Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: March 11, 2021, 7:29 a.m. Humanist 34.269 - psychology of quantification

				                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 269.
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    [1]    From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.267: psychology of quantification (47)

    [2]    From: Manfred Thaller 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.267: psychology of quantification (87)

    [3]    From: Dino Buzzetti 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.259: psychology of quantification (68)


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: 2021-03-10 21:16:30+00:00
        From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.267: psychology of quantification

Willard,

if we take into account at least 3 sources of general fear in 20th ct. -
psychanalysis, theories of relativity and behaviorist ones leading to
manipulatory social techniques - probably the last one had most influence in
humnist's resistance against quantitative methods in humanities and arts. In
Bridenbaugh's Presidential address the keyword is "dehumanizing".

Kind regards, Herbert

-----Ursprüngliche Mitteilung-----
Von: Humanist 
An: drwender@aol.com
Verschickt: Mi, 10. Mrz 2021 9:22
Betreff: [Humanist] 34.267: psychology of quantification

...

The opposed reactions to disciplinary change -- the drive to quantification,
the abhorrence of it -- makes perfect sense at the disciplinary level of
awareness. But if one considers the eruption of over-the-top passionate
outbursts by professional historians such as University Professor Carl
Bridenbaugh in his Presidential address to the American Historical
Association in 1962, "The Great Mutation",

> The finest historians will not be those who succumb to the dehumanizing
> methods of social sciences, whatever their uses and values... Nor will the
> historian worship at the shrine of that Bitchgoddess, QUANTIFICATION.
> History offers radically different values  and methods.

does one not learn more by considering the academics involved as ordinary
citizens as well as scholars, asking what was going on at the time,
reported in the newspapers they read, discussed with the neighbours and
friends they had etc? In the period I am studying (1949-1991) it was the
Cold War, with the threat of nuclear annihilation seeping in everywhere,
the product of the physical sciences, esp physics. Would that not have
had something to do with some scholars' reluctance to have anything to
do with computers?

Yours,
WM
--
Willard McCarty,
Professor emeritus, King's College London;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist
www.mccarty.org.uk


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: 2021-03-10 14:21:25+00:00
        From: Manfred Thaller 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.267: psychology of quantification

Dear Willard,

as to your question:

> does one not learn more by considering the academics involved as ordinary
> citizens as well as scholars, asking what was going on at the time,
> reported in the newspapers they read, discussed with the neighbours and
> friends they had etc? In the period I am studying (1949-1991) it was the
> Cold War, with the threat of nuclear annihilation seeping in everywhere,
> the product of the physical sciences, esp physics. Would that not have
> had something to do with some scholars' reluctance to have anything to
> do with computers?

Well ... That is one of the questions, where it is almost impossible to
give ONE question.

An obvious answer is, yes, of course, all people are embedded into the
discourses of their society, and scholars are people, most certainly.

However - 1962: The speech you quote (admittedly, I had to look it up)
was delivered on December 29th, 1962. On September 12th, 1962, Kennedy
gave his "We choose to go to the Moon" speech. Was the public climate 3
months later really one, where scepticism about physics and technology
as such was the ground swell of public opinion? Six years later, by the
way, Le Roy Ladurie made his famous statement „dans ce demaine au moins,
l’historien de demain sera programmeur ou il ne sera plus”; where I've
chosen him as witness because he himself was definitely NO quantifier of
any stripe, but just rode the wave.

So I really find it extremely hard to believe, that historians in 1962
had necessarily to be averse to technology. They were most
certainly, however, entitled to be conservative.

Here Bridenbaugh's lecture, which I did not know before, presents a very
strange picture: when I looked his biography up, I was quite surprised,
that at the time of the lecture he was only 59 years old, as there is an
obvious undertone of "the world - and particularly in it what I care
about the most - is going to the dogs", which in my experience usually
sets in at least a decade later only. (Yes, I do worry about it myself
with some positions I hold.)

Than I do admit, that I do not really understand his position
completely. On the one hand, it is certainly conservative, deploring a
perceived loss of traditional educational values. In that context he
actually raises an argument, which for me is one of the cardinal sins
any historian can commit: if you grow up in an urban environment or
among the lower classes, you cannot understand the history of rural
communities or the educated elite. Well, if you say, that if you are x
you cannot understand y, you actually deny the feasibility of historical
research. Almost all historians claim somehow to be able to interpret
phenomena they have no personal experience of.

