A Call for the Humanities to Unite

A Call for the Humanities to Unite


There is a different unifying principle for most non-STEM disciplines—among them English, history, politics and civics, languages and literatures, education, the arts, philosophy, psychology and sociology—which I call the human disciplines. All of the subjects within human disciplines are fundamentally interested in people and with subjectivity. Our disciplines not only illustrate esoteric questions of the meaning and purpose of life but are also uniquely well suited to explore questions of how to live and work with other people. In practical terms, if the job requires being able to work with and understand people—particularly those different from yourself—these degrees can, and should, make you better suited for it. They promote empathy, and require students to regard problems, and people, with complexity and the understanding that no single answer is right.

That is Paul B. Sturtevant, a research associate in the Office of Policy and Analysis at the Smithsonian Institution, writing at Inside Higher Ed about how the humanities might improve its “image problem.”

The kinds of jobs he thinks the humanities are good at preparing people for

exist in all walks of life and include CEOs, kindergarten teachers, judges, advertisers, curators, coaches, social workers and many others. They form the linchpin of our society. They not only drive our economy but also make our country a better place to live by having good, well-trained people doing these jobs. And these jobs are not just lucrative; they offer meaningful work. Understanding how to work with and inspire people makes you better suited to organize those around you toward a common goal, to write, speak and think with power and clarity, and to improve the lives of others. And, in practical terms, these are the jobs that are the least likely to be automated away.

There is a lot to chew over here. It would have been better had Sturtevant engaged with or made use of empirical data to shore up his claims about the humanities (e.g., are humanities majors really more empathetic or better at working with and understanding people? how lucrative are the jobs he mentions?).

But leaving that aside, I am curious about philosophers’ willingness to put aside differences and “unite” with the other humanities. So often, philosophers pride themselves on setting philosophical inquiry apart from the other humanistic disciplines, some of which we tend to view as less rigorous (sorry, non-philosophers reading this, but there is no point in denying philosophers are snobby in this way). It would be helpful to have a counterbalance to this, to hear different ways of conceiving the overlap between philosophy and other humanistic disciplines. Sturtevant, whose PhD is in medieval studies, doesn’t get it quite right. Not “all” philosophy is “fundamentally interested in people and with subjectivity.”

Additionally, I am intrigued by Sturtevant’s suggestion that the jobs the humanities best prepare students for are those that “are the least likely to be automated away.” Is that true?

(image: detail of untitled work by Donald Judd)
Judd graphic

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Michael Cholbi
Michael Cholbi
6 years ago

Most philosophers are not doing ‘humanities’ as other humanists define it: http://bit.ly/19xjNLs. And while the call for solidarity among the disciplines traditionally classified as ‘the humanities’ is well-intentioned, I’d like to see the philosophy community take seriously the prospect that our discipline would be better off in the long-term divorcing the humanities altogether.Report

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
Reply to  Michael Cholbi
6 years ago

Wow, I’m surprised to hear you say that. Most philosophy, especially most value theory, has way more in common with the humanities than with STEM. Can you say more about the grounds for divorce? And are you suggesting remarriage to Science?Report

3124371
3124371
Reply to  Professor Plum
6 years ago

I’m not sure why one would immediately jump to thinking that philosophy would “remarry” (as you have it) science if it were to separate itself from the humanities. One obvious route would be something of an intermediary position: philosophy is its own thing, which connects to the humanities in ways that science typically does not, and with science in the ways that the humanities typically do not.Report

Grad Sockpuppet
Grad Sockpuppet
6 years ago

I doubt other humanists have any idea what goes on in philosophy beyond the history of philosophy, and I suspect they think they don’t care. When it comes to interdisciplinary grants, we’re widely known as a “problem” field–partly because others have a hard time understanding what we do/why we care about it (and that’s partly a communication problem on our part), and partly because we don’t recognize non-philosophers as capable of actually evaluating the merit of the work we do and propose. And that’s to say nothing of the dismissive attitudes we adopt towards other fields!

So, leaving aside the question of how things should be, it seems clear to me that philosophy kind of stands alone at this point, especially in terms of both methodology and content. And I’m not convinced that we *can* join up with the other humanities–not unless we can get them to stop reading the things we think are BS and start reading more contemporary work. It seems to me that we should be doing that legwork *first*–start presenting stuff on interpretation or truth in fiction at the literature conferences and publishing in those journals, start reaching out to the art historians and the historians proper, etc. The more consistently we do that, though, the more I think we’ll end up like an FSM discipline that stands alone but has its tendrils everywhere.

