Author Topic: Humanities today  (Read 940 times)

Offline bipasha

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Humanities today
« on: November 15, 2012, 09:54:09 AM »
Humanities today
In the United States
Main article: Humanities in the United States

The Humanities Indicators, unveiled in 2009 by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, are the first comprehensive compilation of data about the humanities in the United States, providing scholars, policymakers and the public with detailed information on humanities education from primary to higher education, the humanities workforce, humanities funding and research, and public humanities activities.[18][19] Modeled after the National Science Board’s Science and Engineering Indicators, the Humanities Indicators are a source of reliable benchmarks to guide analysis of the state of the humanities in the United States.

Many[weasel words] American colleges and universities believe in the notion of a broad "liberal arts education",[original research?] which requires all college students to study the humanities in addition to their specific area of study.[citation needed] The University of Chicago and Columbia University were among the first[weasel words] schools to require an extensive core curriculum in philosophy, literature, and the arts for all students.[citation needed] Other colleges with nationally recognized, required two year programs in the liberal arts are St. John's College, Saint Anselm College and Providence College. Prominent proponents of liberal arts in the United States have included Mortimer J. Adler[20] and E. D. Hirsch, Jr..

The 1980 United States Rockefeller Commission on the Humanities described the humanities in its report, The Humanities in American Life:

    Through the humanities we reflect on the fundamental question: What does it mean to be human? The humanities offer clues but never a complete answer. They reveal how people have tried to make moral, spiritual, and intellectual sense of a world in which irrationality, despair, loneliness, and death are as conspicuous as birth, friendship, hope, and reason.

"Increasing numbers of critics view education in the liberal arts as irrelevant" [21] or as "learning more and more about less and less" [22] which no longer prepares the students for the American job market in the face of increased competition due to more graduates .[23] After World War II, many millions of veterans took advantage of the GI Bill. Further expansion of federal education grants and loans have expanded the number of adults in the United States that have attended a college.[23] In 2003, roughly 53% of the population had some college education with 27.2% having graduated with a Bachelor's degree or higher, including 8% who graduated with a graduate degree.[24] The counter view is that "A familiarity with the body of knowledge and methods of inquiry and discovery of the arts and sciences and a capacity to integrate knowledge across experience and discipline may have far more lasting value in such a changing world than specialized techniques and training, which can quickly become outmoded." [23]
In the digital age

Researchers in the humanities have developed numerous large- and small-scale digital corpora, such as digitized collections of historical texts, along with the digital tools and methods to analyze them. Their aim is both to uncover new knowledge about corpora and to visualize research data in new and revealing ways. The field in which much of this activity occurs is called the Digital Humanities.
Legitimation of the humanities

The modern "crisis" facing humanities scholars in the university is multifaceted: universities in the United States in particular have adopted corporate guidelines requiring profit both from undergraduate education and from academic scholarship and research, resulting in an increased demand for academic disciplines to justify their existence based on the applicability of their disciplines to the world outside of the university.[citation needed] Increasing corporate emphasis on "life-long learning" has also affected the university’s role as educator and researcher.[25] Responses to those changing institutional norms, and to changing emphasis on what constitutes "useful skills" in an increasingly technological world, have varied greatly both inside and outside of the university system.
Citizenship, self-reflection, and the humanities

Since the late 19th century, a central justification for the humanities has been that it aids and encourages self-reflection, a self-reflection which in turn helps develop personal consciousness and/or an active sense of civic duty.

Wilhelm Dilthey and Hans-Georg Gadamer centered the humanities’ attempt to distinguish itself from the natural sciences in humankind’s urge to understand its own experiences. This understanding, they claimed, ties like-minded people from similar cultural backgrounds together and provides a sense of cultural continuity with the philosophical past.[26]

