[Humanist] 29.391 losing the humanities; network analysis of Plato's dialogues

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Oct 16 07:28:01 CEST 2015

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 391.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        From: Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 390.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Thu, 15 Oct 2015 07:43:46 +0000
        From: Joris van Zundert <joris.van.zundert at huygens.knaw.nl>
        Subject: Re:  29.386 losing the humanities; network analysis of Plato's dialogues
        In-Reply-To: <20151015062124.3EE9A6BA5 at digitalhumanities.org>

Dear Hartmut,

Okay, I'll take the bait…

Not long ago Willard lamented the politicized character of much academic
research. Although I agree with that sentiment, we cannot ignore the fact
that there exists a politics of academia—many kinds and directions
actually. And although I see the good intent of what you are suggesting in
creating a new epistemological platform for employed and unemployed
scholars both, such a move has severe political side effects, even if
politics were not intended.

For what you present as a possible solution actually adds up to
institutionalizing unpayed labor. The explicit message you are sending to
unemployed colleagues is: indeed, your labor has no value that we will
balance with the one generally accepted crude facility we have for that,
finance. Moreover, we would be acknowledging to all funding bodies, policy
makers, and colleagues in other domains far keener at the funding game:
these humanists can do plenty without rewards; great that they love what
they're doing for free; more mo for the rest of us!

Free academic labor is a symptom, not a solution—until those times we find
better ways than rewarding labor via a monetary system.

I know, all too easy to say on a steady contract, all too easily said by
one who himself is also looking into crowdsourcing. Still, accepting
voluntary labor in an unemployed situation is ingesting poison in the hope
it will cure you. And I'm too much of a scientistic scholar to believe in