That actually seems pretty desirable to me. Much more so than lumping ourselves back in with the humanities or the sciences or whatever.Report

DC
DC
Reply to  Grad Sockpuppet
6 years ago

I would suspect that if you define “reaching out” as “telling other fields what they should be reading” you will probably fail in reaching out. The idea that all of these fields are just blundering in pointless directions because they haven’t been working on the same questions as philosophy seems to be an exercise in extreme futility.Report

Grad Sockpuppet
Grad Sockpuppet
Reply to  DC
6 years ago

Right. For a sense of what “reaching out” can mean, we can look to some of the work undertaken by the American Society for Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Science Association.

Although I do think it’s entirely fair to call BS when one hast to.Report

Anon Grad Student
Anon Grad Student
Reply to  DC
6 years ago

I don’t think that’s the problem.

Those portions of the humanities other than philosophy which *aren’t* working on the same questions as philosophy — the literature scholars who write about specific works of literature and movements, the historians who do straightforward political or social or intellectual history, and so on — are in fairly good intellectual shape, and philosophers can have lots of interesting conversations with them.

The problem lies with non-philosophers who try to work on philosophical questions — the nature of linguistic meaning, truth, ontology, and so on — and do it exceptionally badly. Ideally, they would stop making pronouncements on these subjects and just work on what they’re expert in. (It works the other way, too: I also think those philosophers who play at being art critics or intellectual historians, and embarrass themselves doing it, should stop and go back to working on things they know something about.)

But if people in the humanities outside of philosophy are determined to make pronouncements about meaning and truth and being, we do have some obligation to correct them when they say manifestly false things and point them towards works on these topics that it would be useful for them to read.Report

DC
DC
Reply to  Anon Grad Student
6 years ago

The thing is, there’s a reason that PhDs are awarded across disciplines; scholars should not just be cataloguing in their field, but also examining the philosophical underpinnings of them. Historians SHOULD be working on the nature of historical “truth,” literature scholars should be thinking about aesthetics, and while philosophers should involve themselves with both it should not, as it seems you and the poster above you are suggesting, a one-way transfer of information. If you don’t think that historians or literary theorists can have anything to teach philosophers, then I think you are misunderstanding the nature of what they do. In regards to your particular examples, it seems a strong argument could be made that over the last several decades linguists have done very important (or at least, not “exceptionally bad[]”!) work on the nature of linguistic meaning, cognitive scientists have done more groundbreaking work on ontology , and I thought philosophy itself gave up on looking for “truth,” unless you mean logic — and in that case there are plenty of mathematicians who would be put out by the idea that they’re not competent to work on it. I would argue as an outsider to philosophy that the thing it really could offer to other fields is work on ethics, since I’ve noticed a lot of the social sciences tend to gloss over or assume a priori ethical precepts without really examining them, but it seems a lot of philosophers are more concerned with obsessively fine-tuning logical and linguistic arguments.Report

Manyul Im
6 years ago

Hmmm. Really interesting issues, Justin. If I may, there is a prior question to your call that has to do with the so-called “STEM”-ing of the sciences. It isn’t clear to me — or to many of the scientists and mathematicians that I talk to — that science and mathematics belong together in any neat way with technology and engineering as far as the goals of these respective disciplines go. The practitioners of the natural sciences and mathematics have much more in common, often, with those in philosophy and the other humanities than with the tech or engineering disciplines. In simplistic terms, the former care much more about research for the sake of expanding knowledge and understanding of the world as a primary goal, than about servicing the advance of technology or engineering in their various endeavors (including medical technology and engineering). I know grants tend to favor the lumping together of the goals of scientists and mathematicians with those of technology and engineering research programs, but that’s an artifice built by foundations and governments interested in external returns on their research investments.Report

Aba
Aba
6 years ago

I’ll all for setting aside differences with the rest of the humanities. Lewis and Kripke surely merit inclusion and appreciation elsewhere than philosophy. That’s what proponents of unity have in mind? Right? Right?Report

Tamler Sommers
6 years ago

WWBWD? (What would Bernard Williams do?) His paper “Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline” has never been more urgent. But we may have drifted even farther away from that vision, I’m not sure. I hope not.Report

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
6 years ago

In the absence of any elucidation and defense of the claim that philosophy should divorce itself from the rest of the humanities, I can only sigh and shake my head at how foolish and self defeating philosophers can be. This kind of arrogance may well lead to the end of professional philosophy, and maybe the world would be better off.

