File /Humanist.vol22.txt, message 536

From: Humanist Discussion Group <>
Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2009 07:41:48 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: [Humanist] 22.551 what kind of good?

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 551.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to:

        Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2009 11:11:48 -0500
        From: Andrew Brook <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 22.548 what kind of good?

Willard, the project of "modelling the process(es) by which literature 
arises from our interaction with words" is a marvellous one in principle 
but I wonder how close we are to being able to do it in practice? So far 
as I know, there is no good account as yet of something as basic as how 
we (effortlessly and in an eye-blink) extract the same abstract object 
from 3, three, THREE, III, iii, 11 [binary], ***, and so on. Abstract 
object because there is no way to represent a number except in one of 
these encodings, in a numeral or a word or ... . Yet our brain clearly 
represents the number itself because it is aware that the same object 
spans all the encodings. Does any computer represent abstract objects 
such as numbers? (This is a variant of Searle's Chinese Room problem.)

Last time I checked (a few years ago), I and a PhD student interested in 
the issue couldn't find much evidence that work has even been done on 
the issue.

If anyone knows of anything written on the topic, I'd be grateful for 
the reference.


Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 548.
>          Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                 Submit to:
>         Date: Wed, 18 Feb 2009 06:51:53 +0000
>         From: Willard McCarty <>
>         >
> Thinking now in the wee moments left before sunrise about Martin 
> Mueller's modified version of Lane Cooper's "making the poet write 
> literary literary essays about himself", I wonder more about the 
> cosmological difference between then (1919) and now, close to a century 
> later. Cooper was writing just 3 years before the Vienna Circle was 
> first convened, when "positive knowledge" about a real-world-out-there 
> was a compelling project. We all still bump into things if not kick 
> stones in our path and so are reminded that the positivists had a point. 
> But our cosmology is very different, excitingly different. Do we not now 
>  consider the data-abstraction we make from the words on the physical 
> page as only the beginning of possibilities for modelling textual 
> communication? Now that computers are fast enough for interaction design 
> to be possible, isn't it time that we were thinking more about modelling 
> the process(es) by which literature arises from our interaction with 
> words? Not at all to be theological, but the beginning of the Gospel 
> according to John does come strongly to mind. How about modelling what 
> happens when the word is read?
> Comments?
> Yours,
> WM

Andrew Brook
Chancellor's Professor of Philosophy
Director, Institute of Cognitive Science
Member, Canadian Psychoanalytic Society
2217 Dunton Tower, Carleton University
Ottawa ON, Canada   K1S 5B6
Ph:  613 520-3597
Fax: 613 520-3985

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