20.138 defining humanities computing

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 7 Aug 2006 08:54:57 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 138.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Sun, 06 Aug 2006 10:03:16 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: defining humanities computing

The philosopher F. H. Bradley, in "Association and Thought", Mind
12.47 (1887): 354, arguing in a footnote with the editor of that
journal about how to define "a psychical fact or event" in the
empirical science of psychology, declares that

>A definition in psychology is for me a working definition. It is not
>expected to have more truth than is required for practice in its
>science; and if when pressed beyond it contradict itself, that is
>quite immaterial.

Giving his definition, he then observes,

>We see here the impotence of empirical science to justify its
>principles theoretically.

-- not because this or any other empirical science is inherently
inferior, but because in his view metaphysics has no place in it. But
what then justifies such a field is its results, which in the case of
psychology is a better understanding of how and why humans do what
they do, and not only or primarily why we shop for particular
products or any other such thing to which psychology might be
applied. If humanities computing is an empirical field -- I won't say
"science" for obvious reasons -- then by analogy its justification
cannot be how and why it is that, say, historians do better history
as a result, but how and why scholarly enquiry is different --
better, perhaps, but certainly different -- across all the humanities
(by which the historians' improved performance may be explained). Not
a metaphysical but a pragmatic philosophy?


Dr Willard McCarty | Reader in Humanities Computing | Centre for
Computing in the Humanities | King's College London | Kay House, 7
Arundel Street | London WC2R 3DX | U.K. | +44 (0)20 7848-2784 fax:
-2980 || willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/wlm/
Received on Mon Aug 07 2006 - 04:23:56 EDT

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