I have experienced some alienation from other humanists and their methods and projects, so I suppose I can understand what might give rise to this stance. But philosophy is enriched by wider engagement with the culture, including the intellectual culture. And I don’t see how that kind of engagement is possible if philosophers see themselves as having no affinities with our colleagues in art history, history, comparative literature, architecture, and so on, as well as the sciences. If philosophers have nothing to say to our colleagues in the humanities, maybe we should see this as a sign that philosophy has become far too narrow and parochial.

Also, from a pragmatic perspective, philosophers risk signing away their already limited number of faculty positions when they endorse the sentiments expressed by Cholbi.

If you have spent any time reviewing the strategic plan of your institution, you will see that the divisions have already been made; like it or not, philosophy is lumped together with the other humanists. More and more resources are being given to STEM at the expense of the humanities. Continuing to mock and deride your colleagues in the humanities strikes me as a pretty clear example of cutting off your nose to spite your face.Report

Michael Cholbi
Michael Cholbi
Reply to  Professor Plum
6 years ago

Plum: The blog post linked above (http://bit.ly/19xjNLs), which you evidently did not consult, express my view on the matter.

Boiling down: Pragmatically, the ‘humanities’ is a bad brand that functions more as a stone in philosophy’s pocket than a buoy that keeps our collective head above water. I find the suggestion that, in the present environment, being associated with the humanities would help philosophy programs secure faculty lines very implausible. As you note, “more and more resources are being given to STEM at the expense of the humanities.” So why not untether ourselves from the humanities?

More directly, I doubt that philosophy has all that much in common with other humanities disciplines. Consider this statement from 4humanities.org:
“The Humanities are academic disciplines that seek to understand and interpret the human experience, from individuals to entire cultures, engaging in the discovery, preservation, and communication of the past and present record to enable a deeper understanding of contemporary society.”
Does that sound like philosophy to you? Maybe history of philosophy, some areas of ethics. But will logicians, clinical ethicists, epistemologists, or philosophers of physics recognize their work in that description? I doubt it. Does this fit the work of Nussbaum, McDowell, or Michael Williams? Clearly not. And many in philosophy are interested in “people” or “subjectivity,” but plenty aren’t. The understanding of the humanities propounded in official quarters (and I’d place the NEH in those quarters) makes the humanities largely backward-looking, descriptive rather than critical, and entirely non-threatening — quiescent academic navel gazing that comments upon the ‘human condition’.

You write:
“philosophy is enriched by wider engagement with the culture, including the intellectual culture. And I don’t see how that kind of engagement is possible if philosophers see themselves as having no affinities with our colleagues in art history, history, comparative literature, architecture, and so on, as well as the sciences. ”
But of course there’s no incompatibility in philosophy not being a humanities discipline and still engaging with those in humanities disciplines. Plenty of philosophers engage with natural scientists despite philosophy not being a natural science.

Does this mean we should be reclassified as a STEM discipline? Maybe. Perhaps we need to revive the notion of the ‘human sciences.’ I believe strongly in humanities education, but don’t think contemporary philosophy is well or accurately served by being classified among the humanities.Report

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
Reply to  Michael Cholbi
6 years ago

Your examples are puzzling to me: you think the methods and projects of Nussbaum are more closely aligned with STEM than with the humanities? I have trouble understanding what that means.

But I want to focus on the pragmatic arguments: while philosophers might be unique in our abilities to align ourselves with both humanists and non-humanists, and interested philosophers should build bridges with their colleagues in the sciences, the fact is that philosophy is classified as a humanities field by most institutions. Wallace gives an overview of some of the reasons for this below.

When philosophers ask for lines and money and positive tenure decisions, they are usually asking *the other humanists* who are on the relevant committee or are serving as dean. From what I know about workings of these committees, the STEM faculty simply defer to the humanists when making decisions about philosophy or individual philosophers, or they intervene in ways that aren’t especially helpful to most philosophers (e.g., they bring different expectations about what counts as reasonable research productivity).

