File /Humanist.vol22.txt, message 377

From: Humanist Discussion Group <>
Date: Sun, 14 Dec 2008 07:09:03 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: [Humanist]  22.380 the best victory

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 380.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to:

        Date: Sat, 13 Dec 2008 23:43:57 -0700
        From: Stan Ruecker <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist]  22.379 how different subjects are different
        In-Reply-To: <>

Willard, thanks for this. I was particularly struck by these three 
paragraphs on page 330:

"Though some people think that neologisms are the way (pace the 
Condillacian side of Lavoisier), in the long run the way to capture 
minds may be to introduce the new pretending to be the old.

My model here is the two-step evolution of the nature of the chemical 
bond. The first conflation is of the simple 19th century line, denoting 
association, with a shared electron pair in a Lewis structure. This was 
followed by Pauling’s skillful association of the covalent wave function 
of the new quantum mechanics with Lewis’ shared pairs, and through that 
with the 19th century bond. Meanwhile, other signatures of 
bonding—length, energy, vibrations—reified the chemical bond.

Another instance, a very recent one in my community of theoretical 
chemistry, is of using the supposedly unneeded (if not unreal) orbitals 
of density functional theory in the same ways as the orbitals of a 
so-called one electron molecular orbital approach to electronic 
structure. The latter is a poorer theory, with greater explanatory 
power, and in it my favorite molecular orbitals play the central role. 
Still another grafting is that of explanations of electrostatics onto a 
quantum mechanical calculation which from the start has electrostatics 
built into it. This is going on, with a vengeance, right now."

I am not sure if "capturing minds" is quite the formulation I would use 
for what we are trying to do in the digital humanities, but the 
principle in some cases is similar. I am reminded of the passage in the 
Art of War that says that the best victory is one where the opposing 
general never even knew there was a conflict. It may be worth noting, 
however, that one consequence of that kind of success is that the best 
generals may not appear prominently in the history books.


Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 379.
>          Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                 Submit to:
>         Date: Fri, 12 Dec 2008 06:25:52 +0000
>         From: Willard McCarty <>
>         > 
> Those here with interests in interdisciplinarity and so how different 
> disciplines go about their business differently will value a recent 
> article by the Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffmann, "What might philosophy of 
> science look like if chemists built it?", Synthese 155.3 (April 2007): 
> 321-36. Also his book, The Same and Not the Same (Columbia University 
> Press, 1995), Part II: "The way it is told", is worth looking at. One of 
> the valuable aspects of both is his argument concerning the reductionism 
> characteristic of 20C physics.
> Yours,
> WM

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