Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 365.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
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Date: Thu, 05 Dec 2002 06:48:54 +0000
From: "David L. Hoover" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: 16.363 supping with a long spoon?
Willard's comments about how bioethics can be seen to have become a
"commodity in a market economy" and how such a notion might impact
humanities computing, especially with respect to "transferrable skills,"
stuck a note with me.
One of the clearest arenas in which this relates to humanities computing is
forensic linguistics, especially issues of trademarks, semantics,
plagiarism, and authorship. Those of us who have done work for law firms in
areas like these have to face these questions repeatedly. There really can
be a strain between looking at the issue impartially and looking at it as
part of an advocacy team. The issue might also be more widely framed as one
of the responsibility of any expert witness to treat the questions they are
asked to explore with intellectual honesty.
My own practice (not called upon very often) has been to agree to look into
an issue for a preliminary fee, and then to take, or refuse to take, the
case depending on whether my own view of the matter accords with the
interests of the client.
Even when one does this, there are other difficulties, chiefly in the area
of certainty. I may agree that the client's view of the matter is
"probably" right, or "more likely" right, but that is rarely of much value
to the client. For the scholarly advocacy of an idea is not the same thing
as the legal advocacy of an idea. (Clearly I do not agree with people like
Stanley Fish, who argue that the only truth is the one established by the
most effective argument, so that, for instance, there is no such thing as a
correct interpretation of a clause in the Constitution.)
This is an extremely thorny problem, but one that, perhaps quixotically, we
can only hope will be more common in humanities computing.
-- David L. Hoover, Assoc. Chair & Webmaster NYU Eng. Dept., 212-998-8832 http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/english/
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