What are they for?

skylineStanley Fish makes rather an unapologetic point in his article from January 2008 that I came across accidentally, titled Will the Humanities Save Us, stating that humanities are not supposed to be viewed as means rather than an ultimate end in their own right – l’art pour l’art. This is obviously a problematic point of view as soon as one considers humanities to include disciplines such as history or anthropology (not to mention economy), where most of their respective practitioners would probably not agree that their fields of study are to be viewed purely as a source of enjoyment with any possible practical application being of only secondary importance at best. However, I suppose that regarding literary theory and philosophy it is a valid point of view – and something that I have in fact heard being voiced in the past. But once reduced to this, an inconvenient question begs to be asked – if humanities is indeed all about the personal enjoyment then why should anyone else care? Why should others, who find enjoyment in things completely different – be it physics, football or ice cream – foot the bill of those departments in universities and scholars traveling to conferences on Heiddeger or Henry James?

It certainly is a corageous coming out of closet, and something that anyone of a lesser stature than Stanley Fish couldn’t even try, but ultimately I am not sure if it’s doing humanities any service to proudly claim that if the world finds them somewhat irrelevant then the fault is world’s.

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One thought on “What are they for?

  1. Pingback: To be or not « ……random…noise……

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