[Humanist] 30.164 theory

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Jul 13 08:00:25 CEST 2016

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 164.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 12 Jul 2016 12:25:58 -0500
        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  30.160 theory
        In-Reply-To: <20160712052040.9F8C07B2D at digitalhumanities.org>

Thanks very much for your reply, Benjamin, and yes, any discussion
involving the word "humanities" will have to spend some time on a
definition of the term that will inevitably lead to an impasse. There's a
very good, though brief, selection of quotations on 4Humanities that may be


My impression is that the concept of the humanities developed out of the
traditional liberal arts to distinguish math and empirical science from
humanistic disciplines, a distinction which would of course pre-date the
rise of social science. Among these definitions, the humanities seem to
encompass a subset of sociological and psychological research but not
either of these entire disciplines: it may be better to say that humanities
study often relies on sociology and psychology (which brings us right back
to "literary theory" or "theory"), but not necessarily the other way
around. One phrase shared by the last two quotations is "the humanities and
social sciences," which simultaneously implies that they belong together
and yet are two different things.

I tend to prefer more limiting definitions than more extended ones as that
helps communication. Any study of a physical object can be considered
empirical research, but how many studies of the Mona Lisa are
experimentally replicable in terms of the object itself? Do we ever study
the Mona Lisa the way we study quasars or plant growth? Would we want to?

Jim R

More information about the Humanist mailing list