RE: Tech Writer Lawsuit
"Leonard C. Porrello" <Leonard -dot- Porrello -at- SoleraTec -dot- com>
"McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>, "Gene Kim-Eng" <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>, "Ned Bedinger" <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
Tue, 3 Jun 2008 09:51:22 -0700
>Kevin stated, "Whether you know it or not, you are saying that the
fields >of human thought are exclusive. . . if you are a scientist or an
engineer, >your life and efforts can never have profound and lasting
Actually, I was very careful to avoid that implication. Ultimately, I
agree with what Ned implied. It is a false dichotomy. I need engineers
and scientists to survive. What I was saying is that the values that
drive science and engineering are born of artsy-scholarship. That makes
artsy-scholarship more "profound" (at the bottom) or seminal.
> a) the formal study of humanities is necessary before one can know if
> one's life is "better", or to envision other potential lives, both
> better and worse, or to have the motivation and will to work toward a
> vision of "better" (i.e., a scientists, an engineer, or an uneducated
> barbarian can't move history)?
> b) the study of humanities does not frequently result in horrendous
> anti-life pursuits, philosophies, and outcomes, just as can sometimes
> lead to life-affirming pursuits, philosophies, and outcomes?
To (a), Formal education is wonderful, but I'd say that "systematic"
(rather than "formal") study is absolutely necessary. Aristotle spent
decades studying under Plato before he set out on his own. There is
perhaps one mind a millennia of Aristotle's genius.
To (b), all of the greatest wonders and horrors of human history were
born of ideology. Some ideologies are wonderful. Some are monstrous.
This is precisely why the study of humanities is so important.
>Most of the "humanities" are similarly lacking. SOME branches of
>philosophy address such questions directly.
This is unfortunately valid. We know more and more about less and less.
>Rare is the writer of fiction who sets out to "examine the big
questions", >first and foremost. Rarer still is such a writer who gets
published and >read. I suggest that most fiction writers write a good
engaging story, and
>then somebody with a lot of time on her/his hands comes by later to
>apart the story, the setting, the choice of language, the naming of the
>characters.... everything is so.... so... fraught.
Regardless of authorial intention, everything we read indoctrinates.
Ever read Aldus Huxley's "Brave New World"? He makes the point much
better than I can here.
>Just differently, and in different areas of business. A law firm has
>a lot of need for staff engineers or staff scientists. A grocery-store
>chain? Some of everything. A survey and polling firm? A different mix
Amen! We each have an important part to play, and in any given role,
there is the opportunity to perform with a level of excellence that
would be difficult to match by someone just walking in.
>I didn't say anything to detract from holders of arts degrees, so no
>need to feel defensive. I just said that there are reasons why a lot of
>people are attracted to more tangible pursuits.
How about your claim that those with degrees in science and engineering
warrant more respect than those with degrees in humanities, who warrant
only common or casual respect?
As for the rest of what you said, much of it is true, and much of it
seems to propagate a false dichotomy. A good education in humanities or
science and engineering ideally teaches one to think systematically. And
this is why I would assert that the art history major working in IT uses
her education as much as the engineer.
From: McLauchlan, Kevin [mailto:Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 03, 2008 7:55 AM
To: Leonard C. Porrello; Gene Kim-Eng; Ned Bedinger
Cc: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: RE: Tech Writer Lawsuit
Leonard C. Porrello [mailto:Leonard -dot- Porrello -at- SoleraTec -dot- com] myopically
accused Kevin of myopia .... :-)
> Kevin claimed, "All three of artsy-scholarship, science, and
> engineering, take place in the mind, but the latter two bring physical
> change into the world where you and I live."
> I think his view on this issue is myopic.
> While the impact of science and engineering on the world is enormous,
> both wonderful and monstrous, the impact of the ideas developed and
> propagated by "artsy-scholarship" (i.e., humanities) is far more
> profound. Warrant? Two words: Communist Manifesto. If that isn't
> how about Christianity, Islam, Atheism, Materialism, German Idealism,
> Darwinism, Nazism, Socialism, Laissez-faire, and Capitalism? And we
> mustn't forget, "Those who forget history are destined to repeat it".
