17.563 strict and loose

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Fri Jan 23 2004 - 01:51:35 EST

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 563.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

   [1] From: Alexandre Enkerli <aenkerli@indiana.edu> (36)
         Subject: Re: 17.559 the strict and the loose

   [2] From: Andrew Brook <abrook@ccs.carleton.ca> (19)
         Subject: Re: 17.559 the strict and the loose

         Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2004 06:32:49 +0000
         From: Alexandre Enkerli <aenkerli@indiana.edu>
         Subject: Re: 17.559 the strict and the loose

[Bateson said:]
>"As I see it, the advances in scientific thought come from a combination of
>loose and strict thinking, and this combination is the most precious tool
>of science.”

[Willard added:]
>I'm inclined to think that this is exactly what computers do for us
>loose-thinking types: give us a strictness with which to reveal what lies
>between (or beyond) the strict and the loose.
It's been a while since I've read /Steps/ but I think this strict/loose
distinction has more to do with cognitive processes "within the individual"
rather than an interaction between rigid and free-flowing ideas.
To put it another way, though, it's likely true that computing humanists
are expert at both types of thought processes. So are a lot of other people
but in the case of computer-oriented scholars in the Humanities, the tool
does have an impact on the methods.
While not co-extensive with the loose/tight distinction, the oft-mentioned
distinction between qualitative and quantitative methods does offer a
parallel. Computers are incredibly good at statistics and other approaches
to quantitative analysis. Unsurprisingly, humanists and other scholars
using computers have often tried to apply quantitative methods to their
research. But computers may also do wonders with qualitative data as long
as the main analysis is carried by the user. And this is probably where
computing humanists have shined the most. A reason might be because
humanists are typically used to connecting dots outside the "box" drawn by
preconceived ideas on form. So in the case of computers, humanists come
with a background which enables them to see computers as more than what
they are in the eyes other people.
Some might call that "imagination" and it surely has something to do with
Bateson's "loose" thinking. It clearly relates to Lévi-Strauss' "bricolage"
and "pensée sauvage" (as "wild thinking" more than as "wild pansy"), albeit
tangentially. But after all, what can humanists do if they will not go on

Alexandre Enkerli
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology
Indiana University

         Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2004 06:33:08 +0000
         From: Andrew Brook <abrook@ccs.carleton.ca>
         Subject: Re: 17.559 the strict and the loose


I am disposed to disagree with Bateson, though everything hangs on what he
means by 'loose'. I am disposed to disagree because without a lot of highly
regimented formalism, one cannot think complex thoughts at all. What I have
in mind is language and specifically synthax. This is a point that Chomsky
has made over an over. Try to be creative about nuclear physics without
using a language! Far from rule-governed structures restricting freedom,
rule-governed structures of certain kinds are necessary for certain
freedoms even to exist.



Andrew Brook, Professor of Philosophy Past-president, Canadian Philosophical Association Member, Canadian Psychoanalytic Society 2217 Dunton Tower, Carleton University Ottawa ON, Canada K1S 5B6 Ph: 613 520-3597 Fax: 613 520-3985 Web: www.carleton.ca/~abrook </x-flowed>

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