[Humanist] 27.838 Busa and Cage -- and Gardin

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Mar 3 09:52:31 CET 2014

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 838.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Thomas.Gloning at germanistik.uni-giessen.de                 (29)
        Subject: Busa and Cage -- and Gardin, and Barcelo

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>         (145)
        Subject: Gardin's logicist programme

        Date: Sun, 02 Mar 2014 19:03:52 +0100
        From: Thomas.Gloning at germanistik.uni-giessen.de
        Subject: Busa and Cage -- and Gardin, and Barcelo
        In-Reply-To: <mailman.3.1393758002.9591.humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org>

(Manfred Thaller:)
> while I am unfortunately not able to find the precise quotation ...

Could it be this passage:

<< ... My position then, unchanged to this day, was that our primary  
concern should be the study of mental processes at work in  
archaeological reasoning, with a view to making them amenable to  
machine handling in a Turing sense ? that is, with or without  
computers. In other words, the goal was not primarily to introduce new  
information technology in our discipline, but rather to gain a better  
control of archaeological reasoning per se, through some kind of  
formalization (rather than mechanization) ... >>

It comes from Gardin's article in Semiotica 77-1/3 (1989) 5-26. At the  
beginning of this article, Gardin gives a short autobiographical  
sketch of the early years 1955 ss. ("'Semiotics and Computers': The  
early years").

The basic idea, that formal/computational treatment contributes to  
rigour in a discipline, has its parallels, and Gardin alludes to some  
of them.

As an aside: here is another early article in the tradition of the  
"mécanographie", mentioned by Gardin:

Daumard, Adeline/ Furet, François: Méthodes de l'histoire sociale. Les  
Archives notariales et la mécanographie. In: Annales E.S.C., 14 (1959)  
676-693.  http://www.jstor.org/stable/27580055 

The Gardin/Garelli article is also in Jstor:

Gardin, Jean-Claude/ Garelli, Paul: ɉtude des établissements assyriens  
en Cappadoce par ordinateurs. In: Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales  
16/5 (1961) 837-876.  http://www.jstor.org/stable/27575653 

All best,

        Date: Mon, 03 Mar 2014 08:44:07 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: Gardin's logicist programme
        In-Reply-To: <mailman.3.1393758002.9591.humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org>

Thanks to Manfred Thaller for reminding us of the work of Jean-Claude 
Gardin. Years ago I summarized what I understood Gardin's argument to 
be; see (a) below. At the time my chief sources for his ideas in English 
were two:

(1) "On the Way We Think and Write in the Humanities: A Computational 
Perspective",  in Ian Lancashire, ed., Research in Humanities Computing 
1: Selected Papers from the ALLC/ACH Conference, Toronto, June 1989 
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991): 337-45. Gardin's abstract from the 
Conference Guide follows as (b).

(2) "Interpretation in the Humanities: Some Thoughts on the Third Way", 
in Interpretation in the Humanities: Perspectives from Artificial 
Intelligence, ed. Richard Ennals and Jean-Claude Gardin. London: British 
Library, 1990: 22-59. Ennals deals with Gardin's argument in Chapter 2 
of Artificial Intelligence and Human Institutions (Springer Verlag 1991).

It would be good to have further discussion of his ideas.


(a) Humanities Computing (2005), 193f

> The logicist programme of Gardin... has since 1980 sought
> to reconstruct processes of reasoning in the humane sciences by
> comparing the structures to which their argumentation is actually
> reducible by logical methods to the output of expert systems that
> embed the structures these arguments are supposed to follow. It is,
> in other words, a study of disciplinary rhetoric with two results:
> appraisal of this rhetoric and, by implication, recovery of the steps
> taken in the discovery phase of the research but omitted from the
> final argument. His programme aims to explore, as he says, ‘where the
> frontier lies between that part of our interpretive constructs which
> follows the principles of scientific reasoning and another part which
> ignores or rejects themÂ’ (1990: 26). It is the opposite of modelling
> in my sense in that it privileges the logical schema rather than
> imperfectly articulated knowledge, but the point here is his use of
> basic computer science to illuminate how we know (or not) what we say
> we know.