Given this reality, it behooves philosophers to try and build productive relationships with those working in the humanities. Many of these people are already suspicious of us; publicly calling for a divorce risks exacerbating this suspicion and hardening it into outright hostility. This would not serve the interests of philosophers.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Professor Plum
6 years ago

Professor Plum, while I think you’re right about our present relation with other humanities disciplines, one of Cholbi’s concerns (I think) is that the humanities as a whole are liable to face less and less institutional support as university funding priorities shift in the coming years and decades. If we are incorrectly understood as a humanities discipline, that will affect us adversely. At least, this worries me.Report

Michael Cholbi
Michael Cholbi
Reply to  Professor Plum
6 years ago

Again, humanities vs. STEM is a false dilemma, as others have pointed out.

As to faculty resources: No doubt institutional procedures vary, but at least at most institutions I am aware of, only some of those with authority regarding allocating faculty lines and instructional resources will be humanists. The ultimate decisions are made by provosts or presidents who often are *not* humanists, and those in other ‘humanities’ departments have very little input. I don’t think our co-‘humanists’ should be seen as the primary audience for our research or for our claims regarding the disciplines and its needs.

We should be trying to build productive and fruitful relationships with colleagues in all disciplines. I don’t see any convincing basis for concluding that those in other putative humanities disciplines should be a special focus of such efforts.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
6 years ago

From the OP: “All of the subjects within human disciplines are fundamentally interested in people and with subjectivity.”

Personally (at least qua researcher) I’m pretty uninterested in either people or subjectivity. Neither have much role in the interpretation of quantum mechanics, or the structure of spacetime, after all.

(That’s not to say that philosophy shouldn’t see itself as among the humanities; “humanities” is (a) a cluster concept that probably lacks clean necessary-and-sufficient conditions, and (b) as Professor Plum points out, de facto this is the organising hierarchy that tends to be used in the grant process and in university admin, like it or not.)Report

Derek Bowman
Derek Bowman
6 years ago

If we can’t manage to explain to our fellow humanists the value of what we do – and vice versa – what hope do we have of convincing administrators, parents, boards of regents, and other funding bodies?

Yes, there’s plenty of bullshit that goes on in other disciplines – and many more things that look like bullshit when you haven’t taken time to try to figure out why someone else finds it a worthwhile attempt to study some important aspect of the human condition. But of course the same is true in philosophy.

If – as many previous comments have suggested – philosophy really is its own thing, not really part of the humanities or the sciences, we might well wonder why our discipline belongs in the university at all. But then again – for the reasons Professor Plum gives – if that’s our attitude, may we won’t have to wonder for long.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

The problem is that philosophy belongs to no specific area like science or humanities exclusively. The way I think of it is on analogy with the sweeper position in soccer. The sweeper is neither a midfielder alone, nor a forward. His job is to roam wherever the play is occurring and do what he can to contribute to moving the ball ahead. Philosophy is a bit like that.Report

Alan White
Alan White
6 years ago

“All of the subjects within human disciplines are fundamentally interested in people and with subjectivity. Our disciplines not only illustrate esoteric questions of the meaning and purpose of life but are also uniquely well suited to explore questions of how to live and work with other people. In practical terms, if the job requires being able to work with and understand people—particularly those different from yourself—these degrees can, and should, make you better suited for it.”

I’d say this lifted quote, carefully examined with logical and semantic rigor, undermines itself. The first sentence is sophomoric and incompetent if one just focuses on “All the subjects” coordinated with “fundamentally interested” and “subjectivity” (as David Wallace points out). What in the world justifies “uniquely” in the second sentence as well as the use of the modifier “esoteric” to describe life’s meaning and purpose? And the last part of that statement, then moved into the third sentence as put in “practical terms”–an appeal to pragmatism?–is asserted but unjustified–and in particular as the “can” of these degrees “should” (pragmatically?) make you “better”.

So–this putative defense of the humanities shows ironically that it does not reflect the careful canons of logic and meaning that philosophy as a part of the humanities traditionally tries to safeguard. Whether that in turn shows that philosophy should try to insert itself more centrally into the humanities (however defined) or isolate itself as an outsider to less well-defined lines of thinking is an open question, and focuses on the “should” used in this sentence.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

“I am curious about philosophers’ willingness to put aside differences and “unite” with the other humanities”

I think this depends on what our goals are. If we wish to to insist on truth and precision in this domain as we do in our research, this precision then we’ll be continually seen as ‘snobby’ but we’ll be able to rest on our rigour as a virtue. And it won’t be our fault when people jump into philosophy and work out the differences to other humanities themselves.

