15.317 language, habit and computation

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Wed Oct 17 2001 - 05:13:01 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 317.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: helmut.bonheim@uni-koeln.de (23)
             Subject: Re: 15.313 language, habit and computation

       [2] From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance) (42)
             Subject: Re: 15.313 language, habit and computation

       [3] From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com> (37)
             Subject: Re: 15.313 language, habit and computation

             Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2001 10:01:37 +0100
             From: helmut.bonheim@uni-koeln.de
             Subject: Re: 15.313 language, habit and computation

    Dear Willard McCarty,
    I work in an institute that has linguists in it, and over the decades
    we have remained on speaking terms. I think that they might offer a
    clear answer to your question about whether food might be eager to
    be eaten, in that "eager" is marked as a potential quality of the
    animal world (including man) and (despite Shakespeares "eager
    and a nipping air" in "Hamlet"). I know nothing about computers,
    except that I use all three of mine at different times of the day, but
    surely the very definition of "eager" would include a marker that
    shows the adjective normally to have an association with sentient
    beings (that is part of the "model" that each part of speech can be
    considered to be), so that food -- being hardly sentient, even if it is
    derived from an animal -- is barred from eagerness, except in a
    poetic or dadaist context.

    A while back I had a student to whom I showed an earlier message
    of yours, which also had a suggestion of model-reference in it, and
    he wrote quite a nice poem in a creative-writing course on that
    basis. If I could remember who it was, I would send you a copy, for
    in poetry, it is of course fashionable to make an impression by
    means of rule-breaking.


    Helmut Bonheim
    Univ. of Cologne

             Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2001 10:01:59 +0100
             From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: Re: 15.313 language, habit and computation

    Dear W.

    Seeing the crescent moon....

    an observation grown metphorical (to write "waxing or wanning" would be
    conceit) in the context of a missive about rules, habits and language.

    a bit of copy and past / citation habit:

                     AUTHOR: Black, Max, 1909-
                      TITLE: Models and metaphors ; studies in language and
                  PUBLISHED: Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University Press, 1962 [i.e.

    You seem to be juggling three activities (plus communication about the
    activities), each with their own set of pragmatics to illuminate
    (moonlight?) perceptual phenomenon with different ratios of the values
    new/old or novel/familiar. Sorry for the highly mediated stacking of
    levels here but the pair action/language gets recursive when we consider
    speech acts. Rules formation has an impact on rule following. What does it
    mean to formulate a rule? The three activities I counted: the observation
    of routines, the following of routines and the communication about
    observations and the the following of routines. There may be more (I have
    a habit of distinguishing one set of three fingers raised as a "w" and a
    set of three others raised as a "3" -- four fingers do not give rise to
    the same sign play in ASL: a physical habit with computational and
    cognitive dressing (ever notice the three peaks on the letter W? The
    letter F seem downright wobbly in comparison. (Johanna Drucker _The
    Alphabetic Labyrinth: The Letters in History and Imagination))).

    Is the question to what degree is interaction with computers a language
    game that shifts the degree of novelty ascribed to the activity of
    interacting with computers? Is this the obverse of the rules for
    creativity and guidelines for imagination question?

    The crescent must have been in the shape of a question mark...a
    parenthesis closing (

    ) out of habit-breaking habit (

    F, plays with forks

    L, with broken tines

    W, plays with mirrors

    M, reflecting mountains

    Some folks play with graphic software and typography, other folks play
    with semanitc applications and typology, some folks play poet )( with or
    without an electronic device )(

    Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
    per Interactivity ad Virtuality via Textuality

             Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2001 10:02:30 +0100
             From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com>
             Subject: Re: 15.313 language, habit and computation

    From: Osher Doctorow osher@ix.netcom.com, Sat. Oct. 13, 2001 2:40PM

    WM has a fascinating question and comment(s) here.

    I think that WM's remarking and observing the above things in the morning
    may be an important fact, because the more conscious and/or attentive we are
    to ourselves in respect to our mental lives and to our environments, the
    more I think we become rule-bound rather than habit-bound in the intuitive
    senses. I am not sure that consciousness toward our physical or
    *materialistic* lives removes us from habit - I can visualize many scenarios
    in which it does the reverse. We may well be facing the eternal anomaly or
    paradox of materialism which has led many a philosopher to abandon
    materialism altogether (Mahatma Gandhi, Socrates, Plato, etc. for starters).
    The Golden Mean of Ancient Greece and Rome, *moderate materialism*, is
    logically and empirically a rather poor solution to the anomaly.

    It is true that some relativity operates here. We can describe rule-bound
    behavior as largely habitual when we have followed such behavior in the
    sufficiently long term, and even habitual behavior has some *unusual rules*
    which tend to resemble the behaviors of apes and *lower dinizens* (except
    for intuition - my cats are very psychic). It is commonly assumed that
    fuzzy multivalued logicians are interested in such *unusual rules*, and I
    know at least one U.S. government funded program which a major Western USA
    University attempted to research wholeheartedly into such *unusual rules*
    (the USA, however, may have a conflict of interest in this respect).
    Vienna and the Czech Republic and Great Britain do much in this respect.
    Since my life is spent in such research, I must tell members of Humanist
    that apelike behavior and the thinking of *lower dinizens* (except ones like
    my psychic cats) do not interest me at all - I have had enough of apes to
    last me a lifetime. Fuzzy and/or multivalued logics are much more
    interesting than *idiotic thinking*, and in fact generalize ordinary logics
    and appear to underlie some of the most remarkable properties of the
    physical universe (not to mention the conceptual universe).

    Nobody, to my knowledge, has ever gone beyond Lord Francis Bacon in
    understanding the disadvantages of habit. The Idols of the Tribe, the Idols
    of the Marketplace, and all the other Idols, would on a Platonic-Socratic
    planet lead immediately to a Nobel Prize. On the Earth, they lead to
    academic courses taken by few, remembered by less even in the sciences and
    humanities and even on the highest professional levels. It is indeed
    morning, WM. It is indeed the morning of humanity.

    Osher Doctorow

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