[Humanist] 23.154 experimental resonant thinking

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Jul 13 07:16:31 CEST 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 154.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sun, 12 Jul 2009 07:09:15 -0500
        From: Charles Ess <cmess at drury.edu>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.153 experimental resonant thinking?
        In-Reply-To: <20090711082103.7DECA3274B at woodward.joyent.us>

Hi Willard, colleagues -
as always, enjoying reading your musings and very much appreciate the many
insights you pass along.

one quick comment re.

> The first is on the need for an "experimental philosophy", that is, a
> philosophy which works through and with experimental procedures, rather
> than (as he sees it) from a priori non-tautological statements. In 1943,
> he saw this style of philosophy emerging; whether philosophers now would
> recognize his description of it as conforming to what they do I'll leave
> to anyone here who can speak to the point. It would seem to me that much
> of what Hacking does is in this style, but again I'll call on a proper
> philospher to say. Anyhow, Craik argues the need for this philosophy
> based on experimental problems alive at the time, still alive now, that
> simply cannot be tackled within single disciplines. The kind that
> concern him lie between psychology and physiology, but the kind we deal
> with in the digital humanities certainly qualify as well, though we must
> struggle to get recognition for them in this light.
As I suspect at least some HUMANIST readers are aware, this is more or less
the notion of philosophy endorsed by at least many of the philosophers
involved in what were originally the Computing and Philosophy (CAP)
conferences in the United States, starting in 1986 - a movement of sorts
that defines itself in terms of "the computational turn." I've described
this briefly as "referring to ways in which computing technologies have
given philosophers new kinds of laboratories for testing and refining
classical debates and hypotheses" (Ess, "'Revolution? What Revolution?'
Successes and Limits of Computing Technologies in Philosophy and Religion,"
in Susan Schreibman, Raymond George Siemens, John M. Unsworth (eds.), A
Companion to Digital Humanities (Wiley-Blackwell, 2004), p. 133).
For a somewhat more extensive overview, see Jon Dorbolo's "Distributing the
Computational Turn," APA Newsletter on Philosophy and Computers, Fall, 2000:
 http://www.apaonline.org/publications/newsletters/v00n1_Computers_13.aspx .

Nicely enough, CAP has grown into IACAP - the International Association of
Computing and Philosophy, which sponsors a lively and productive series of
conferences in North America, Europe and Asia, with plans for additional
conferences still elsewhere in the world, as the global growth and diffusion
of ICTs thereby brings more and more philosophical traditions from around
the world within these computational spheres of influence.

A listing of conference topics might be useful:

Artificial Intelligence / Cognitive Science
Artificial Life / Computer Modeling in Biology
Information and Computer Ethics
Computer-Mediated Communication
Culture and Society
Distance Education and Electronic Pedagogy
Electronic Publishing
Metaphysics (Distributed Processing, Emergent Properties, Formal Ontology,
Network Structures, etc.)
Online Resources for Philosophy
Philosophy of Information
Philosophy of Information Technology
Virtual Reality

(see  http://www.ia-cap.org  and related pages)

"One of these days" - I think it would be instructive and fruitful for us to
attempt to map out the epistemological and disciplinary territories and
domains that make up "digital humanities," on the one hand, and the various
philosophical topoi and approaches characteristic of IACAP, on the other.
As I read Willard and occasionally other philosophically-minded contributors
on this list, it is clear that there are important points in common,
parallel and occasionally resonant interests, as well as important (but
perhaps complimentary) differences.

That is, while I'm sure there's some overlap between the membership of
HUMANIST and the other mailing lists IACAP philosophers are likely to
participate in - I've largely had the impression that the two domains are
largely separate, the equivalent of two philosophical ships passing in the
night, disconnected except for the occasional ship-to-ship transmission.
Stated positively, so it seems to me that there is considerable room for
more explicit dialogue and discussion between our otherwise largely separate

Maybe a joint conference one of these days?

In all events, continued gratitude to Willard and his cohorts who
consistently throw out such interesting and suggestive philosophical

Charles Ess
Distinguished Research Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies
Drury University, Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA

Professor MSO (med særlige opgaver), 2009-2012
Department of Information and Media Studies
Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

President, Association of Internet Researchers
Co-editor, International Journal of Internet Research Ethics
Co-chair, CATaC conferences <www.catacconference.org>

Exemplary persons seek harmony, not sameness. -- Analects 13.23

More information about the Humanist mailing list