On the other hand, he is a clear forerunner of things to come. Among the
long list of things and tendencies he is worried about, I find:
"[Though] ... a sound knowledge of how people lived, acted, and thought,
of the economy, and of social and cultural developments, is vital to any
understanding of the end product, which is political action, more and
more present-day practitioners almost assiduously avoid acquiring it.
Instead they engage in what I call the retreat to politics, a flight
back to the old-line political history." (p. 323/324 in the AHR issue
you quote)

Really? In 1962? While the second generation of the Annales started
spreading the gospel of the Histoire de Mentalites beyond France? (Even
though the English translation of La Méditerranée et le Monde
Méditerranéen a l'époque de Philippe II appeared only in 1972, admittedly.)

I'm not very familiar with Bridenbaugh, but was vaguely aware of him as
the important historian who had discovered the history of the (colonial)
American towns as an object of study, which in some way actually
influenced the New Urban History of the American sixties onwards ...
which in turn was a major opening for the influx of social science /
political science / anthropological theories into historical research,
with a strong flavor of quantification.

Is it marginally possible, that we have a person here who is frustrated
where his legacy is carried by the annoyingly young young generation? -
Rather than somebody afraid of physics?

As ever,
Manfred


--
Prof. em. Dr. Manfred Thaller
Zuletzt Universität zu Köln /
Formerly University at Cologne

--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: 2021-03-10 13:36:37+00:00
        From: Dino Buzzetti 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 34.259: psychology of quantification

Dear Willard,

Identifying mathematics with quantification, in the sense of
measurement, seems to me an oversimplification that has to do
with an incomplete awareness of what mathematics is about.

To support my contention, please let me refer to a quotation by the
theoretical physicist David Hestenes. According to Hestenes, Clifford,
who introduced the well known algebras named after him,

“may have been the first person to find significance in the fact that
two different interpretations of number can be distinguished, the
quantitative and the operational. On the first interpretation, number
is a measure of “how much” or “how many” of something. On the
second, number describes a *relation* between different quantities.”
(*New Foundations for Classical Mechanics*, 2nd ed. New York : Kluwer
Academic Publishers, 1999, p. 60.

Now, coming to computing, an algorithm is a series of operational
instructions and I would like to recall what is defined as ”hyper-
computation” that deals not only with quantitative, but also with
qualitative, computation.

For an introductory presentation, I would refer to Fraçoise Chatelin's
paper “A computational journey into the mind”  published in *Natural *
*Computing*, 11 (2012) : 67–79. Special Issue UC2010 (J. Timmis and K.
Morita, guest editors). DOI 10.1007/s11047-011-9269-6.
Also available online here:
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.414.7450&rep=rep1&type=
pdf

 There, just at the beginning (p. 67b), she writes:

“This paper is an introduction to the domain of mathematical
computation which extends beyond modern calculus and classical
analysis when numbers are not restricted to belong to a commutative
field. It describes the dynamics of complexification, resulting in an
endless remorphing of the computational landscape. Nonlinear
computation weaves a colourful tapestry always in a state of
becoming. In the process, some meta-principles emerge which
guide the autonomous evolution of mathematical computation.
These organic principles provide new rational ways to analyse very
large numerical simulations of unstable phenomena: they lie at the
heart of the new theory of Qualitative Computing.”

For a comprehensive treatment see her
*Qualitative Computing: **A Computational Journey Into Nonlinearity*.
Singapore: World Scientific, 2012.

All this to say that there can be a mathematical and computational
treatement of problems of nonlinear relations and nondeterministic
phenomena. The bias of the “two cultures” seems to be entertained
by the majority of humanities scholars too.

Yours,      -dino buzzetti


--
Dino Buzzetti                                         formerly
Department of Philosophy    University of Bologna
                                                            currently
Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose Giovanni XXIII
via san Vitale, 114                  I-40125 Bologna BO
e-mail:  dino.buzzetti [at] gmail.com
              buzzetti [at] fscire.it
Web:  http://web.dfc.unibo.it/buzzetti
*http://www.fscire.it/index.php/en/who-we-are/researchers/dino-buzzetti-2/
*


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