editorial ramblings (39)

Sun, 5 Feb 89 17:21:55 EST

Humanist Mailing List, Vol. 2, No. 560. Sunday, 5 Feb 1989.

Date: 4 February 1989
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: it's difficult to speak when your mouth is frozen shut

Dear Colleagues:

During a recent meeting that I happened to attend, a senior official
from IBM wanted to know if our upcoming conference in June would feature
the kind of spirited public argumentation that he found so astonishing
and delightful at our last conference, in April 1986. We replied, of
course, that it would, since we have reason to think that the
strongminded academics whom we have invited will be equally as unwilling
to hold their peace as those who spoke out three years ago. The question
suggests, perhaps, that meetings at IBM are far less interesting, or at
least less dynamic than those held by computing humanists, but I cannot

Speaking of arguments, I am puzzled by the recent lack on Humanist of
spirited debate over basic and essentially unresolvable issues --
perhaps the only kind worth troubling about. Surely someone amongst us is
struggling to understand the strange fallout from the often rude
collision of technology with the humanities. To paraphrase V. Gordon
Childe, the computer continues to shed new light on the ancient
past. We have made this device. Are we not ourselves enigmatic?

Or am I just ignoring the obvious fact that few of us, at least us
northerners, have enthusiasm for anything in the bleak month of

Willard McCarty