Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: March 12, 2022, 6:58 a.m. Humanist 35.589 - disciplinary health?

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 589.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
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        Date: 2022-03-11 06:59:54+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty <>
        Subject: what makes for disciplinary well-being?

Many here, I suspect, will be familiar with the philosopher of
mathematics and science Imre Lakatos' criteria for research
programmes in the natural sciences as progressing, stagnating or
degenerating. (See his paper, "History of science and its rational
reconstructions", in The Methodology of Scientific Research 
Programmes, Philosophical Papers, Vol 1, Cambridge 1978.) 
His particular focus is not directly relevant here. I cite his 
paper to raise the analogous question of whether fields of research 
we are more likely to be involved with are healthy -- and so 
progressing in that sense.

This question arises for digital humanities from recent work on the 'dark
side' of digital humanities. Subtracting the Manichaean drama of a 
Darth Vaderish scenario is, I think, a good first step. We're then
left with some broad and difficult questions, such as what disciplines
are for. My inclination is to seek the advice of the really old ones,
such as history and philosophy, and to those two I'd also add (with
reference to Kant) anthropology, which according to him in the Jäsche 
Logik is the discipline that embraces all others. Looking across them, 
what would we say disciplines are for? History is doubly useful at this 
point, for we can ask this question of purpose with a centuries-long view, 
in which the May-fly longevity of some disciplinary trajectories rather 
disqualifies them from serious consideration.


Willard McCarty,
Professor emeritus, King's College London;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist

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