The Humanities in the Age of Technology

The Humanities in the Age of Technology

Ciriaco Morón Arroyo
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 279
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  • Book Info
    The Humanities in the Age of Technology
    Book Description:

    Students of the humanities confront two fundamental questions: How valid and rigorous is the type of knowledge attained in these disciplines? And what good is it? In The Humanities in the Age of Technology, Ciriaco Morón Arroyo offers a systematic inquiry into these questions and outlines the ongoing crisis of the humanities.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2080-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    The humanities are in crisis. At least, this seems to be the consensus among many humanists, and certainly among natural scientists and society in general. The low value placed on the humanities by society discourages students from pursuing humanistic careers, and the few who defy the trend do it to the disappointment of their families. As a result of lower enrollments, universities and colleges cut back on scholarships and teaching positions. But there is also another side: the awareness of the crisis leads university administrators to pay special attention to humanities departments or to fund interdisciplinary programs; some foundations reserve...

  5. I Toward a Definition
    (pp. 15-41)

    The humanities are the disciplines that study the human being in what is distinctly human, with the type of discourse required by this particular subject (human being) and approach (as human).

    To describe the awareness of the crisis of the humanities already expressed by Plato, I have quoted Callicles’ statements on philosophy. But humanities and philosophy are not synonymous terms; we rather associate the humanities with “Letters,” which until the nineteenth century, when the vernacular languages and literatures were introduced as disciplines at the universities, meant basically Latin and Greek philology. The ambiguity increases when we confront the natural sciences...

  6. II The Humanistic Disciplines
    (pp. 42-71)

    We shall now describe the humanistic disciplines, beginning with language. “If language is the essential thing that makes us human beings, linguistics ought to be considered, to an eminent degree, as a science of man, and, therefore, as a humanistic discipline, perhaps the most genuine of them all.”¹ These words by the Swedish linguist Bertil Malmberg present a thesis, but his defensive tone (“ought to be considered”) indicates that the idea is not universally shared. Linguistics is indeed a humanistic discipline, but not all branches of linguistics use the humanistic discourse. On the basis of the distinction between the nucleus...

  7. III The Interdisciplinary
    (pp. 72-91)

    “Interdisciplinary” is an ambiguous notion that designates an intellectual style open to serious risks, the first one being excessive or premature generalization. Knowledge advances for the most part in short steps that bring new precision to old questions. And secondly, if interdisciplinary research digs at the borders of various disciplines, chances are the practitioner will not be sufficiently competent in all of them.

    On the other hand, when a researcher broaches ideas that are more universal in scope than the work of the specialist, he is praised for the light he sheds on different fields of inquiry. Generalization is the...

  8. IV Man: Values
    (pp. 92-115)

    All disciplines are founded on a basic one, the theory of knowledge, which is in turn founded on a primordial root: the human being who lives and dies, and investigates how to live and what he can expect after death. Man is an abbreviated world, a physical body like the stone, vegetative like the pine tree, sensitive like the animals, and on top of all this, endowed with reason. Man can be studied from all of these perspectives: his biochemistry, heritage, genome, and behavior. When the natural sciences, especially biology, study man, they approach him as another natural being, not...

  9. V The Crisis
    (pp. 116-136)

    The crisis of the humanities has two basic aspects, one that is specific to the humanistic disciplines, and a second one that extends to a general crisis of values, culture, and education. In the specific area, the humanities were never the most important branch in the European university. Until the eighteenth century they were grouped together with the sciences in the Faculty of Arts, which was the equivalent of modern high school, where the student obtained the basic preparation for the lucrative schools: theology, law, and medicine. In all of Europe schools of engineering and of technical studies were founded...

  10. VI Reading
    (pp. 137-162)

    The questions on the criteria of rigor in the humanities can be grouped around three words: reading, understanding, and knowing, and those that refer to their practical import, around two: usefulness and value. In the analysis of reading we shall take literary texts as examples, because the literary text is more complex than those in linguistics, history, philosophy, or theology. Reading Calderón’s La vida es sueño (Life is a Dream) we discover nuances of the phenomenon of reading that would not shine through in reading Ortega y Gasset’s essay The Dehumanization of Art. On the other hand, the conclusions about...

  11. VII Understanding
    (pp. 163-187)

    In the preceding chapter we have tried to practice and describe the mysterious leap that leads from the first reading, which confronts the text as an ambiguous signifier, into the meaning of that text. Now we need to analyze how that outburst of meaning takes place. The observation that to read is to translate a text into its own language might come across as a joke. But to read is literally to translate a discourse that is more or less obscure (the text as a complex signifier) into one’s own discourse, in which the signifieds or meanings of the text...

  12. VIII Knowing
    (pp. 188-211)

    What does it mean to know Don Quijote, World War II (1939–1945), the essence of man, God? These questions chart in all its complexity the problem of knowledge in literature, history, philosophy, and theology, and the basic problem is how the ego (the knowing subject) confronts the object to be known.

    The literary work (poetry, novel, theater) touches on reality in different ways, while criticism or philology focuses primarily on the text created by the writer, and through it on the reality it presents. History presents an interesting paradox: in literary criticism and in philosophy understanding is primarily the...

  13. IX Usefulness
    (pp. 212-233)

    As noted in Chapter IV, man is inherently social, which means that he contributes to the well-being of others, and benefits from them. The study of the humanities can be justified only if they are useful to those who cultivate them and to society at large. Of course, it all depends on the definition of the useful.

    Usefulness can be understood as a series of concentric circles. The innermost one refers to the necessities that keep us alive. Then there are broader circles of realities that are useful in a less immediate and short-term way. Faced with the urgent needs...

  14. X Value
    (pp. 234-252)

    Heidegger’s statement about philosophy can be extrapolated to the humanities in general. In order to show how humanistic discourse can be intellectually rigorous I have analyzed Calderón’s Life is a Dream and in a less direct and comprehensive way Don Quijote. In the preceding chapter I have pointed out several things we can do with the humanities, but what we do with them must be founded on their objective value, that is, on what they can do with us. And what they can do, when cultivated as “rigorous knowledge” (Husserl’s idea as alpha and omega) is enlighten us about the...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 253-258)
  16. Index
    (pp. 259-264)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-266)