If however, we wish to overhaul our image / get better at communicating / align with the other humanities to gain more momentum, then we may have to desist from explaining the x number of ways in which not all philosophy is fundamentally concerned with subjectivity every time a Sturtevant lumps us in together.

I cringe when I hear philosophy’s name listed as just another instance of any other ‘subjective’ humanity, but we have to appreciate that for the outside observer, their opinions on similarity and difference of disciplines are guided by perceptions. If labs, empirical experiments and statistics are what make an ‘objective’ field for them, objective we are not.

I think the best thing is to not make them feel stupid by immediately pointing out where they’ve gone wrong, but clue those who venture in about how we’re different once they’re already a fan. Unite away.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

Relevant here is the historian James Turner’s recent book, _Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities_. As explained clearly in the Epilogue, Turner finds no room for philosophy in the humanities on both historical and conceptual grounds.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
6 years ago

If we’re interested in the practical question of why it makes sense to lump philosophy in with the humanities rather than STEM, I think the reasons are methodological and practical, rather than about the underlying goals. Here are some characteristics most or all of which are possessed by humanities subjects (this is a cluster concept; there will always be exceptions):

– cost of research is largely staff costs; no or limited equipment costs
– research is largely an individual activity: limited joint-publication, graduate students largely seen as students rather than research team members
– the route into the field for junior academics predominantly proceeds through teaching posts; only very limited use of the research postdoc as an entry route
– senior researchers are usually supported by underlying teaching-structured permanent or long-term position; few or no senior academics employed purely as researchers
– very limited sources of external funding for research beyond government agencies
– centre of gravity of the discipline as a whole (financially and in terms of people’s time) is in undergraduate teaching
– research and teaching outputs are mostly in continuous prose; substantial use of books and monographs as a research output
– no or very limited use of mathematical, computational and statistical methods
– extensive use of verbally-presented deductive reasoning as part of core research
– longstanding unresolved disputes without an agreed-upon algorithm to resolve them
– very substantial attention paid to, and controversy over methodology
– The discipline’s history is part of the core research activity

By contrast, most of the following are true for any given STEM subject:

– research has extensive lab and computational costs: staff costs are only a minor component of research costing
– research is a team activity: multi-author publication is the norm, research groups of a senior academic, some postdocs, and some graduate students are standard; graduate students largely seen as junior researchers and thus as a resource
– route into the field for junior academics predominantly proceeds through research positions
– senior researchers are typically supported by externally-provided grant money; many senior academics are employed purely or primarily as researchers
– extensive sources of non-governmental external funding for research
– centre of gravity of the discipline as a whole (financially and in terms of people’s time) is in research
– research and teaching outputs are rarely in long-form continuous prose (they consist of mathematics or data presentation surrounded by short-form discussion); little or no use of books and monographs as a research output
– extensive use of mathematical, computational and statistical methods
– very little use of verbally-presented deductive reasoning as part of core research (insofar as there is reasoning extensively beyond the data, it is dominated by use of mathematical or statistical tools)
– much lower level of unresolved disputes; much faster typical timescale for disputes to be resolved
– no or limited attention paid to methodology; widespread tacit agreement on methodological matters
– The discipline’s history is a separate topic and not part of the core research activity.

Try this on Philosophy (perhaps the most STEM-y of the humanities) and on Maths (perhaps the most Humanity-ish of the STEM subjects); philosophy – even very technical bits of it – fits most of the Humanities descriptors and few of the STEM ones, Maths, vice versa. So “badging” Philosophy as a STEM subject on the grounds of its ultimate research goals is in practice contentless as long as the basic structure of philosophy still fits the Humanities template.Report

Ben Gibran
6 years ago

Michael Cholbi has a point. Philosophy should divorce itself from the purely discursive methodology that sadly characterizes much of the humanities. ‘Purely discursive’ refers to the practice of exchanging texts without recourse to empirical observation beyond the general knowledge of the interlocutors. Any such discipline is essentially a mutual admiration society. As Peter Hacker succinctly put it, thought experiments are no more experiments than monopoly money is money. There’s nothing wrong with doing that kind of philosophy as a form of artistic expression, as long as we don’t regard it as a reliable method for arriving at non-trivially true propositions.

