Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 638.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Date: Mon, 06 May 2002 10:55:36 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <email@example.com>
Subject: division by culture
The following mutatis mutandis applies, I think, to more than the two
"England and France have been divided by more than the Channel: there have
been radically different cultural traditions regarding the relations
between theory and practice in the humanities; on the significance of
philosophy, logic and linguistics; and more recently on the application of
expert systems tools and ideas. Translating the literature and
interpretations of one research community to the other involves far more
than merely linguistic skills. The frontiers of understanding are located
-- Richard Ennals, "Interpretation and codebreaking", in Interpretation in
the Humanities: Perspectives from Artificial Intelligence, ed. Richard
Ennals and Jean-Claude Gardin, Library and Information Research Report 71
(British Library Board, 1990): 62.
The differences can be great indeed -- so great that, as a colleague
remarked to me recently, one may question making the effort at all. Let us
say, for example, that the work of an obviously intelligent and very
learned scholar from another cultural tradition seems utterly wrongheaded
-- not opaque, not just strange or unfamiliar, but seriously, perhaps even
dangerously WRONG in its goals and methods. And, to make the situation more
interesting, let us say that this scholar's work is widely respected and
clearly mainstream within his or her own tradition. What happens then?
Are there similar problems in comparative literature, for example? This
would seem a core problem in ethnography.
Dr Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer,
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London,
Strand, London WC2R 2LS, U.K.,
+44 (0)20 7848-2784, ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/,
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