17.324 criteria for "theory"

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Wed Oct 22 2003 - 01:35:55 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 324.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

       [1] From: "Malcolm Hayward" <mhayward@iup.edu> (17)
             Subject: Re: 17.318 criteria for "theory" &c

       [2] From: lachance@origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois (22)
             Subject: Re: 17.318 criteria for "theory" &c

             Date: Wed, 22 Oct 2003 06:18:27 +0100
             From: "Malcolm Hayward" <mhayward@iup.edu>
             Subject: Re: 17.318 criteria for "theory" &c

    I think we can all concur that Willard deserves our blessings and curses
    for raising such interesting questions and making us think in the morning.
    Who has time to consider such things as the bases of theory? And who can
    escape trying to think through such issues once they are laid before us?

    That said, I was reading through Sidney's "Defense of Poesy" (to teach it
    today) and was struck yet once more by "Now, for the poet, he nothing
    affirms, and therefore never lieth. For, as I take it, to lie is to affirm
    that to be true which is false. So as the other artists, and especially the
    historian [take that, historians], can, in the cloudy knowledge of mankind,
    hardly escape from many lies," and so on. As with the poet, so too with the
    theorist, I think, for the theorist knows in the back of his/her mind that
    the theory is a fabrication meant to be measured not by truth values but by
    some level of satisfaction, related ultimately to service to the good. As
    to the other issue Willard raises, I wouldn't say that the theory is a
    narrative construction in itself; that might look too much like the
    affirmation of truth. Rather theories supply the organizing structures upon
    which narratives may be built. Perhaps must be built. Malcolm Hayward

             Date: Wed, 22 Oct 2003 06:19:38 +0100
             From: lachance@origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: Re: 17.318 criteria for "theory" &c


    Might you be searching for a space between ethic and theory? The question
    is suggested by a reading of Michel de Certeau's "History, Science and
    Fiction" which appeared in Social Science as Moral Inquiry ed. by R.
    Bellah et al. (1983) and reprinted in Heterologies (1986). The French
    historiographer writes:

    Differentiated and limited disciplines, which organize operations within
    coherent frameworks, define theoretical hypotheses, specific objects of
    knowledge, and scopes of investigations. The social sciences born in modern
    times form a set of institutions that express ethical postulates through
    technical operations.

    For me, de Certeau's essay resonnates with the often encountered tension
    in text encoding discussions between an ontological approach (the attempt
    to represent a what is there) and a more nominalist approach (documenting
    a reading, marking out a possible map). It seems what you are after in
    your quest for a theoretically-informed space is a space where a dialogue
    between practitioners can occur.

    Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large

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