(b) Ian Lancashire, ed., The Dynamic Text: Conference Guide (5-10 June 1989)

> Jean-Claude Gardin (CNRS, Paris), "On the Way We Think and Write in
> the Humanities: A Computational Perspective"
> The picture that emerges from the literature on computers in the
> humanities is that the present patterns of education and research are
> bound to change as new information techniques (IT) are introduced in
> the disciplines encompassed by that name. The emphasis, however,
> seems to be more readily laid on institutional consequences rather
> than on the evolution of historical or literary analysis itself. The
> goal of the present paper is to restore some balance between these
> two aspects by examining the probable effects of the spread of IT on
> the substance and form of intellectual constructs in the humanities.
> The current view is that the objects or phenomena studied in the
> human world are different in essence from the objects or phenomena of
> nature; it is then argued that the game of science does not have the
> same purport in the humanities as it has in the physical and
> biological sciences. The position taken here is that, if such is the
> case, it is incumbent upon the humanities as a "distinct" science to
> define its own, alternative ways of reasoning. It so happens that the
> information technology imposes the same requirement as we tend to use
> it on ever higher levels of thought, beyond the sorting and counting
> operations which were our major concern in the early decades of the
> computing era.
> In the first part of this presentation, I shall try to demonstrate
> this convergence between age-old epistemological issues hitherto left
> to philosophers of science and emerging problems of more practical
> import, related to the growth of IT in the humanities. More
> specifically, we shall address ourselves to the philosophy of expert
> systems, in order to stress the following points: (i) the formulation
> of rules of reasoning is here essential, in whichever form we chose
> to express them; (ii) this requirement does not disappear with the
> introduction of parallel processing techniques; (iii) it applies to
> the humanities in the same way as to the many sectors of science and
> technology where expert systems have first been developed; (iv) the
> standard dichotomy between the human and the natural sciences, from
> an operational viewpoint, thus tends to be blurred, (v) unless
> defined in new terms by underlining differences either in the
> substance of the rules or in the conditions of their use, as one
> moves from Matter to Man, Nature to Culture, etc.
> The following part of the paper will take up this last point, on the
> basis of a number of case studies carried out in my own field,
> archaeology. Their common goal is to elicit the logic (in a loose
> sense of the term) that underlies the discursive practices observed
> in the archaeological literature, in order to link observations to
> conclusions or, conversely, hypotheses to facts. Logicist
> schematizations of interpretive constructs have been proposed to that
> end, which provide materials for the formulation of possible rules of
> inference in computerized knowledge bases. The application of those
> rules to new data, in a mechanistic fashion, is a way to assess the
> range of their validity.
> The outcome of such experiments merely confirms everyone's
> expectations, namely that we have very few rules of reasoning to go
> by, strictly speaking, in the humanities. More precisely, the logic
> of the argument that is supposed to legitimate the transition from a
> set of proposition p to another set q, seems to call for such a wide
> range of criteria, explicit or implicit (context, common sense,
> creeds, etc.: the so-called 'C-factors') that it does not allow us to
> decide between ' ' alternative interpretations of the same objects of
> study (archaeological assemblages, historical sources, literary
> works, etc.). This is no surprise, given the title of this conference
> ("The Dynamic ~ext"). Yet, the mere fact of bringing out ambiguities
> of this sort (p--> ql OR q2 OR q3 ... OR qn), in the structure of
> actual knowledge bases, is enough to provoke heated discussions,
> along the following lines.
> The stands taken with respect to multi-interpretation in the
> humanities may be grouped in three broad classes. (1) The so-called
> positivist attitude consists in regarding multivocal inferences, at
> this atomistic level, as a provisional state of knowledge, subject to
> progress. The word 'progress' is given a very concrete meaning:
> C-factors have to be sought and added to the left part of our
> provisional re-write formulas in order to give birth to rules,
> however 'local' (in many senses of the word). (2) The so-called
> post-modern position, conversely, is that multi-interpretation is the
> normal state of affairs in the humanities, fully compatible, however,
> with the status of the latter as a science in its own right. (3) The
> third line of thought is in some way a logical consequence of that
> position: essentially, it consists in trying to elucidate the
> difference between scientific or scholarly constructs in the
> preceding sense, associated with hermeneutics, and anyone's theories
> about similar things, outside academia. In other words, granted that
> interpretation processes in the humanities are "distinct" both from
> the constrained ways of the natural sciences and from the unbounded
> ways of literature or art, we are still left with open questions
> regarding what those processes are, in actual practice.
> The final part of the paper presents arguments in favor of the third
> position. One of them is a de facto argument: questions are being
> raised with increasing vigor, both within academia and 'outside',
> regarding the foundations of interpretive constructs in the
> humanities. This new concern is an aspect of the cognitive
> revolution, in which artificial intelligence and expert systems play
> a part, though not necessarily the major one. Possible answers to
> those questions will be reviewed in the conclusion. Some of them
> imply substantial changes in our understanding of historical and
> literary constructs, as regards both the rhetorical and the
> theoretical requirements that constructs may be called upon to meet,
> in the future, so as to strengthen their epistemological status.
> C.N.R.S. 23, rue du Maroc F. 75019 Paris France

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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