Art is Art and Science is Science, “and never the twain shall meet”?

HuCo 500 – Weekly questions


The notion of hypothesis testing and empirical validation comes out of the language of experimental science– a rhetorical tradition that evolved to lend some structure to the exploration of the natural world by providing a method for separating the unversally agreed-upon (‘the facts’) from the focus of current disagreement and debate.  It is not difficult to imagine why such language would seem foreign…in a field so focused…on encouraging the critical discourse to continue. (Ramsey, 2003)

Is the language and methodology of “experimental science” completely incompatible with that found in literary criticism?  Does it/could it have a place in defining, even enriching the critical discourse?

Related: What role should computational methods play in the act of interpretation?


This does not imply that the software should be neutral, as many tools and web sites in digital humanities try to be.  It cannot be neutral in this regard, since there is no level at which assumption disappears.  It must, rather, assert its utter lack of neutrality with candor, so that the demonstrably non-neutral act of interpretation can occur. (Ramsay, 2005)

Can software be neutral, or is it invariably biased by the various levels of mediation it is subject to (human agencies that participated in developing, programming, rendering the software)?  Are the tools we use ever neutral?


Bonus question:

[Are we not] inflicting an inappropriate humanism upon the cherished positivism of scientific enquiry? (Ramsay, 2005)

Is humanism ever inappropriate?



Ramsay, Stephen. (2005). “In Praise of Pattern.” TEXT Technology. 14(2).

Ramsay, Stephen. (2003). “Toward an Algorithmic Criticism.” Literary and Linguistic Computing. 18(2).

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