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Shallow Reason #1 on Why You Should Self-Archive

July 16, 2008

Math is easy. I mean, not easy for me, and not “easy” to imply that it’s all memorizing and no thinking. I imagine that Bertrand Russell’s The Principles of Mathematics has gotten more twenty-somethings to reconsider that Philosophy BA than any other single book written in the pre-Habermas era, second only to Heidegger’s … well…anything by Heidegger, really.

Take this amazing excerpt for example, brought to you by way of Fair Use:

This, then, is what is really asserted, and in this proposition it is no longer necessary that our variables should be numbers: the implication holds equally when they are not so. Thus, for example, the proposition x and y are numbers implies (x+y)2 = x2 + 2xy + y2 still holds equally if for x and y we substitute Socrates and Plato:both hypothesis and consequent, in this case, will be false, but the implication will still be true.

Try wrapping your head around what “Socrates squared plus two Socrateses times two Platoes plus Plato squared” might mean. Then go get that Literature degree you’ve been eyeing!

I mean that if someone says they study, teach, or practice mathematics, we all know generally what they do. I would venture to guess that nearly everybody has some daily interaction with mathematics in its simplest forms–and whether they know it or not in its highest forms. We all, for example have to do the reckoning* behind how much we’ve spent and how much we’ve got left.

But if somebody said, “Hey, what’s all that math good for?” somebody could easily point to Teh Internet and snark back, “That’s pretty cool, innit? And that’s what all that math is good for.” And then somebody else can pipe up, “Google’s pretty cool and it makes millions and millions of dollars and it will be so powerful people will hate it the same way that hate Wal-Mart and Disney!!!! And that’s all because of very complex of applied mathematics!!!!!”

I don’t know why that second guy is so excited about Google.**

At any rate, since you’re reading this on the internet, I assume you have just very recently used Google to do something and therefore, whether you knew it or not, you just brushed against some pretty complicated math. Its worth to you is proven by the simple fact that you now know exactly where that brick-and-mortar Threadless shop is in Chicago.

I, on the other hand, work in the humanities, and while everybody has benefited from the existence and practice of the humanities, there’s very little I can point to to prove it.  Which is one of the reasons the Indiana Humanities Council exists. Not only do we organize and sponsor projects that are the humanities, we also promote the humanities more broadly.

One of the ways we do that is by increasing people’s access to the work that humanists are doing. It is my hope that one day, professors and whatnot will co-mingle with the non-professors right here on Hoosierati. They don’t yet, but when they do, I hope they find this post…with this link…which will take them to a website that will give them a little of what I like to call “good advice”: Open Access Publishing. Not only does it help the environment and provide knowledge to people that seek it, but it might make them famous***.

=======================================

*The original “Three R’s” stood for reading, rhetoric, and reckoning (reading, writing, and math).

**Probably because it’s me.

***College-professor-famous, not famous-famous.

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One comment

  1. Your footnote about “college-professor-famous” reminded me of MIT’s OpenCourseWare program. (They put all their course materials online.)

    So then I went and looked up what kinds of humanities courses they offer at MIT. Aha, the Literature Department teaches Frankenstein.

    Now that’s useful.



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