On Thu, Oct 15, 2015 at 8:21 AM Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 386.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Date: Wed, 14 Oct 2015 17:00:49 +0200
>         From: "Dr. Hartmut Krech" <kr538 at zfn.uni-bremen.de>
>         Subject: Re: [Humanist] 29.364 losing the humanities
>         In-Reply-To: <20151009054813.8FDC36B2D at digitalhumanities.org>
> Dear Willard and all,
> I would like to add a few lines to the depressing
> statistical results that I communicated in an earlier
> posting (please see 29.340) that much less than 20% of those
> students who had once enrolled in a course of language and
> culture studies (the humanities) in Germany will eventually
> find employment in a job somehow related to their studies.
> The conclusion is short-circuited, but understandable, when
> administrators, and not only austerity-minded ones, point to
> the obvious fact that these studies fail their proclaimed
> targets. Is this really so?
> James Rovira makes the important point (29.333) that a good
> basic education in the Liberal Arts, which "historically"
> have awarded "management degrees", will qualify to cope with
> whatever technological advances may happen to come about in
> the students' later professional life: "I advise my students
> to get a degree in whatever area they love." While that is a
> very reasonable and student-friendly solution, it helps to
> diminish the value of the humanities when any university
> subject, no matter which, will do the job. Quite clearly, an
> important aspect of a good Liberal Arts education is not
> only the students' personality formation. It should rest
> upon a fully developed idea of one's own identity so that
> society at large will become capable to adapt to new
> challenges through institutions that it had decided to fund
> over the years. It is true that there are several odd fields
> of instruction that reflect and keep alive historical
> constellations that may impede, rather than ease the
> understanding of a current situation.
> In his publications, Rens Bod has shown (29.333) that the
> humanities have an intrinsic value of their own which may
> equal that of the natural sciences (a difference in subject,
> not in methodology, I would postulate from history). One may
> not only wonder how it came about that so many inventions in
> the natural sciences were made by Germans in the long 19th
> century, although they had benefited from a neohumanistic
> education in the classical languages, as Peter Watson has
> noted in his highly readable "The German Genius". There is a
> materiality of the humanities on the level of social
> practice which Rens may have in mind. Philosophers may not
> be able to construct an aeroplane that would ever leave the
> ground, but potentially they may be able to devise a way of
> thinking and arguing that will prevent wars and better the
> human condition.
> We must not overlook that the number of those who have not
> found permanent employment in academia for themselves will
> most likely increase. Several reasons contribute to this
> lamentable fact, and most of those are nothing we can be
> proud of, given the sociological insight we should have in
> the 21st century. Several months ago, I asked this list for
> the name of the unknown author of a definition of the
> humanities I had read that the humanities first and foremost
> are the community of humanists involved. I still hold this
> statement to be true. In a private discussion with Eleanor
> Dickey of Reading University who had raised her voice for
> the increasing number of unemployed PhDs in the classics
> (please see 28.123), I have asked if it is time for the
> foundation of a Globalversity that would integrate and link
> up unemployed, independent scholars. While this may raise
> the quality of the over-all achievements, it will very
> certainly prevent narrow-mindedness and injustice. In this
> age, the perspective from within one single culture, not to
> speak of a sub-culture within an enclosing culture, is
> narrow-minded by definition. We are in need of wider
> perspectives, not necessarily by analogy or polarity, and a
> first step could be to involve and engage more scholars who
> have no other choice than to be independent.
> Best,
> Hartmut
> http://ww3.de/krech
> Am 09.10.2015 um 07:48 schrieb Humanist Discussion Group:
> >                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 364.
> >              Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
> >                         www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
> >                  Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> >
> >
> >
> >          Date: Thu, 8 Oct 2015 09:20:32 -0400
> >          From: Wendell Piez <wapiez at wendellpiez.com>
> >          Subject: Re: [Humanist] 29.354 losing the humanities: not at
> Tokyo!
> >          In-Reply-To: <20151006065333.876F06A1E at digitalhumanities.org>
> >
> >
> > Dear Willard and HUMANIST,
> >
> > It gratifies me more than I deserve to see the considered opinions of
> > everyone who has written to this thread -- which is not to exclude
> > those who have only read and pondered, which itself (I try and remind
> > myself) is more than I am due. :-)
> >
> > To Rens Bod I would suggest he puts his finger on it when he takes up
> > my suggestion that the humanities have no "guarantee of return". He
> > points to ample evidence that investment in education in the
> > humanities pays for itself many times over. I believe it. Yet I hold
> > to the idea that it is in refusing the guarantee -- not in refusing
> > the return -- that the humanities make themselves distinctive.
> >
> > Indeed I am very sympathetic to the notion that there is and should be
> > a humanistic medicine, humanistic law, humanistic engineering -- name
> > your three hot topics, I dunno, robotics, biotechnology, app
> > development. This sort of medicine, law, building or business would be
> > practiced not only for the supposed promises and gains of these
> > professions, but also in service of advance and development in other
> > (perhaps not "accountable") ways, perhaps sometimes having to do with
> > connection and curiosity.
> >
