Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 188.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
 From: "Chris McMahon" <firstname.lastname@example.org> (118)
Subject: Re: 14.0179 market-driven truth-seeking
 From: "Osher Doctorow" <email@example.com> (34)
Subject: A humanities "fingerprint machine" to study creative
Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2000 16:06:59 +0100
From: "Chris McMahon" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: 14.0179 market-driven truth-seeking
I think we might be seeing things in roughly the same way. Can I make a
couple of points though?
>The disinterest of academics is a measure of their social autonomy as
Yes. Like the "disinteretedness" of the state bureaucrats. I'm thinking,
for example, of Bourdieu's discussion of how disinteredness is a field
relative symbolic capital in *Practical Reason*.
and as "truth" (the specific form of symbolic capital
>that defines who an intellectual is)
Has there been an important semantic slide here from "disinterestedness" to
"truth"? Why should the search fro truth be disinteredned? Is not necessity
the mother of invention?
gives way to technology (the
>capital of the New Economy) in the intellectual field,
I would say that what I see is the academic managment class (deans, proVCs,
etc) making symbolic capital by rationalizing (cutting, saving money,
etc.). So yes, the university is beginning to be driven by profit motives
that make it less distinguishable from the corporation? One style of
capital transaction (a rather pure restricted symbolic economy productive
of "the-knowledge-formerly-known-as-truth") is giving way to a different
style of capital transactions (a material to symbolic economy, becoming
less restricted, productive of "the-education-that-ised-to-be-liberal"). I
agree that the universities are beginning to be less *autonomous*. And I
think IT is mixed up in there somehow (though chicken or egg? - I mean
Capitalism has progressively reified every field, and maybe IT is just
speeding up the process?
>must clothe themselves as entrepreneurs.
That's what I see too. I do, however, invite you to think about this idea
"truth" a bit. There may be some kernel of the idea that is a "primary
proposition" (i.e. impossible to be analysed) by that kernel, even if it is
not simply a social contruct (which I don;t think it is) does carry around
a lot of sublated symbolic capital which is pure mystification. And it is
that mystified capital that is under fire, being transformed into
perfomativity capital, which is the capitalist cooption of the scientific
idea of the use value of truth.
Of course, this is not
>lot of critical theory is really just technology in the Heideggerian
>sense of putting the world in standing-reserve, ie creating efficiencies
>for purposes other than opening our eyes to the truth (like selling cool
>books in cool bookstores).
I think so too. But something new is happening. Not that the universities
are no longer helping to reproduce the social order, or that they are
becoming reproductive for the first time, but that the rules of the game,
as you note, are changing. I'm not sure I like the new game any more than
you do. I'm wondering what sort of new game we can design instead.
If we confuse technology, the modus
>and opus operatum of humanities computing, with the quest for truth, our
>modus operandi, we reinforce the blurring between capitalism and the
Again, I think so too.
Information technology has changed the way humanities
>pursue the truth, indeed what counts as truth, and as a result our
>perspective has undergone a radical shift. How do we distinguish
>"humanities" from "computing"?
That is, if you have come up to speed with IT, which most academics in the
humanities really have not.
>Have these two terms become
Has truth ever been NOT performative? There have been truths that are not
perfortmative (or are only socially performative). There is a basis in the
distinction between rational purposive action & symbolic exchange (cf.
Habermas), and the truths of the latter need not be performative outside
any given social field where it is the "correctness" of symbolic exchange
that counts and not the competence of rational purosive action (i.e in
cases where all is arbitrary). Otherwise the use value of truth has always
been its performativity. That's how science works. So the two terms could
not have become incompatable. If anything the pressure towards
performativity (and against waste) makes more truths. But truths directed
in the service of certain interests? Althusser's problematic?
Bourdieu has an explanation for this difficulty that
>of us as humanities computing scholars experience:
>If agents are possessed by their habitus more than they possess it, this
>is because it acts within them as the organizing principle of their
>actions, and because this modus operandi informing all thought and
>action (including thought of action) reveals itself only in the opus
>operatum. (Outline of a Theory of Praxis, 18)
If we think hard enough we might realize that the idea of "agent" here is
quite redundant. The rules of the game are certainly changing. The question
is not why, on which we agree, but "is truth suffering"? Now i think we
both see truth as suffering but you seem to be constructing a sort of 'good
old days" scenario, the fall from truth and disnterestedness into
technocapitalist market-driven performativities. It's Lyotardian? On the
other hand, I think truth is not really suffering any more now than it has
been in the past, even though the rules of the academic game are changing,
and what depreses me is that we don;t seem to be able to liberate the use
value of truth from the interested of the dominant groups (which would
include those "disinterested" men of state, et al.)
