Humanism and the Humanities in the Twenty-First Century

Humanism and the Humanities in the Twenty-First Century

Humanism and the Humanities in the Twenty-First Century

Humanism and the Humanities in the Twenty-First Century

Synopsis

The book raises questions about the underlying paradigms of contemporary learning and social thinking, including the nature of consciousness and the mind, the purpose and conduct of education, the role of science and scientific methodologies, the place of art and literature, or relationship to the environment, our concepts of spirituality, our attitudes to the past and also what we are doing to own future.

Excerpt

This book is about the future, about our present that is shaping the future, about where we are, what we are doing, where we are going. Its scope is therefore much wider than the humanities and the past of literary humanism. The humanities are dying, or so it would seem, and giving way to doctrinaire socioeconomic theory, most of it untestable, and to technologies that are transforming and possibly destroying the environmental support systems that sustain our lives. To say that the world is in crisis is a value judgment, but to some of us it certainly looks like it. To this crisis the past is not totally relevant, since what it meant to be human in the seventeenth century, let alone remoter periods, is not what it means to be human today. Parameters, expectations, possibilities of freedom diverge, and so too do possibilities of enslavement or subjection. Authority, however, remains authoritarian, even when disguised as media persuasion or political correctness. Moreover, as Foucault allows, all authority generates its own opposition, and the official cultures of the modern West are by no means the total cultures. The undersurge movements loosely called New Age think in terms very different from those of official science, religion, and ethics, and they are accompanied by a varied collection of alternative spiritualities, lifestyles, and therapeutic and mental methodologies. The official culture on the whole prefers to pretend that they do not exist.

In this world it is by no means clear that the humanities deserve to survive. But what happens if they do not? And what might we have lost by their death? And if they are to live on, how must they change to receive a new lease of life? The contributors to this book face these and related questions from their own very different viewpoints, for the book is intended not as a monolithic answer, focusing on one “theme,” which implies one set for the formulation of . . .

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