18.574 knowledge, wisdom, data, information

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2005 07:30:18 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 574.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: Charles Ess <cmess_at_drury.edu> (65)
         Subject: Re: 18.564 knowledge, wisdom, data, information

   [2] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk> (36)
         Subject: information

         Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2005 06:48:00 +0000
         From: Charles Ess <cmess_at_drury.edu>
         Subject: Re: 18.564 knowledge, wisdom, data, information

Francois et al
Francois wrote:
> At Matt Kirschenbaum's blog entry
> http://www.otal.umd.edu/~mgk/blog/archives/000747.html
> there are some comments about the quotation from T.S.
> Eliot
> Where is the Life we have lost in living?
> Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
> Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
> The exchange there hints that a close reading might point towards
> metaphysical considerations. I was wondering if Charles Ess might be so
> kind as to point readers to where he discusses the Eliot poem in the
> context of the taxonomy outlined by Dreyfus in _On the Internet_. It
> help inform the discussions of some of us who are not so sure that is
> to elevate (capitalize) Life over living.
At the risk of violating all sorts of copyright laws - a sketchy document is
available at

Here I do not, unfortunately, make explicit the links between Dreyfus'
taxonomy and Eliot's poem. But most of the document is devoted to
clarifying for my students what Kierkegaard and Dreyfus mean vis-a-vis
knowledge gained through the web and the Net; I then hope that my students
will be able to see the implict connections between Kierkegaard and Dreyfus
on the one hand, and Eliot on the other.

As I hope these notes help clarify - by all means, by drawing on
Kierkegaard's taxonomy of knowledge (aesthetic / ethical / religious),
Dreyfus' taxonomy indeed heads us in the direction of the metaphysical,
though not necessarily religious.

Briefly, the religious stage of human wisdom and existence for Kierkegaard
involves a level of commitment and risk not found in the aesthetic and
ethical stages. As Dreyfus puts it, our most important commitments

"are neither the ones that I arbitrarily choose nor the ones that I am
obliged to keep because of my social role. Rather, these special commitments
are experienced as grabbing my whole being. When I respond to such a summons
by making an unconditional commitment, this commitment determines who I am
and what will be the significant issue for me for the rest of my life.
Political and religious movements can grab us in this way as can love
relationships and, for certain people, such vocations as the law or music."

In my view, this indeed helps to inform discussions concerning what sorts of
knowledge - and correlative existential / religious engagements and wisdom -
may be needed for full and humane lives.

> Furthermore, the comments recorded at Matt's blog touch upon the dynamics
> of the diectic "we" as it travels from the setting of a speech by the
> chorus in the pagent play _The Rock_ to less-contextualized and more
> generic quotation from the works of T.S. Eliot. The very way in which the
> text has circulated exemplifies the case that information
> loss/preservation colours interpretation.
Very interesting point! Thanks!

Hope this helps,

Charles Ess

Distinguished Research Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies
Drury University
900 N. Benton Ave. Voice: 417-873-7230
Springfield, MO 65802 USA FAX: 417-873-7435

Home page: http://www.drury.edu/ess/ess.html
Co-chair, CATaC: http://www.it.murdoch.edu.au/catac/

Exemplary persons seek harmony, not sameness. -- Analects 13.23

         Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2005 07:12:10 +0000
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: information

One problem identified in this thread of discussion is understanding the
confused and confusing tangle of meanings (and less-than-meanings) evoked
by the word "information". I take a run at the problem in my forthcoming
book and won't reproduce the argument here. But it's worth pointing out
that in discussions involving one or more of such keywords, one really has
to begin by pulling each word apart and examining the swarm of meanings
before making an argument involving it. Perhaps, as in the case of
"knowledge", all one can do is to point toward a whole area of discussion
-- for "knowledge" it's obviously philosophy, or begins there. But in some
cases, such as "information", hammer-blows of excavation are required.

"Information" would make a great topic for a dissertation in a
philological-philosophical humanities computing. The trail begins with at
least the following:

Bateson, Gregory. 2000/1972. Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Rev. edn.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press. See pp. 315, 408-9.

Capurro, Rafael and Birger Hjorland. 2002. "The Concept of Information".
Annual Review of Information Science and Technology 37: 343-411.

Nunberg, Geoffrey. 1996. "Farewell to the Information Age". In The Future
of the Book. Ed. Geoffrey Nunberg. Berkeley: University of California
Press. Pp. 103-38. ecot.rice.edu/~Tony.Gorry/NunbergFarewell.pdf.

Shannon, Claude and Warren Weaver. 1949. The Mathematical Theory of
Communication. Urbana IL: University of Illinois Press. See Weaver's
warning that, "[t]he word information is used in a special sense that
must not be confused with its ordinary usage. In particular, information must
not be confused with meaning" (p. 8); see Bateson for what it does mean.


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Received on Wed Feb 09 2005 - 02:31:50 EST

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