> > Of course I recognize that this definition of "humanities as
> > disciplines that make no promises", however serviceable as a
> > counter-object for thinking, really has little to do with the real
> > world of humanities disciplines or especially departments, as we
> > actually find them. There is a gap here, which will be filled by
> > ideology if it is filled with nothing else; that is, there is a
> > question of value. As has been pointed out, part of the problem is the
> > muteness of the humanities in the face of a discourse that has already
> > prejudiced the question of value, casting it into its own distorted
> > form -- the form of a uniform and intolerant society, which finds
> > curiosity and questioning to be threatening, where the books are
> > balanced (or at least well-cooked), and where every transaction comes
> > out zero sum.
> >
> > However the point of the humanities as I understand them (if there can
> > be a point to something with no guarantee of return) is not to avoid
> > questions of value or find ways of deferring them, but to pose them
> > directly and deliberately, in view of the actual world we live in with
> > its actual history. Of course, given the human propensity for
> > self-delusion -- to say nothing of our more inevitable limitations as
> > thinking creatures, such as our way of filling in our gaps in
> > knowledge with suppositions, then pretending they are not even there
> > -- this is not an easy task. Not in the least. This is only one reason
> > why humanities disciplines need the sciences, linguistics, psychology,
> > logic, philosophy and the arts. We keep each other honest, even when
> > we can't entirely remedy one another's ignorance. (How many lifetimes
> > do I get? I sometimes want to know.)
> >
> > I'm also afraid, however, that Rens is also correct to be skeptical
> > that any argument, however well made, is likely to resolve the issues
> > here (and not only the issue of public or government support of
> > university departments but everything else). These people (the "Them"
> > as Tim Smithers has it) have already decided there is a pie to be
> > divided, and are seeing to it that they get their slices. Perhaps some
> > sort of sustained propaganda campaign would help, or perhaps not. I
> > keep thinking the attitude problem is more profound. I would like to
> > shake them and say, not only is there more pie, but that is not the
> > only tasty thing we can put on the menu, if we only share freely,
> > there will be more than anyone can ever eat. (And more work for bakers
> > too, if we want.)
> >
> > So much for idle fantasy; fortunately Hartmut Krecht offers something
> > more constructive: "If there is a future for the humanities, it will
> > probably depend on our capacity to find an over-arching pattern that
> > will relate the separate fields to each other, interdisciplinarily and
> > interculturally, so that new practices may be devised that are of
> > practical value." I can heartily assent to this, even if I persist in
> > my madness in thinking the humanities should (and on some level must)
> > be held exempt on some level -- on the deepest level. (But as you will
> > not fail to point out, so also should the sciences.)
> >
> > But I do not believe such an over-arching pattern will be one that
> > presumes to guarantee or even foresee the value it demonstrates. My
> > own case is exemplary. While my fields of study in school (Classics
> > and English literature) had confessedly no practical use, my
> > subsequent career and work has ironically made me qualified to offer
> > (to paying customers, and among other technology-related services) a
> > most practical-minded, vocational training in the use, design and
> > construction of technological "solutions" that didn't exist back then
> > -- but which are vital to their businesses now. And which, not
> > entirely incidentally, do have their challenging intellectual aspects
> > as well. How else should I have prepared for that?
> >
> > I am also unsure that the humanities will or should find the pattern
> > in anything specifically or necessarily "digital". Assuming the
> > impending collapse of civilization can be rescheduled, I am confident
> > that once current fads and fashions have made way for whatever comes
> > next, digital technologies will persist as a platform and instrument
> > for (good and bad) humanistic scholarship, however it is practiced
> > (and by whomever) in years and decades to come. "DH", I very much hope
> > and expect, will be the phenomenon of a moment, just as "Humanities
> > Computing" was. The term will survive on some labs, centers, curricula
> > and associations; but it will become increasingly hollow, part of the
> > background, yesterday's thing. But the digital will take care of its
> > own: in contrast to "DH", digital humanities (even fairly narrowly
> > conceived) won't slow any more than humanities computing did. I see
> > what we now call "digital" becoming more and more bound up in what we
> > used to call "literate" -- which isn't, or isn't only, digital.
> >
> > Maybe there is a hint of a solution in Hartmut's citation of "Chinese
> > Humanities" as something purportedly on the rise in China. In their
> > own various histories, perhaps the most dismaying if perennial aspect
> > of all our disciplines has been the way they have been used as
> > occasions and masks for motives of nationalism and empire, in their
> > more divisive, exploitative forms. (What are the humanities for, if
> > they don't prove how great we are?) Surely the time has come when that
> > has to stop. Maybe the core of the humanities must be in the idea that
> > these are the disciplines in which we study -- and learn to value and
> > appreciate -- not ourselves, but each other. (Know yourself, yes, but
> > to know yourself, you must love someone or something else. This
> > implies, among other things, the Chinese Humanities Institute should
> > be active in outreach and exchange activities.) What could be more
> > practical than that? Could such an inchoate impulse be fashioned into
> > something more coherent? Something not (or not only) digital but
> > transnational and global?
> >
> > Warm regards,
> > Wendell

More information about the Humanist mailing list