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Literature and the Human Sciences: Comparative Methodological Perspectives

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Claudine Ong

on 13 January 2016

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Transcript of Literature and the Human Sciences: Comparative Methodological Perspectives

Article: 'Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter And Nicer'

By: Annie Paul
2013

Real - Life Situation
Literature and the Human Sciences: Understanding Humanity
Claudine Ong
Published in TIME
____________________________________
Main Knowledge Question
Knowledge Claim
Reading literature increases:

Our real-life capacity for
empathy









Hence, increasing our knowledge and
understanding of humanity



Human Sciences
Methodology Experiments
"Isn’t the true poet or painter a seer?
isn’t he, actually, the only seer we have on earth?

Most apparently not the scientist,
most emphatically not the psychiatrist.”
- J.D. Salinger
> Sample size: 225 participants

> 17 - 38 years

> objective task-based measure of empathy

> Exposure to literature: participants had to check off from a list of names those that they recognised as authors

> Test for Empathy: examine pictures of actors’ eye-regions and identify the emotion being represented

> Concluded: exposure to literature, particularly fiction, was positively correlated with empathy



Attaining knowledge of humanity
Emotion and Imagination
Emotional understanding of
others
Main KQ: What roles do the Human Sciences and the Literary Arts play in contributing to our knowledge and understanding of humanity?
Main KQ: What roles do the Human Sciences and the Literary Arts play in contributing to our knowledge and understanding of humanity?
Main KQ: What roles do the Human Sciences and the Literary Arts play in contributing to our knowledge and understanding of humanity?
What roles do the Human Sciences
and the Literary Arts play in
contributing to our knowledge
and understanding of humanity?

Implications of the outcomes
Secondary RLS
Other areas:

Education
Social Engineering
Limitations
A Different Perspective: Verstehen
Importance of Empathy

Emotively connected to the participants

Emotion and Imagination as WOKs

UNDERSTANDING behaviour, rather than PREDICTING behaviour


Claim: We cannot analyse someone's
behaviour fully until we UNDERSTAND
what they are going through.
EMPATHY
Emotion and Imagination as WOKs - Literary Arts
Empathy
Literary Arts
Aesthetic theory
“Aesthetic experience… [allows us] to perceive the harmony that exists between our faculties and the objects in relation to which they are employed.” - Immanuel Kant
Limitations if used in RLS
Reliability of first-person testimonies

Participant's own motivations

Assumptions

Positivity Bias




Communication of human emotions

Captures complexity of the 'human condition'

In RLS: participants able to identify more emotional states

able to emotionally empathise

exercising imagination and emotion as WOKs
imaginatively project themselves
Literary critic F.R. Leavis of Cambridge University



Literature should remain a living reality,
informing and moulding society and
shaping current sensibility.
Emotion
Imagination
AOKs: Human Sciences, The Arts
WOKs: Emotion, Imagination
> knowledge of authors does not necessarily provide a direct measure of exposure to literature

> simplification; representative only of a certain demographic

>most conclusions ABOUT humanity that we can form from the human sciences are generalisations


> Counterclaim: sheer complexity of studying human behaviour often renders simplification and generalisation NECESSARY

> Role of Human Sciences: to establish GENERAL patterns of human behaviour as part of theory formulation, rather than SPECIFICITY
knowledge of humanity: the human condition; what it means to be a human and the ultimate concerns of human existence.
Conclusion

human sciences and the literary arts have their
own roles
provide us with different
PERSPECTIVES
to knowing and understanding humanity
Human Sciences ----> realise that people have certain propensities, logic-based framework
Literary Arts ----> deeper, more personal understanding, evokes emotions
BOTH ----> holistic idea + introspective view of humanity
Main KQ: What roles do the Human Sciences and the Literary Arts play in contributing to our knowledge and understanding of humanity?
Main KQ: What roles do the Human Sciences and the Literary Arts play in contributing to our knowledge and understanding of humanity?
Main KQ: What roles do the Human Sciences and the Literary Arts play in contributing to our knowledge and understanding of humanity?
Implications and links to RLS
knowledge of humanity

via emotion and imagination

empathetic understanding



RLS: Observable Tests


All non-observables eliminated

Limiting eliminates internal human motivations

Yet humans are not mechanical creatures
cannot be understood solely through

quantitative data + observations.

Immanuel Kant: "Emotions are entirely distinct from reason and rationality. They do not yield knowledge."
However:

Human behaviour cannot always be fully understood via observation and reason alone.
empathy } therefore, emotion and imagination


deeper, more intimate understanding of Humanity

complements more empirical approaches
Main KQ: What roles do the Human Sciences and the Literary Arts play in contributing to our knowledge and understanding of humanity?
RLS: Shared vs Personal Knowledge
Literary perspective: associated more with personal knowledge
Emotions evoked unique to individual
Subjective, personal experience
Strength + Limitation of the Arts
Personal & intimate understanding BUT
Limited; cannot be communicated fully
Human Sciences: General laws, trends
Shared knowledge
Easily communicated such as in RLS: correlative relationship
Systemetic
Contributed by more than one individual (e.g. scientists Mar and Oatley)
Replication of experimental results: RLS studies in 2006, 2009
Aristotle: through poetry, we can attain knowledge of universal concepts
arts generate a different kind of knowledge about humanity
If applied to RLS: yield qualitative data;
Mar & Oatley would be able to empathise with
participants -> greater understanding
Despite limitations and methodological flaws: studies, such as Mar and Oatley's are useful in generating a shared, logic-based framework
In my RLS: Mar and Oatley's findings coincide with the supposed aims of the Literary Arts as an AOK: to cultivate humanity.
Thus, both the Human Sciences and the Literary Arts contribute to our knowledge & understanding of humanity in
different ways
Main KQ: What roles do the Human Sciences and the Literary Arts play in contributing to our knowledge and understanding of humanity?
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