Monday, June 23, 2014

Pluralism and an Epistemology of Building

Prompted by a post of Stephen Ramsay's (Postfoundationalism for Life) I've been reading I've been reading James Smythies, Digital Humanities, Postfoundationalism, Postindustrial Culture (DHQ 2014 8.1). Very interesting.

There's a section on the epistemology of building that I like. Heck, I like just that phrase, "the epistemology of building," given my fondness for engineering. A passage:
My purpose is to suggest that his [Willard Mccarty's] cognitive stance has become so widespread it represents a "habit of mind" or, mentalité, that reflects the goals and aspirations of a significant portion of the community, including Franco Moretti (2005), Julia Flanders (2009; 2012), Galey and Ruecker (2010), Ramsay and Rockwell (2012) and several others. The implications of the stance are fascinating. In extended commentaries later encapsulated in Scheinfeldt’s epigrammatic tweet, McCarty suggests that theories of computer coding, modeling and design are capable of providing an epistemological basis for the digital humanities; that rather than being mere by-products of the development process, they "contain arguments that advance knowledge about the world" [Galey and Ruecker 2010, 406]. The argument proffered is that the need to create models of reality (ontologies, database schemas, algorithms and so on), required to allow computers to mathematically parse problems posed by their human operators, offers a radical new methodological basis for future humanities research.
Why not?

As for postfoundationalism:
Postfoundationalism asserts that there is no point asserting either more confidence in our understanding of reality than is justified (as with modernism and logical empiricism) or retreating into a pessimistic view of our ability to grasp any one reality at all (as with postmodernism and postmodern deconstruction) [Ginev 2001, 28]. Rather, in a claim that could perhaps be criticized for claiming to have cut the Gordian knot, postfoundationalism "reject[s] the possibility of facts outside theoretical contexts. All knowledge incorporates both facts and theories" [Bevir 2011a]. It is an intellectual position that balances a distrust of grand narrative with an acceptance that methods honed over centuries and supported by independently verified evidence can lead, if not to Truth itself, then closer to it than we were before.
Sounds like pluralism to me, though there's no mention of Feyerabend, James, or Latour.

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