>I suppose from the perspective of the New Economy, with its emphasis on
>streamlining and efficiency (just look at all the consolidation taking
>place in the dot.com world as IPO money runs dry and companies devour
>each other), waste could be a tactical measure for waking people from
>passivity in cyberspace. But in any economy, symbolic or material,
>waste cannot be tolerated for long. If what we do is perceived as
>waste, universities will either outsource their teaching and research or
>people will invest their time and resources elsewhere.
I agree. That's how "official production" works after the death of God.
With the rise of the capitalists everything that their regime of "official
production" does not like - for any reason - is labelled "waste". The logic
of late capitalism is just a refinement of the logic of early modern
capitalism. I'm just saying if we really were to be autonomous, we should
look again at this so-called *waste*. If we do not, then we are already,
for all our "disinterestedness" just the lackies of the inhuman
cyberbourgeoisie (the great mind of globalised money).
Hope I have managed to make my position clearer. I hope you will agree with
me that we are quibbling over details? I have made my ideas about what we
should do sort of clear (redesign the academies as "public spheres") - But
I would like to ask you what sort of project you suggest for overcoming the
conquest of the academy by corporatism?
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Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2000 16:07:34 +0100
From: "Osher Doctorow" <email@example.com>
Subject: A humanities "fingerprint machine" to study creative genius
In my opinion, we are close to the stage where we can take "theoretical
fingerprints" of candidates for creative geniuses in the past to see whether
they really were creative or whether they were imitators or "ingenious
followers" (one step ahead of whoever they were following, in a sense).
This has applications not only to the obvious field of literature
(Shakespeare, Ovid, etc.), but to music (Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Vivaldi,
etc.), sculpture (Michaelangelo), invention/discovery (Leonardo Da Vinci,
Pierre De Fermat, Newton, Faraday, Edison, etc.), and so on.
The profile of a creative genius which emerges involves the following
characteristics. 1. Open-minded to new ideas and to change of one's own
erroneous wrong ideas and those of one's colleagues or friends (Steven
Weinberg and Paul Dirac in quantum theory, the Strausses in Vienna). 2.
Experienced severe long-term emotional traumas in childhood (e.g.,
Beethoven, Paganini, Mozart it appears). 3. Experienced the creative
process subjectively as a giant orchestrated process either full blown
instantly or slowly/laboriously (respectively Chopin and Vivaldi versus
Beethoven). 4. Was the first to invent/discover/create an important new
school of thought or emotion (Leonardo Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Steven
Weinberg, Shakespeare, Dirac, Pierre De Fermat, Newton, Socrates, the
Strausses, Edison, Mahatma Gandhi, Democritus, Heraclitus, Mendeleyev,
Cantor, Saint Thomas Acquinas, Christ, Old Testament Prophets, Montgomery,
Slim, Crick, Watson, Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, etc.). 5. Had a severe
physical or mental disorder for much of life (Godel, Beethoven, Schumann,
Milton, Stephen Hawking, possibly Einstein physically, Buddha it appears,
etc.). 6. Was extremely secretive (Newton, Pierre De Fermat, Sir Roger
Penrose, etc.). 7. Was an interdisciplinary person (Shakespeare I think,
Pierre De Fermat, Newton, Beethoven, Haydn, Weinberg, Dirac, Eddington, Cao
of Boston University, Aristotle, Kursunoglu, Socrates, Plato, Agatha
Christie). 8. Was not strongly motivated by anger or blame (Mahatma Gandhi,
Christ, Buddha, various winners of the Nobel Prize for Peace, Socrates it
appears, Freud). 9. Was very courageous (Socrates, Christ, Old Testament
Prophets, Field Marshalls Montgomery and Slim, Beethoven, Hawking, Gandhi,
various winners of the Nobel Prize for Peace, Saint Thomas More).
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