Humanities2014, 3(3), 415-441; doi:10.3390/h3030415 - published 4 September 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: New Humanities is an international research and teaching project promoted by an interdisciplinary group of people from five different faculties and departments based at the University of Roma Tre. Initially set up as a forum for academic dialogue between the humanities and the sciences (including social sciences), the project became a transition space and platform for experiencing new research methodologies and teaching curricula that would question the present epistemological order of the European university system. In order to develop this approach, we have organized our work around a number of interdisciplinary clusters, each describing an epistemological node. In this paper we will discuss five interconnected case studies that emerged from an active collaboration between scientists and humanists. The first node, Protocols of Vision, investigates the cognitive nature of sensory perception and the different forms of knowledge it produces—empirical, artistic, and scientific. Memory: Mathematics, Computer Science, and Literature recapitulates many of the different threads in these discussions by exploring the interdependencies between the various kinds of memory: from external to subjective memory, from storage tools and techniques of self-construction to the invariance of mathematical structures. The third node, Signs and Bodies between Digital and Gendering, reflects on the problematic relationship between digital media and literary and linguistic gendering. Narrative Identity: Nature, Ontogeny and Psychopathology critically re-examines the main concepts and theories concerning the nature, ontogeny, and pathologies of the autobiographical self or narrative identity. Finally, the last node, Contribution of Quantum Physics to the Idea of Consciousness is a cross-cultural investigation into the phenomenon of consciousness tackled from the points of view of quantum field theory and ancient Indian philosophy.
Humanities2014, 3(3), 398-414; doi:10.3390/h3030398 - published 29 August 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: As a consequence of the recent global recession, a new “crisis in the humanities” has been declared, and ideas of how best to defend the humanities have been vigorously debated. Placing this “crisis” in the context of neoliberal reforms to higher education since the 1980s, I examine the argument expounded by Martha Nussbaum that the very foundation of democratic citizenship is at stake. I indicate a number of problems with Nussbaum’s case. First, to resist the neoliberal agenda that pits disciplines against one another, I maintain that we need to understand the humanities broadly to include the social sciences. Second, I indicate that the humanities are not just important to democracies, but are a vital aspect of any society because they form a crucial part of human existence. Third, I argue that the humanities are important to democratic societies not merely because they promote critical thinking about our political processes and sympathetic understanding as Nussbaum argues. More fundamentally, the diversity of the humanities in both their content and approaches to knowledge is central to freedom. Finally, I warn against framing the challenges facing the humanities in terms of a crisis discourse that deprecates freedom in accord with the neoliberal agenda.
Humanities2014, 3(3), 379-397; doi:10.3390/h3030379 - published 15 August 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: What may be the relevance of the European tradition of the humanities and of humanism today? In his novels, Elizabeth Costello and Diary of a Bad Year, the South-African writer, academic, and current resident of Australia, J.M. Coetzee, both enriches and puts into question the European traditions that have shaped scholarship, literary writers and academic professions in the humanities. His characters’ meditations on the value of literature, humanism, and the humanities, their present crisis and future possibilities, are timely interventions made from a complex, critical, comparative, cultural and geographic distance. The metafictional investigations of the two novels test the limits of the genre in a manner consistent with more experimental strains of postmodern fiction, while the two protagonists reflect two main personae of the author as itinerant, ageing academic and writer. It is the position of this paper that Coetzee constructs a minor literature within the major language of English; this is made evident by the entirety of his oeuvre to date though it becomes thematized in these two works. This paper will trace some of the contours, confrontations and dialogs of the two books and explore certain tangents of the radical quests and questions they put to their readership.
Humanities2014, 3(3), 340-378; doi:10.3390/h3030340 - published 11 August 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: This article is based on the conviction that the major problems nowadays are not technical, but ethical, and are incumbent on homo qua homo. The origin of these problems is the advancement of economicism as a supreme interpretation of human and social reality, which means the primacy of the “market” and considering human beings in terms of what they have rather than what they are. Economicism emerges in “modernity” and assumes that everything that does not have market value is either devaluated or rejected. In consequence, the human being has been devaluated and has turned into a simple object of the market. “Postmodernity” mixes economicism and techno-scientificism (chrematistics and instrumental rationality) with nihilism (absence of values), giving way to a technological and decadent capitalism that has erased “humanism” and the very idea of the human being. Thus, we are in urgent need of a humanist recovery of the “human” based on a rehabilitation of ontology.
Humanities2014, 3(3), 313-339; doi:10.3390/h3030313 - published 30 July 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The language of human rights can prove as difficult to define as it is to determine its boundaries as a legal discipline and to assert its universal acceptance. The indeterminacy and vagueness often observed in the language of its documents is clearly aimed at fostering Human Rights acknowledgment and protection; however, these same features are also a powerful tool for States seeking manipulative interpretations of human rights conventions. By combining the Appraisal Framework with an analysis of the rhetorical strategies employed in a specific type of legal document, this paper will explore the linguistic devices and rendering in translation of the so-called “Torture Memos” released by the US Government after 9/11 in an attempt to provide a legal framework for the CIA interrogation program for “unlawful combatants”.
Humanities2014, 3(3), 299-312; doi:10.3390/h3030299 - published 30 June 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The prominent Australian earth scientist, Tim Flannery, closes his recent book Here on Earth: A New Beginning with the words “… if we do not strive to love one another, and to love our planet as much as we love ourselves, then no further progress is possible here on Earth”. This is a remarkable conclusion to his magisterial survey of the state of the planet. Climatic and other environmental changes are showing us not only the extent of human influence on the planet, but also the limits of programmatic management of this influence, whether through political, economic, technological or social engineering. A changing climate is a condition of modernity, but a condition which modernity seems uncomfortable with. Inspired by the recent “environmental turn” in the humanities—and calls from a range of environmental scholars and scientists such as Flannery—I wish to suggest a different, non-programmatic response to climate change: a reacquaintance with the ancient and religious ideas of virtue and its renaissance in the field of virtue ethics. Drawing upon work by Alasdair MacIntyre, Melissa Lane and Tom Wright, I outline an apologetic for why the cultivation of virtue is an appropriate response to the challenges of climate change.