[Humanist] 31.212 mathematical knowledge in the humanities? psychology of modelling?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Jul 28 07:29:05 CEST 2017


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 31, No. 212.
            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>          (35)
        Subject: psychology of modelling?

  [2]   From:    Paul Fishwick <metaphorz at gmail.com>                       (91)
        Subject: 31.126 unrecognised


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2017 06:59:32 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: psychology of modelling?


In an address to the Mathematical and Physical sections of the British 
Association for the Advancement of Science in 1870, the natural 
philosopher James Clerk Maxwell, after acknowledging his debt to his 
predecessors, asked the following question:

> But who will lead me into that still more hidden and dimmer region
> where Thought weds Fact, where the mental operation of the
> mathematician and the physical action of the molecules are seen in
> their true relation? Does not the way to it pass through the very den
> of the metaphysician, strewed with the remains of former explorers,
> and abhorred by every man of science?
(Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell, ed. Niven, vol. 2, p. 216)

He then turned to less metaphysical matters. In 1948 the 
neuropsychologist and chair of the Macy Conferences on cybernetics, 
Warren McCulloch commented,

> The reason for his failure was simply that his physics was not
> adequate to the problem that he had undertaken. That has so regularly
> been the shortcoming of scientists who would have approached this
> problem, that even Clerk Maxwell, who wanted nothing more than to know
> the relation between thoughts and the molecular motions of the brain,
> cut short his query....
("Through the Den of the Metaphysician", British Journal for the 
Philosophy of Science 5.17 (1954): 18)

But, with even more adequate physics than McCulloch knew,  the question 
still hangs temptingly in the air. As far as we are concerned, let me ask 
another version of Clerk Maxwell's question: in attempting to understand 
the operations of modelling, who has led us closer, not to a molecular 
understanding of it but to its cognitive psychology? Is there work in 
the psychology of discovery that would help us?

Yours,
WM

-- 
Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney
University and North Carolina State University; Editor,
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20)


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2017 10:49:38 -0500
        From: Paul Fishwick <metaphorz at gmail.com>
        Subject: 31.126 unrecognised


Dear Willard

To what extent is the digital humanities a creative investigation on how mathematics can
be included in the humanities? Moretti’s book takes this issue and puts it on the front cover:
Graphs, Maps, and Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History. Moretti is essentially
creating an interpretation of the humanities which is guided partially by inclusion of
mathematical thought. The tools employed by digital humanists can be viewed as applied
mathematics underneath the layers of software and user interfaces. To see this, we need to
move beyond the “tool fallacy” (that digital humanities is only about enhancing the
humanities through digital tools). Behind the tool, we find mathematics and it seeps out.
Jumping to your last paragraph, I completely agree - there is far too little acknowledgment
of a true interaction. For example, consider Moretti’s thesis. Maybe we can embark on
a new education on abstract mathematical structures (e.g., trees) within the humanities?
The humanities becomes a natural gateway for such exposition. Isn’t that what is really
going on in the digital humanities, and not just a tool fetish.

-paul



Paul Fishwick, PhD
Distinguished University Chair of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication
Professor of Computer Science
Director, Creative Automata Laboratory
The University of Texas at Dallas
Arts & Technology
800 West Campbell Road, AT10
Richardson, TX 75080-3021
Home: utdallas.edu/atec/fishwick
Blog 1: medium.com/@metaphorz



> On Jun 23, 2017, at 12:56 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.ukwrote:
> 
>                Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 31, No. 126.
>           Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                      www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>               Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> 
> 
> 
>       Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2017 14:04:26 +0100
>       From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>       Subject: powerful without being mentioned
> 
> 
> In "The idea of mathematical models and modelling in 20th century" [1], 
> Tinne Hoff Kjeldsen writes: "it seems to be the case that as 
> mathematics becomes more important its role seems to become less visible 
> -- a point that is reflected in the recent EU policy for research and 
> innovation, Horizon 2020. Mathematics and mathematical modelling will be 
> a key component of many of the areas of expertise in the call, though 
> without being mentioned explicitly." (p. 672) The same, I expect, is 
> true of digital analytics, simulation, visualisation and other methods 
> cultivated in digital humanities. 
> 
> We have much less cause to be wary of the mathematical skills in 
> the kinds of work addressed. For one thing no one has any problem 
> recognising mathematics as an equal nor with institutional provision of
> the means to gain its skills. But digital humanities is another matter.
> 
> Kjeldsen writes in the context of the workshop in which his talk was given, 
> "From 'Mixed' to 'Applied' Mathematics: Tracing an important dimension 
> of mathematics and its history" [*]. This workshop attests, the organizers 
> say, to the fact that,
> 
>> we have to deal with a field of interactions of the production of
>> mathematical knowledge with a large and variable number of
>> scientific, technological and social areas beyond the core
>> disciplines of 'pure' mathematics... Moreover, the very notion of the
>> 'application' of ready-made mathematical methods and knowledge to
>> extra-mathematical domains is problematic; in fact in many cases
>> mathematical methods emerged from interactions with such domains,
>> thereby changing and challenging the existing ideas about
>> mathematics.
> 
> Note especially: "mathematical methods emerged from interactions with 
> such domains". The common term in digital humanities, 'application', 
> is just as problematic for the reason given -- it is one-way, 
> service-orientated rather than collegial. The creativity in the interaction 
> goes largely unrecognised.
> 
> Comments?
> 
> Yours,
> WM
> -----
> 
> [*] Report to the Mathematisches Forschungsinstitut Oberwolfach on the 
> outcome of its workshop; see https://www.mfo.de/occasion/1310/www_view
> 
> -- 
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
> Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney
> University and North Carolina State University; Editor,
> Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20)





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