Lecture: Thinking Tools, from Plato to Heidegger

Thinking Tools

Instructor: Christopher Ohge

What is digital humanities? Yes, it is the course you're taking; it is an attitude, perhaps, or a tactic, or a rogue discipline. The video below reviews the meanings of the term, and concludes with a reminder of the meaning of the word 'digital'.

[T]he art of remembering is the art of thinking ... The connecting is the thinking.

–– William James, lecture on 'Memory' (1892)

Before moving onto a brief historical survey of humanities computing, I would like to do a philosophy lesson, because ultimately digital humanities resides on a nexus between critical thinking and computation--on narration and logic.

First I will briefly attend to Plato's Phaedrus, the dialogue that shows how Ancient Greek conceptions of knowledge and representation still persist to this day, and have influenced how we engage with technology.


The question of how we represent our knowledge influences how we conceive of technology. Plato uses the metaphor of recollection: the truth is accessed through recollection. It is inherent. What codes are used, what systems of belief underlie those codes, and what machines do we use to aid our cultural memories?

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as we saw more technological innovation, similar sources of uneasiness were shown in philosophers. The next video summarises some of those major issues.

Last modified: Friday, 9 October 2020, 2:09 PM