20.219 more than a great promise

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2006 08:06:46 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 219.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2006 07:58:51 +0100
         From: David Sewell <dsewell_at_virginia.edu>
         Subject: Re: 20.211 great promise, not great threat?

> Richard Rorty said some time ago (in an
> London Review of Books piece) that he thought we are seeing an end to
> the epistemic wars between the sciences and the humanities. Ian
> Hacking has done much to change hostilities into negotiations. I
> think we have a big role to play here -- and, if I am right, that it
> just could be the most important result of all.

I can't speak to the epistemic issues, but at least within the context
of the United States it would be the height of irresponsibility for an
academic humanist to persist in fighting the old "two cultures" battles
against our colleagues in the sciences at a historical moment when the
authority, independence, and integrity of the natural sciences have been
under sustained attack from powerful retrograde forces. Elsewhere things
are not so dire, at least to the extent that putting fingers in one's
ears and muttering "I can't hear you!" has not been considered an
appropriate response to empirical evidence by most central governments.
Still, if there was ever a time for humanists to be making common cause
with scientists, I'd say this is it. We share a common belief in the
value of inquiry, and for both groups the suppression of inquiry is
a far greater threat than the unlikely possibility that one side of the
sciences/humanities division is ever going to have permanent ascendancy
over the other.


David Sewell, Editorial and Technical Manager
ROTUNDA, The University of Virginia Press
PO Box 400318, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4318 USA
Courier: 310 Old Ivy Way, Suite 302, Charlottesville VA 22903
Email: dsewell_at_virginia.edu   Tel: +1 434 924 9973
Web: http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/
Received on Tue Sep 26 2006 - 03:44:29 EDT

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