Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 579.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Date: Wed, 10 Apr 2002 08:04:47 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <email@example.com>
Subject: what computing has to do with life
In his brilliant exposition of epistemology, Problems of Knowledge: a
critical introduction to epistemology (Oxford, 2001), Michael Williams
notes that the idea of "knowledge" is normative -- it is not, he argues,
"just about what we *do* believe but what (in some sense) we *must*,
*ought*, or are *entitled* to believe; not just in fact how we conduct our
inquiries but how we *should* or *may* conduct them.... This normative
dimension distinguishes philosophical theories of knowledge from
straightforwardly factual inquiries and explains why demarcational (and
related methodological) issues are so significant. [The "demarcational"
issues are about the scope and limits of human knowledge on the one hand,
and on the other about whether knowledge is given or experienced.] Because
epistemological distinctions are invidious, ideas about epistemological
demarcation always involve putting some claims or methods above others:
mathematics above empirical science, empirical science above metaphysics or
religion, logic above rhetoric, and so on. Demarcational projects use
epistemological criteria to sort areas of discourse into factual and
non-factual, truth-seeking and merely expressive, and, at the extreme,
meaningful and meaningless. Such projects amount to proposals for a map of
culture: a guide to what forms of discourse are 'serious' and what are not.
Disputes about demarcation -- including disputes about whether
demarcational projects should be countenanced at all -- are disputes about
the shape of our culture and so, in the end, of our lives." (pp. 11-12)
As a friend used to say to me in the library, read it tonight.
Dr Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer,
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London,
Strand, London WC2R 2LS, U.K.,
+44 (0)20 7848-2784, ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/,
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