11.0199 either/or, p-envy, sciences vs humanities

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Wed, 30 Jul 1997 21:08:53 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 199.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

[1] From: Francois Lachance <lachance@epas.utoronto.ca> (46)
Subject: Re: 11.0190 either/or, both/and

[2] From: Marta Steele <Marta_Steele@Pupress.Princeton.Edu> (19)
Subject: either/or?

[3] From: Francois Crompton-Roberts <F.Crompton- (13)
Subject: Re: 11.0195 either/or

[4] From: Mary Dee Harris <mdharris@acm.org> (9)
Subject: Re: 11.0195 either/or

Date: Tue, 29 Jul 1997 16:43:33 -0400 (EDT)
From: Francois Lachance <lachance@epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Re: 11.0190 either/or, both/and


I was intrigued that respondants to your posting about
[loss of text here, for what reason I do not understand... WM]
chose to address the "outer" subject line "either/or both/and".

The direction of that particular discursive syntagm (either/or to
both/and, Aristotle to Boole, the excluded middle to the fuzzy edge)
intrigues me because it is often paired with an ascription of the
digital to the cultural and the analog to the natural with the
attendent valuations placed on such pairings. Very often, an implicit
choice of the form EITHER either/or OR both/and functions in the
discourse as the prelude to the inscription of a tale of progress, a
movement from the simple to the complex.

"Ambiguity" can be an indication of complexity.

At a certain meta-level, there exists a decision either to apply or
not to apply a "both/and" logical operation.
To what is that "both/and" operation applied?
The results of at least two either/or operations.

The either/or operations can succeed each other temporally:

An either/or operation leads to one result.
An either/or operation is reiterated and leads to a second result.

The "both/and" operation is applied to the results.

The objection may be raised that the either/or operation can either be
applicable or not. That would mean that a single attempted either/or
operation would lead to a possible "both/and" operation.

An appeal to the recursivity of frames could help make the claim that
the single attempt of the application of an either/or operator requires at a
meta-level another either-or operator to judge its applicability.

Of course the foregoing seems to assume that "comparison" is primitive.
However the movement between results and application of an operation
(or for those familiar with Turing machines between states and
instructions) seems to assume that "connection" is primitive.

This is could be a replay of the semantics versus syntax debate.

If it is, then is there something more primitive than either
comparison or connection, something about semiotic artefacts that is
neither semantic nor syntactic?

Perhaps this is the wrong question. Perhaps the question to ask is how
cognitive models offered by cybernetics yield an understanding of
semiotic artefacts as objects in motion and subject to a variety of operations.
And an other question might be about the sociology of knowledge -- how
is it that certain cultural and ideological assumptions about the
fluidity of semiotic objects affect the acceptance of cybernetic
models of cognitive activity? Perhaps there is more than one question
to ask and more than one way of connecting their asking.

One could be more categorical about investigative pluralism. It is good.

It leaves room for a certain primitive "ifyness".


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Tue, 29 Jul 1997 16:54:46 EST From: Marta Steele <Marta_Steele@Pupress.Princeton.Edu> Subject: either/or?


Please print this only if you think it adds anything substantive to the discussion. Re the dichotomy you draw between humanities and the sciences, I have to say that I think the "top" of all intellectual pursuits converge into the same irrational quest/answer. Call it the vaste and horrifying edifice of the Great Unknown, call it Truth, or Metaphysics - i.e., philosophy transcending science even as it reinterprets it and reexpresses it.

In the person of someone like Hans Christian Oersted, there was so much said about both pursuits, blending them and separating them as needed - his is a laudable and inspiring synthesis. We are publishing his collected scientific works one of these days, within which, even minus the humanistic writings, there was a lot for this poet/classicist to glean, gratefully.

As usual the disclaimer, don't blame my employers for any of my opinions - they are strictly my own, though I learn a great deal from my editing experiences here.

With best wishes, as always,

Marta Steele

--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Wed, 30 Jul 1997 11:19:51 GMT0BST From: Francois Crompton-Roberts <F.Crompton-Roberts@qmw.ac.uk> Subject: Re: 11.0195 either/or

Curiously, there was a slightly relevant thread on the French Language discussion list France_Langue recently. Someone commented on the recent appearance of the expression "et/ou" in French, saying that it was an anglicism. The French _ou_, unlike "or" in English, is inclusive and thus _et/ou_ is redundant. _Prenez-vous du lait ou du sucre dans votre café?_ does not preclude taking both, which, in English, only semantics tell us is a legitimate reply.

I wonder if there might have been some slapdash translations of German and French writings... Incidentally, Latin makes the distinction between _aut_ and _vel_. Is it unique in this respect?

François C-R

--[4]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Wed, 30 Jul 1997 13:55:36 -0700 From: Mary Dee Harris <mdharris@acm.org> Subject: Re: 11.0195 either/or

You write:

> Could we call this "intellectual penis-envy"?

Speak for yourself! And of course we must ask, between the sciences and the humanities, who is envying whom? Something to ponder!

Mary Dee

Mary Dee Harris, Ph.D.			512-477-7213
Language Technology, Inc.		512-477-7351 (fax)
2415 Griswold Lane			mdharris@acm.org
Austin, TX 78703			mdharris@aol.com

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