Whether you know it or not, you are saying that the fields of human
thought are exclusive. . . if you are a scientist or an engineer, your
life and efforts can never have profound and lasting social effects.
> On a social level, before science and engineering can truly help us to
> live better lives, we need humanities to tell us what "better" is.
So, you are saying that:
a) the formal study of humanities is necessary before one can know if
one's life is "better", or to envision other potential lives, both
better and worse, or to have the motivation and will to work toward a
vision of "better" (i.e., a scientists, an engineer, or an uneducated
barbarian can't move history)?
b) the study of humanities does not frequently result in horrendous
anti-life pursuits, philosophies, and outcomes, just as can sometimes
lead to life-affirming pursuits, philosophies, and outcomes?
> On a
> personal level, "the unexamined life is not worth living"; science and
> engineering have nothing to say to the three most profound questions
> the heart of every person: "Who am I?", "Why am I here?", and "Where
> I going?"
Most of the "humanities" are similarly lacking. SOME branches of
philosophy address such questions directly.
Studies of literature seem, in my mind, to impute a lot of stuff that
might or might not actually be in the works that they dissect. Rare is
the writer of fiction who sets out to "examine the big questions", first
and foremost. Rarer still is such a writer who gets published and read.
I suggest that most fiction writers write a good engaging story, and
then somebody with a lot of time on her/his hands comes by later to pick
apart the story, the setting, the choice of language, the naming of the
characters.... everything is so.... so... fraught.
It's pretty rare for the critic or the literary dissector - even the
more relatively successful ones - to make more than the relatively more
successful writer of good stories that people like to read.
> If salary is any indication of respect, I think it is safe to say that
> the business world does not value or respect those educated in
> and engineering more so than it does those educated in the humanities.
Just differently, and in different areas of business. A law firm has not
a lot of need for staff engineers or staff scientists. A grocery-store
chain? Some of everything. A survey and polling firm? A different mix
But you missed my point (or I failed to make it properly).
The average person - NOT somebody who has planned from age 2-1/2 to
become a world-beating, firebrand political leader, but just your
average, everyday person looking to become gainfully employed - sees
that engineers make things. They make new things; they make existing
things better, in tangible ways. An engineer can make something that
never becomes a product, and while there's a little disappointment in
that, they still have the satisfaction of knowing that they solved a
problem (or a thousand nested problems) and worked out a solution and
the thing is now there to be used.
On the other hand, that average person also sees that the course-load
and course content is _tough_! Certainly aptitude enters into the
There are people on this list who studied art history and who still have
that as a major part of their everyday lives. You can count them on the
fingers of one hand and have fingers left over. There are people on this
list who studied art history and who haven't dusted off those books in
decades, never use any of their three years of semi-specialized study
(after the first-year survey courses...) in their ongoing employment,
nor in their after-work hobbies. As technical writers, they don't even
build on or derive from those years of study. The study wasn't wasted -
it expanded their minds, their horizons - but it isn't applied. Decades
later, they'd be hard-pressed to describe how their four years of BA now
informs their lives.
Engineers, on the other hand, while they might not use the theory
courses in everyday life, and while their practical courses are
long-since outdated, still use knowledge that derives directly from what
they learned in school.
The same applies to scientists. They use, in everyday life, what they
learned in school, what they chose to specialize in.
Moreover, many of them _build_ upon what they learned, contributing to
the field as part of their everyday worklives. The secret stuff gets out
one way or another as patents expire or as government secrecy moves on.
Programmers contribute to open-source projects, in addition to their
work for employers.
I didn't say anything to detract from holders of arts degrees, so no
need to feel defensive. I just said that there are reasons why a lot of
people are attracted to more tangible pursuits.
If times get tight and the company is deciding who to keep and who to
let go, the arts major had better have a good track record as a sales
rep or marketing guru or project manager, rather than as an art
historian or as one of the only twelve speakers of an obscure dead
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