Here are the earlier posts. There's much to reply to and clarify, so let's have at it.

To briefly respond to Mr. Katz's most recent comments, let me reiterate that I hold the study of humanity in the second-highest possible esteem, right after the study of God. I didn't go into Computer Science because I love computers, I went into Computer Science because I believe it's the best existing discipline for studying humanity -- which is why I'm specializing in artificial intelligence. AI is the closest field to -- if you will -- applied divinity. Such a comparison is molehills to mountains, but nowhere else does humanity strive towards the greatest of God's accomplishments.

In the process of my university education, I've taken many graduate classes in what many might call the "scientific humanities": psychology, anthropology, sociology, economics, and so forth. I learned a lot, but was frustrated that none of them seemed to go anywhere. As Marvin Minsky said about philosophy, these fields speculate on the nature of man, but they don't have the tools necessary for actual comprehension.

Mr. Katz writes:

In a sense, then, the giants of the humanities are those most steeped in humanitas. Often, their expression of this quality will be tacit or inherently embedded in the incidental language of a particular discipline. Often they will be able to apply it to a science in ways that scientists would never have considered. Michael writes of "the underlying philosophy" of the humanities and of the sciences, but the only unifying philosophy of the former is the search for Truth, and the latter is defined by process, not philosophy.
Anyone who thinks the humanities are about "the search for Truth" is drinking the kool-aid. That may be the ideal, but unfortunately reality has a way of spoiling things. In my experience, the humanities are about the same things as the sciences: getting grants, writing books, getting famous, making money. The real question is whether or not anything worthwhile is accomplished in the meantime, incidental to the motivations of the actors. Because of the scientific process, when people get rich and famous it's generally because they come up with something useful. (Some of the more applied humanities lean in this direction also, such as economics.)

Mr. Katz's conclusion misses the point of my position, I think.

This applies only in a limited way to Michael, but what worries me is modern society's willingness to see science as a philosophy of itself, an arbiter of morality, and to insist not only that it is an important contribution to humanity, but that other pursuits are hardly worth improving upon — or even pursuing, really, except as hobbies — by comparison.
I think the problem is that society refuses to recognize that much of "science" is little more than a philosophy or religion (like secular humanism). As far as the discussion at hand, if the reader takes away anything of value it should be the idea that the humanities are too valuable for our society to continue teaching them in such a sloppy manner.

Marc Comtois comments further with some anecdotes from his own life as both an engineer and a historian (like Clayton Cramer). He agrees that there's more money to be made in science, which seems obvious, despite Mr. Leher's claims that "wages tend to equalize after a few years". I need to see some hard data before I'll believe that.



Email blogmasterofnoneATgmailDOTcom for text link and key word rates.

Site Info