[Humanist] 30.160 theory

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Jul 12 07:20:40 CEST 2016


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 160.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org



        Date: Mon, 11 Jul 2016 12:46:26 +0000
        From: Benjamin Vis <B.N.Vis at kent.ac.uk>
        Subject: theory


Dear James,

I have a few comments on your clarifications, but I'll try to be brief.

In general, I'm not sure if I find behaviourism very helpful for looking at and comparing what the humanities typically do or don't. However, in archaeology, the 'ethological' approach is often unwittingly applied in data collection and analysis (despite interpretive claims). A lot of the humanities are definitely behavioural in outlook. After all, creativity is human behaviour resulting from a human context and a human past. Although I wouldn't necessarily turn entirely determinist (as in behaviourism), I suppose if there is such a thing as 'total' knowledge of the emergence of a creative event, then one could also argue creativity is necessarily deterministic. It all depends on what we place outside of the processes giving rise to the emergence of the phenomenon/output. In the end it depends on our stance towards human behaviour: do we look from the inside (as fellow human beings), or outside (as ethologists), do we find it all measurable chemistry, or merely something we order and approach systematically, etc.?

I'll say again, that I'm not particularly clear what 'humanities' are (as opposed to, say, social sciences), but it does seem to me that limiting it the study of creative works (and then, what qualifies?) is quite restrictive.

finally, I'm not sure whether the digital necessarily complicates considerations associated with doing theoretical, empirical, or interpretive work. To me it seems that the digital primarily hones in on questions about the nature of evidence and how to treat it. In that regard, if critically employed, it could sharpen our understanding of our own arguments. Isn't the basic opposition in interpretive work that of the empirical (evidence, including creative works) and the ideational (concepts and theory we have about empirical reality and its phenomena)? When humanities use computing, it is used on humanities evidence, so the question to ask is: is the shape in which computing is applied to my evidence right for the concepts/theory/hypotheses I have about the phenomenon this is evidence of? (Of course, there may also be humanities investigations on computing as a field, which is rather different.)

Benjamin
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Dr Benjamin N. Vis | +44 (0)1227 82 <+44%20(0)1227%2082%20> 6543 | https://kent.academia.edu/BenjaminVis |

School of European Culture & Languages | University of Kent |

Rutherford College W3.E7 | Canterbury CT2 7NX | UK |

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