[Humanist] 23.350 claiming interdisciplinarity

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Oct 6 10:37:24 CEST 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 350.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    "Michael S. Hart" <hart at pobox.com>                         (9)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.346 claiming interdisciplinarity

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (27)
        Subject: impossible!

        Date: Mon, 5 Oct 2009 05:18:20 -0700 (PDT)
        From: "Michael S. Hart" <hart at pobox.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.346 claiming interdisciplinarity
        In-Reply-To: <20091005051926.17AEB3BDD3 at woodward.joyent.us>

Marvin Minsky, sometimes regarded as the smartest person alive,
in the following quotation very solidly supports ideas/ideals a
person might well regard as "individual interdisciplnarity:"

"You don't understand anything
until you learn it more than one way."

Having only one point of view seems very narrow minded when
viewed in the context of those who have more than one.

There are plenty of examples available.

Michael S. Hart

        Date: Tue, 06 Oct 2009 09:35:05 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: impossible!
        In-Reply-To: <20091005051926.17AEB3BDD3 at woodward.joyent.us>

I confess to sadness but not surprise when someone in effect says, 
"achieving X is impossible, therefore we should not try". But I will 
even dispute that when X = interdisciplinary work, done by one person, 
it is impossible. As George Steiner is to his three principal languages 
(German, French, English) so are some with respect to disciplines. But 
my point really is, to follow the analogy, that just because your 
linguistic abilities are not up to Steiner's doesn't mean that learning 
German, say, is without merit. I know there are many here who will 
agree, even with some ferocity, about languages other than one's native 
tongue. My point really is, to reach for another, quite nearby analogy, 
that social anthropology is possible. We know from the writings of 
people like Geertz and Dening how difficult it is, but possible, and how 

I agree that we're each of us trapped to some degree inside our own 
skins. But as Geertz remarked that's where the social anthropology 
begins, at that boundary. We are trapped, perhaps, to some degree by our 
native discipline, but if reaching out is impossible, then there's no 
point whatever to doing what we do. That we in fact do it must then be 
some kind of cruel hoax.


Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.

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