14.0446 heroes &c.

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: 10/30/00

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 446.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
       [1]   From:    lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)      (30)
             Subject: heroes of humility
       [2]   From:    "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com>              (10)
             Subject: Re: Hero worship, AI, and robotics
             Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2000 06:56:56 +0000
             From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: heroes of humility
    Would you care to elaborate on the argument you put forth below. I am
    puzzled. Is always the case that admiration passes through similitude
    before arriving at action?
       >           >
      > Science. One of the great biographies must be Constance Reid's Hilbert (NY:
      > Springer Verlag, 1996). Yet I find its great-man worshipful tone to be
      > cloying as well as utterly unnecessary. It seems to me that this does no
      > service nor real honour to a truly great mathematician -- because it tends
      > to suggest that the person is not one of us, which conveniently releases us
      > from responsibility to become what we find to admire. Having studied with a
    Second question: is there a set of conventions in the genre of biography
    that compel a biographer to adopt a tone of humility vis a vis the object
    of study unlike say a hagiographic account of the life of St. Ignatious
    Loyola produced by a Jesuit proud of the order to which he and the founder
    of the order belong? And what would the atheist reader do with such a text
    if not imitate the Spiritual Exercises.
    Last question: does not the "responsibility to become what we find to
    admire" rest upon a more fundmental imperative -- to empathise with beings
    other than ourselves -- which of course becomes circular since if it is
    the gift of empathy that we admire in great humanists such as Erasmus
    and Panofsky it is , is it not, that empathy which propels us to
    Very fitting that such an Entscheidungsproblem is sparked by a reference
    to David Hilbert.
    Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
    Member of the Evelyn Letters Project
             Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2000 06:57:31 +0000
             From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com>
             Subject: Re: Hero worship, AI, and robotics
    From: Osher Doctorow osher@ix.netcom.com, Sunday Oct. 29, 2000 7:15AM
    I agree with WM concerning hero worship of "great scientists" or great
    people anywhere.  Having done that myself, I realize some of the
    temptations, although some others only come to mind as I type.  Eliminating
    our own responsibility for contributing, as Willard indicates, is
    frightening but true (I think).  Some of it is probably reality based.  Some
    of it may reflect the tendency to categorize, which is a two-edged sword
    without which we would have no Civilization but with which we may have no
    peace or even accuracy.  Fortunately, we have a few Socratic people
    wandering about to return us to the path.  Oops!   There I go again.

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