[Humanist] 31.136 consistency and explicitness?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Jun 27 07:08:33 CEST 2017

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 31, No. 136.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2017 09:07:23 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: consistent and explicit

Quite a while ago I came up with a formula for what digital encoding 
demands, namely 'absolute consistency + complete explicitness'. Even if 
the formulation is original, the thought certainly isn't. David Gooding, 
in "Varying the cognitive span" (2003, in Hans Radder, Philosophy of 
Scientific Experimentation), put it this way: Digitisation, he wrote,

> is a method designed to achieve two things: preserve the invariance
> of tokens in a symbol manipulation system and to make the value of
> the tokens unambiguous. (p. 283 n. 33)

John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, in Theory of Games and Economic 
Behavior (1953), said or implied more or less the same thing. Models, 
they wrote,

> are theoretical constructs with a precise, exhaustive and not too
> complicated definition; and they must be similar to reality in those
> respects which are essential in the investigation at hand. To
> recapitulate in detail: The definition must be precise and exhaustive
> in order to make a mathematical treatment possible. (p. 33)

Roberto Busa noted in "The Annals of Humanities Computing" (1980) that,

> the computer has even improved the quality of methods in philological
> analysis, because its brute physical rigidity demands full accuracy,
> full completeness, full systematicity. (p. 89)

-- but interestingly did not point to how this improvement happens, i.e. 
what happens in the struggle against such seemingly impossible conditions.

I would be most grateful to know of other thoughts along these lines.


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney
University and North Carolina State University; Editor,
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20)

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