Scholars in the late 20th and early 21st centuries extended that “narrative imagination”[27] to the ability to understand the records of lived experiences outside of one’s own individual social and cultural context. Through that narrative imagination, it is claimed, humanities scholars and students develop a conscience more suited to the multicultural world in which we live.[28] That conscience might take the form of a passive one that allows more effective self-reflection[29] or extend into active empathy which facilitates the dispensation of civic duties in which a responsible world citizen must engage.[28] There is disagreement, however, on the level of influence humanities study can have on an individual and whether or not the understanding produced in humanistic enterprise can guarantee an “identifiable positive effect on people.”[30]
Truth, meaning, and the humanities

The divide between humanistic study and natural sciences informs arguments of meaning in humanities as well. What distinguishes the humanities from the natural sciences is not a certain subject matter, but rather the mode of approach to any question. Humanities focuses on understanding meaning, purpose, and goals and furthers the appreciation of singular historical and social phenomena—an interpretive method of finding “truth”—rather than explaining the causality of events or uncovering the truth of the natural world.[31] Apart from its societal application, narrative imagination is an important tool in the (re)production of understood meaning in history, culture and literature.

Imagination, as part of the tool kit of artists or scholars, serves as vehicle to create meaning which invokes a response from an audience. Since a humanities scholar is always within the nexus of lived experiences, no "absolute" knowledge is theoretically possible; knowledge is instead a ceaseless procedure of inventing and reinventing the context in which a text is read. Poststructuralism has problematized an approach to the humanistic study based on questions of meaning, intentionality, and authorship.[dubious – discuss] In the wake of the death of the author proclaimed by Roland Barthes, various theoretical currents such as deconstruction and discourse analysis seek to expose the ideologies and rhetoric operative in producing both the purportedly meaningful objects and the hermeneutic subjects of humanistic study. This exposure has opened up the interpretive structures of the humanities to criticism humanities scholarship is “unscientific” and therefore unfit for inclusion in modern university curricula because of the very nature of its changing contextual meaning.[dubious – discuss]
Pleasure, the pursuit of knowledge, and humanities scholarship

Some, like Stanley Fish, have claimed that the humanities can defend themselves best by refusing to make any claims of utility.[32] (Fish may well be thinking primarily of literary study, rather than history and philosophy.) Any attempt to justify the humanities in terms of outside benefits such as social usefulness (say increased productivity) or in terms of ennobling effects on the individual (such as greater wisdom or diminished prejudice) is ungrounded, according to Fish, and simply places impossible demands on the relevant academic departments. Furthermore, critical thinking, while arguably a result of humanistic training, can be acquired in other contexts.[25] And the humanities do not even provide any more the kind of social cachet (what sociologists sometimes call "cultural capital") that was helpful to succeed in Western society before the age of mass education following World War II

Instead, scholars like Fish suggest that the humanities offer a unique kind of pleasure, a pleasure based on the common pursuit of knowledge (even if it is only disciplinary knowledge). Such pleasure contrasts with the increasing privatization of leisure[citation needed] and instant gratification characteristic of Western culture; it thus meets Jürgen Habermas’ requirements for the disregard of social status and rational problematization of previously unquestioned areas necessary for an endeavor which takes place in the bourgeois public sphere. In this argument, then, only the academic pursuit of pleasure can provide a link between the private and the public realm in modern Western consumer society and strengthen that public sphere which, according to many theorists,[who?] is the foundation for modern democracy.[citation needed]D.M.B Movement Biaatch
Romanticization and rejection of the humanities

Implicit in many of these arguments supporting the humanities are the makings of arguments against public support of the humanities. Joseph Carroll asserts that we live in a changing world, a world in which "cultural capital" is being replaced with "scientific literacy" and in which the romantic notion of a Renaissance humanities scholar is obsolete. Such arguments appeal to judgments and anxieties about the essential uselessness of the humanities, especially in an age when it is seemingly vitally important for scholars of literature, history and the arts to engage in "collaborative work with experimental scientists or even simply to make "intelligent use of the findings from empirical science."[33] The notion that 'in today's day and age,' with its focus on the ideals of efficiency and practical utility, scholars of the humanities are becoming obsolete was perhaps summed up most powerfully in a remark that has been attributed to the artificial intelligence specialist Marvin Minsky: “With all the money that we are throwing away on humanities and art - give me that money and I will build you to be a better student."[34]