NB: much of what I write is informed by what little I understand of Hegel.
I read somewhere that justice begins with the right questions.
If History has anything to teach us, it is this lesson among a catalogue of others: the way we interrogate our past can tell us much about who we claim to be.
As Historiography teaches: Who writes, what gets recorded, stored, archived, how, and why texts and ideas are written, revised, or circulated are important questions to ask of any claim basing its legitimacy through argument. Argument is all that all Science is - a set/s of assumptions.
I do not care how the Humanities are classified, or for that matter Science.
English, French, Chinese, Urdu, Arabic, Greek, Chinese, Farsi, Oaxacan, Timorese, Yolgnu or Pitjantjatjara, Italian, Dinka or German. All studies in Languages including the Languages of Physics, Chemistry, Biology, quantum mechanics, wormhole theories etc, require an exposure to the History and Culture in which their Language field developed and the contexts in which the texts and symbols circulate/d as currency in their respective fields. This and much more is what the collective branches that fall under the classification The Humanities is/are.
However, I do not share the author’s “Derision of Foucault syndrome” as is often the turn of authoritarianism. The revenge of the authoritarian mind tends to dismiss many of the uncomfortable asides in argument, as mere incomprehensible jargon. Really?
Foucault's Madness and Civilisation (1961) and Birth of the Clinic (1963) examined how power festers when body and mind are decreed diseased. Foucault’s The Order of Things (1966), on the archaeology of knowledge itself was a tour de force, a work of a brilliant mind writing on Historiography itself. His Discipline and Punish (1975) another example of his accomplished feats examined the effects of an embodied panopticon. The individual as automaton, a tool. A machine, self-surveilling, government by decree, self-censorship, unable to ask a bare question even of oneself, this is not just speculative science fiction, this is bio-power, raw and embodied, swift and efficient, as was revealed by Foucault turning the bio-scope on History.
Humanities is History is Language, a merry go round in all its material and immaterial forms. The equivalent word in Greek for humanities is φιλόλογια, love of the word. For philosophy, φιλοσοφία, love of wisdom.
We trade in knowledge in the same way we trade in goods and what we say about what we are claiming to know, raises conflicts, disputes and how we resolve disputes, cannot be done inside a vacuum, free from existential, epistemological and ethical considerations.
Continental approaches to History and to its interpretation are as relevant to the gaining of wisdom, now more than ever. Many before and after Hegel, Kant, Rousseau, Marx, Hannah Arendt, Franz Fanon, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Edward Said, Stuart Hall, Foucault et al, raged against the prejudices we all assume.
Historians along with so many others have been shouting through the portals of History, warning us about this precise praecipe we are at today:- nihilistic, unquestioning, fearful, without a self or social psyche ( or soul, or spirit, or will) and diseased.
Why? Because they went through exactly what we are faced with today. Even Foucault grappled with the implications of AIDS, going through the annals of history to understand the diseased body, and mind, and the role the clinic and the prison, as instruments of the State, have played to define, contain, punish, banish and cancel “the diseased”.
To value History, however, requires cultivated minds. Minds capable of thinking and arguing, to embrace the dialectic. No seed can be thrown into a garden without first tilling the earth, without compost, or the constant care and nourishment the seed requires to flourish. And no human being can face the challenges alone, and have the wisdom to know that no argument can be persuasive against an equally meritorious argument without concomitantly cultivating character and grace.
This responsibility is one that we must all share, to cultivate minds that can appreciate Historical lessons and recognise the difficult task of persuasion. That’s a task which demands that the whole community embrace argument, the dialectic, as the core center of our humanity and raise to the challenges demanded by the heavier task of mounting an argument with the benefit of hindsight.
When the pervading logic of consumer capitalism has been “Obey”, this is not going to be an easy or swift task. Contagions generate panic, the root word of pandemic and pandemonium, and in times of panic, fearful beings want nothing more than to cancel and obey.
Tyranny thrives on incomprehension.
Humanities can teach how to recognise illusions, and ask why do they exist? Humanities teach to ask questions, and to begin to interrogate oneself, for an un-examined life is not worth living - even Science claims that bear life is conscious of just that.
Humanities prepares us to interrogate and to be interrogated by the other, since in in all matters of opinion, all questions should be asked without fear. Have the Humanities lifted the shroud off its own elitism? Should it maintain, that as with all specialised knowledge, few are capable of understanding, and that if democracy demands equal participation, the question is not how do we eradicate elitism but how do we foster the hoi polloi to become philosopher kings?
Perhaps the proponents of Humanities can begin in the difficult quest to persuade itself, first by asking, why it is being perceived and presented as a field of knowledge incapable of mounting a credible defense around the fluid pillars of ambiguity and nuance? Have the Humanities become tyrannical, a hermeneutic field of cancellation, mounting illusions as arguments, looking at History and finding no Wisdom?
It is not only inside the vacuum ivory towers of Academia, that intelligent thought ought to reign free. Every human being is equal, and each stakes a claim on the urge to survive- in body and in mind. Each individual claims the right to self-actualise.
Our responsibility to educate ourselves and others commences with the responsibility to embark on a lifelong journey, accepting that as οὐδeν, a nobody, who knows nothing, can still find direction to outwit calamity, to carry on. To embrace, ἓν οἶδα ὅτι οὐδὲν οἶδα, as the maxim with which to approach all questions about all claims to knowledge without fear of being cancelled, banished, decreed diseased.
It is not humility, but the wisdom and courage to know that asking questions and making persuasive arguments are difficult tasks, argument, the dialectic, is essentially the core of our humanity. To meekly accept that we are all prone to reach the lofty heights of knowledge and to fall from grace, babbling on, content to cancel all argument with incomprehensible one word statements, is at the heart of nihilism. Lost in the dark, consumed by an arrogance, failing to understand why we are content with being nothing, an οὐδeν, lacking in the spirit required to outwit calamity? Not even bear life can bear such life.
cancelled, complicit in the silence, deleted, preventing our very s