[Humanist] 27.962 humanities

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Apr 12 09:25:32 CEST 2014

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 962.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 11 Apr 2014 07:50:08 +0000
        From: "Bod, Rens" <L.W.M.Bod at uva.nl>
        Subject: RE:  27.958 humanities
        In-Reply-To: <20140411072045.5FEDD656B at digitalhumanities.org>

Paolo Rocchi wrote:

>> Not only humanities are essential to modern culture but are essential to science itself.
>> I'm striving to show how some linguistic concepts (that is to say, basically humanist 
>> notions) can clarify the principles of computer science.

The influence of linguistic concepts on computer science has been well documented. For instance, when in the late 1950s linguists like Noam Chomsky developed a notation for defining grammars, it was taken up by computer scientists such as John Backus who applied this notation to designing programming languages. Chomsky’s syntactic definition of a language served as the pattern for the structure of the whole compiler for ALGOL — the first higher programming language. 

And there is more: e.g. when the 19th-century philologist Karl Lachmann used the model of a tree of texts with a common root for his textual reconstructions, he gave biologists a powerful method for describing zoological phylogenies. 

And there is even more, for an overview see https://blog.oup.com/2014/02/how-the-humanities-changed-the-world/

All best,


Prof dr Rens Bod, Chair of Computational and Digital Humanities
Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, University of Amsterdam
Visiting Address: Science Park 105, Room F.204, Amsterdam, NL
Postal Address: P.O. Box 94242, 1090 GE Amsterdam, NL
phone: +31 20 5256086 or +31 20 5256051
homepage | weblog | twitter
NEW OUP BOOK: A New History of the Humanities

        Date: Thu, 10 Apr 2014 09:45:58 +0000
        From: ROCCHI PAOLO <procchi at luiss.it>
        Subject: RE:  27.954 humanities
        In-Reply-To: <20140410092239.EB99E66AD at digitalhumanities.org>

I agree with the Barzun's work quoted by William.
Not only humanities are essential to modern culture but are essential to science itself.
I'm striving to show how some linguistic concepts (that is to say, basically humanist notions) can clarify the principles of computer science.
They operate like a key that opens a complicated lock.

Paolo Rocchi

Docent Emeritus
via Shangai 53, 00144 Roma

Contract Professor
LUISS University
via Salvini 2, 00197 Roma

        Date: Thu, 10 Apr 2014 16:45:33 +0200
        From: maurizio lana <maurizio.lana at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 27.954 humanities
        In-Reply-To: <20140410092239.EB99E66AD at digitalhumanities.org>

Il 10/04/14 11:22, chris meister ha scritto:
>>the single biggest "PR handicap" is that most of our disciplines
>>invest next to no effort into defining their future purpose.

probably, simply "the single biggest handicap". i see it operating when we
'humanists' cannot identify a single productive, commercial use of our

don't blame me as if i was thinking only in terms of money:  this is only
the immediate consequence of playing only at the level of principles,
culture, educational needs, and so on. culture in broad sense can produce
economical value, but we are shy of it as if it was a route to lose our

we prefer to remain in our rooms while the world is struggling outside.maurizio

Maurizio Lana - ricercatore
Università  del Piemonte Orientale, Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici
piazza Roma 36 - 13100 Vercelli
tel. +39 347 7370925

        Date: Thu, 10 Apr 2014 12:39:52 -0400
        From: Wendell Piez <wapiez at wendellpiez.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 27.954 humanities
        In-Reply-To: <20140410092239.EB99E66AD at digitalhumanities.org>

Dear Willard, Martin, Manfred and HUMANIST,

Respectfully, I think Prof Mueller may agree with Prof Thaller more
than he says.

The forces of know-nothingism to which Prof Mueller refers are closely
aligned with the nationalistic mode of the (sort of pseudo-)
"humanism" to which Prof Thaller has insightfully referred, aren't
they? The program to use the "study" of history and culture to
valorize and magnify nation and tribe? This is only one step away from
proclaiming superiority and exceptionalism without any appeal to
history at all, for nothing but the (supposed) vindication of it. To
the extent that we have joined or even compromised with the
prosecutors of these agendas (whatever their reasons or motives), we
humanists have been our own worst enemies, building our houses on

Similarly, the budget pressures that reflect reductive, short-term
"value propositions" are essentially an expression of fear and
loathing, not only (this time) of the other, but also of one's own
potential to be other, and better, than one is. "Culture and
civilization are all very fine, but we can't afford them." Of course,
this is both a rejection of our inheritance of freedom, and a
self-fulfilling prophecy. It achieves beggary in its proclamation of
it. Prof Thaller's word for this was "niggardliness". (It's
unfortunate, if understandable, that this word is now unusable in my
country due to its echo of another word fraught with painful history.)

Prof Mueller is correct to observe that "It is easier to see what is
going on, harder to figure out how to change it", and the reason is
simple: the sewers polluting both of these stinking swamps are in our
own hearts as well as those of our fellow citizens. Changing this
requires seeing clearly and speaking truly, but also faith in
ourselves and each other.

With best regards as always,

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