyond? Where are we on the map of 
human activity? Or is the mapping metaphor quite wrong because it 
introduces the constraints of geographical space?

Comments?

Yours,
WM

-----
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


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sat, 18 Jan 2014 16:23:38 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: instrumental reparations

The argument that technologies extend human abilities, as they seem so 
clearly to do, we more or less take for granted. This leads to the idea 
of the enhanced, super-human cyborgian, and so to the implication that 
as we are biologically we are really rather pitiful -- a technologically 
unclothed poor forked creature. It is interesting to note, however, that 
in the minds of 17C scientists the new technologies were prosthetic in 
the proper sense, offering restoration of what had been lost. Thus 
Robert Hooke, in the Preface to Micrographia (1665, in the Internet 
Archive):

> By the addition of such artificial Instruments and methods, there may
> be, in some manner, a reparation made for the mischiefs, and
> imperfection, mankind has drawn upon it self, by negligence, and
> intemperance, and a wilful and superstitious deserting the Precepts
> and Rules of Nature, whereby every man, both from a deriv'd
> corruption, innate and born with him, and from his breeding and
> converse with men, is very subject to slip into all sorts of errors.

The difference this change of perspective makes is worth contemplating: 
not getting beyond our inferior natural state, about which we can do 
nothing except become something else, but recovering to some degree that 
which we have lost. The belief in the Fall of Man that Hooke would have 
taken for granted can no longer be assumed, but this does shift the 
burden of proof: you would already know thus-and-such that computing 
shows us were you not so [add your favourite derogatory adjective 
indicating a mental failing]. Of course one has to be cautious here. 
Bacon wrote with strength against "the sciences that one would" be true.

Yours,
WM

-- 
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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