15.579 what computing has to do with life

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty (w.mccarty@btinternet.com)
Date: Wed Apr 10 2002 - 03:08:37 EDT

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                   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 <w.mccarty@btinternet.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/,
    willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk, w.mccarty@btinternet.com

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