[Humanist] 27.264 enumeration and modelling

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Aug 5 23:09:17 CEST 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 264.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 06 Aug 2013 07:02:42 +1000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: enumeration

The philosopher Ian Hacking, continuing the work on psychodynamics 
published most prominently in Rewriting the Soul, has written an 
illuminating review of the 5th edition of DSM-5: Diagnostic and 
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric 
Association), in the London Review of Books 35.18 for 8 August 2013. 
See under http://www.lrb.co.uk/ (the review is freely available). His 
primary criticism of DSM-5 is that "it is founded on a wrong 
appreciation of the nature of things", based on "the long-standing idea 
that, in our present state of knowledge, the recognised varieties of 
mental illness should neatly sort themselves into tidy blocks, in the 
way that plants and animals do". He details what happens when a rigid 
scheme is imposed on a reality that does not fit it, not with the 
objective of trying out that scheme to learn more about the reality (as 
we do in computational modelling) but in order to serve a huge and 
expensive bureaucratic enterprise. The grass-roots human consequences of 
imposing a scheme that must be used in the funding of mental health-care 
in the U.S. are horrendous.

My interest here, which I recommend to your attention, is the craze for 
classificatory enumeration. Isn't it interesting that this should occur 
alongside -- I am *not* saying caused by -- the interpenetration of 
computing into all aspects of modern life? To me this suggests that one 
of the most important of our jobs as digital humanists is to make as 
clear as possible what modelling does, what it is for. Not answers but 
questions. Not toward the perfect fit but toward the telling misfit. 
What an amazingly difficult problem the psychiatrists have, dealing with 
a world in which the thing to be classified changes dynamically with the 
classificatory scheme. I think we have that problem at root in the 
dynamics of interpretation, but one step at a time.


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Research Group in Digital
Humanities, University of Western Sydney

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