Philosophy can learn a lot from the sciences. For example, many philosophical problems, though not resoluble by empirical observation alone, do appear to stem from a view of causation that scientists regard with suspicion (for instance, the idea of the brain ‘causing’ the mind, or matter ‘causing’ phenomenal properties). There’s a reason why scientists prefer not to use the word ’cause’, choosing instead to talk of ‘correlations’, ‘forces’, etc.

Psychologists have discovered that people from different cultures have different patterns of causal reasoning. This implies that ‘causation’ is a culturally-loaded heuristic device, not a mere label attached to a natural phenomenon. As Hume pointed out, causation is an idea that we bring to experience, not the other way round. Philosophical problems come with biological and cultural baggage that scientists (including social scientists) could help us understand. In the process, some of those problems may ‘dissolve’, or they may give rise to new ways to do both science and philosophy.Report

Zara
Zara
Reply to  Ben Gibran
6 years ago

By the given definition of “purely discursive”, pure mathematics is purely discursive. But I wouldn’t say that pure mathematics is a “essentially a mutual admiration society.”Report

Ben Gibran
Reply to  Zara
6 years ago

Zara: “By the given definition of “purely discursive”, pure mathematics is purely discursive.”

Pure maths isn’t purely discursive, because the rules of pure maths are based on the rules of applied maths. For example, the same calculators (and in that sense, the same algorithms) are used in both pure maths and engineering.

Some may argue that the same is true of philosophy, since much of the vocabulary of philosophy is derived from non-academic ordinary language. However, using the same words in the same order doesn’t entail that they are used in the same (or any) sense. Because philosophy is purely discursive, there is no way to assign a determinate sense to the words used, even if they are non-technical everyday words.

What happens in philosophy is, we are misled by the form of language into believing that the substance is also present.Report

Grad Sockpuppet
Grad Sockpuppet
Reply to  Ben Gibran
6 years ago

Isn’t *applied* math based on *pure* math?Report

Brandon
Brandon
6 years ago

I for one would like to see philosophy more fully embrace its status as a humanities/humanistic discipline, and ally itself more closely to the other humanities than with the natural sciences, which tend to be the disciplines most contemporary analytic philosophers see themselves as being closest to. Philosophy, I think, is more akin to art than it is to science; that is, philosophy can attain fruitful and edifying interpretative understanding moreso than it can attain truth and knowledge. But this, of course, is very much a minority report among contemporary English-speaking philosophers.

Ben Gibran, above, mentions Peter Hacker. On my theme, I recommend his “Philosophy: a contribution, not to human knowledge, but to human understanding”.Report

Brandon
Brandon
Reply to  Brandon
6 years ago

I should note that not all areas of philosophy fit my view; most of ethics and political philosophy, for example, probably do not.Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  Brandon
6 years ago

Philosophy is diverse. Some philosophical work is close to work done in the humanities, while other philosophical work is closer to work done in the sciences or in math. Why insist on pigeon-holing philosophy into either the humanities or the sciences?Report

Avi Z.
Avi Z.
6 years ago

Continental philosophy (perhaps with the exception of Husserl and recent cog-sci oriented phenomenology) seems to fit solidly in the humanities. Much contemporary analytic philosophy can seem pretty distant from most humanities disciplines. The best way to keep philosophy alive in the academy may be to emphasize its unique and irreplaceable foundational role with respect to both sciences and humanities. We are at least making some headway in discarding the unfortunate pairing of philosophy with the study of religion, so maybe there is hope that we can continue to bring philosophy’s unique position into better focus for our colleagues in other disciplines.Report

Jason Brennan
6 years ago

Given the sorry state of most of the humanities–utterly infected with postmodernism and post-structuralism–I’d rather see most of the humanities defunded and the money used instead for scholarships for poor students.Report

MrMister
MrMister
6 years ago

People have already noted ways in which the description of focus (on human subjectivity) in the opening of that paragraph does not really mesh with much philosophy. But I would like to also bring into to focus what happens at the end: “[The human disciplines] promote empathy, and require students to regard problems, and people, with complexity and the understanding that no single answer is right.” If we interpret ‘rightness’ as either truth or justification, either way many philosophers will take it as an explicit commitment that, in fact, exactly one single answer is right.Report