5.0023 Philo-logy (1/29)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Fri, 10 May 91 11:42:20 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0023. Friday, 10 May 1991.

Date: Thu, 9 May 1991 09:00:11 -0400
From: mccarty@epas.utoronto.ca (Willard McCarty)
Subject: philo-logy

Eric Rabkin, in Humanist 5.0013, observes the fact that some people
without professional literary training react more immediately to the
significance of words than those who have this training. Immediate
reactions to literature can of course be tangential, trivial, or worse,
but not necessarily. Experts often miss the point. "In the beginner's
mind there are many possibilities," a teacher of mine once wrote, "in
the expert's there are few." Computing humanists tend to stand outside
the disciplines in which they were trained and so, perhaps, have more
of an opportunity to be intelligent lovers of words and the wisdom in
them than those who neatly fit into the prescribed academic pigeonholes.
In any case, those who do love stories tend in my experience to be
exiles from their own professional groups, or at least inhabitants of
the fringe, where we may be able to enjoy what Rabin recommended: that
we learn from each other.

I found myself the other morning planning a book whose title was to be
_In Praise of Mediocrity_ (with apologies to Erasmus and a nod to
Delphic wisdom). No doubt the world will not suffer if this remains
unwritten. What I meant by this title was precisely the opposite of
what "mediocrity" usually indicates, but the anxious striving for
"excellence" is merely the opposite, and so in some ways identical to,
the path of least resistance. Universities have no short supply of
clever experts. Perhaps, as we think about computing in the
humanities, we might consider the alternatives to producing yet
another cadre of the same.

Willard McCarty