[Humanist] 32.44 when do we stop?
Humanist Discussion Group
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri May 25 08:07:58 CEST 2018
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 44.
Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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Date: Fri, 25 May 2018 06:54:07 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
Subject: amplifying interdisciplinary
A new member of Humanist recently admitted to an interest in (I quote
from memory) "digital as amplification of interdisciplinary". Engaged as
I am, along with numerous others, in research spreading across many
disciplines, fuelled by quick if not immediate access to a deluge of
articles and books, this phrase struck a chord, loudly.
Some years ago, Richard Rorty made philosophical capital in a nominalist
vein from a sentence in Gadamer, "being that can be understood is language"
("Sein, das verstanden werden kann, ist Sprache"). He argued from the
proposition that "no description of an object is more true to the nature of
that object than any other", that "we never understand anything except under
a description, and there are no privileged descriptions" to the idea that we
work toward the truth by going wide rather than deep. We collect as many
witnesses as we can because "to understand something better is to have more
to say about it -- to be able to tie together the various things previously
said in a new and perspicuous way".
When I ran across Rorty's article in the London Review of Books ("Being that
can be understood is language", 16 March 2000, pp. 23-5)*, I can recall
thinking, this just might be how we all quite soon may be doing our
research. Some 18 years later, I think it is indeed what's happening. Only I
am not at all sure when to stop 'going wide', how to do it in a responsibly
scholarly way, how to persuade those in fields more constrained than mine
that I'm saying anything at all. Research into the qualities of digitally
affected reasoning and its effects goes everywhere, touches on all the older
disciplines. With their publications so readily available, this
amplification poses a challenge, no?
*Republished in Krajewski, Bruce, ed. Gadamer's Repercussions:
Reconsidering Philosophical Hermeneutics. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 2004.
Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor emeritus, Department of
Digital Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western
Sydney University; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
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