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Date: Sun, 06 Aug 2006 10:03:16 +0100 From: Willard McCarty To: Humanist Discussion Group Subject: defining humanities computing Dear colleagues, The philosopher F. H. Bradley, in "Association and Thought", Mind 12.47 (1887): 354, arguing in a footnote with the editor of that journal about how to define "a psychical fact or event" in the empirical science of psychology, declares that A definition in psychology is for me a working definition. It is not expected to have more truth than is required for practice in its science; and if when pressed beyond it contradict itself, that is quite immaterial. Giving his definition, he then observes, We see here the impotence of empirical science to justify its principles theoretically. -- not because this or any other empirical science is inherently inferior, but because in his view metaphysics has no place in it. But what then justifies such a field is its results, which in the case of psychology is a better understanding of how and why humans do what they do, and not only or primarily why we shop for particular products or any other such thing to which psychology might be applied. If humanities computing is an empirical field -- I won't say "science" for obvious reasons -- then by analogy its justification cannot be how and why it is that, say, historians do better history as a result, but how and why scholarly enquiry is different -- better, perhaps, but certainly different -- across all the humanities (by which the historians' improved performance may be explained). Not a metaphysical but a pragmatic philosophy? Yours, Willard McCarty