Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Humanities for the humanities’ sake, is a rather old and one-sided ideology

5. January 7th, 2008 1:09 am Art for art’s sake,
or, as the case proposed here, humanities for the humanities’ sake, is a rather old and one-sided ideology, but if we all were to adopt it, life certainly would become easier for Professor Fish, since there would be no way to evaluate the work of any humanist, except by his or her own standards, and even those standards would be reduced to the standards of the professional status quo. — Posted by RJ
10. January 7th, 2008 1:48 am Where to begin?
Stanley Fish’s argument is predicated upon an artificial distinction between “The Humanities” on the one hand and “The Sciences” on the other. One is useless, the other is useful. One acts only upon itself, the other acts upon the world.
These sorts of distinctions may exist on college websites and in faculty phone books, but a single moment of honest reflection will show just how baseless they are in the real world. The obvious truth is that the philosophers Fish so casually denigrates make important contributions to the sciences all the time (for example, Merleau-Ponty and neuro-cognition, Wittgenstein and mathematics, etc.)
And just as obviously, the hard sciences have had a profound impact on the humanities. Advances in biology, physics, and astronomy have prompted poets, philosophers, and historians to radically re-evaluate man and his relationship with the world, (Elliot, Van Gogh, and Weber leap to mind).
And as if evidence for this trans-disciplinary conversation weren’t obvious enough, there’s an entire branch of the American academy EXPLICITLY devoted to the moments where the humanities and the sciences meet: they’re called the social sciences and they’re pretty important. Political science, economics, sociology, anthropology…any of this ringing a bell, Fish? Since your a professor of law, perhaps you can explain to me how your profession — how the very NOTION of modern law — is feasible without some section of the population committed to teaching and studying the “humanities”.
Fish’s analysis of the humanities, and his selective use of examples, reduces art, history, and philosophy to mere entertainments — to innocent diversions best left to the naive graduate student or the nostalgic retiree. Fish ought to know better. This sort of writing is unbecoming of Fish and beneath the New York Times. — Posted by Jeffrey Sachs

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps the Fish is correct---and it also applies to him.

    This reference describes the parameters within which the Western "university" operates---including its so called "religious" departments.