Humanities2014, 3(4), 585-605; doi:10.3390/h3040585 (registering DOI) - published 24 October 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: This is a short (fragmentary) history of fragmentary writing from the German Romantics (F. W. Schlegel, Friedrich Hölderlin) to modern and contemporary concrete or visual poetry. Such writing is (often deliberately) a critique of the logic of subsumption that tries to assimilate whatever is singular and irreducible into totalities of various categorical or systematic sorts. Arguably, the fragment (parataxis) is the distinctive feature of literary Modernism, which is a rejection, not of what precedes it, but of what Max Weber called “the rationalization of the world” (or Modernity) whose aim is to keep everything, including all that is written, under surveillance and control.
Humanities2014, 3(4), 567-584; doi:10.3390/h3040567 - published 23 October 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: In the 11th century in China, there was an unusual moment in which a number of philosophers, later associated with the Daoxue—or Neo-Confucian—school, confronted what they perceived as a long-standing sense of disjunction between inner, subjective reality and the structured patterns of the cosmos. One way they sought to overcome this disjunction was by positing new theories of the cosmos that focused on the underlying, shared reality behind the myriad differentiations of phenomena. A potential tension was born that affected how thinkers understood the relationship between wen 文 (writing, literature, culture) and Dao 道 (the cosmic process, the ultimate reality, the normative path). Some thinkers, like Zhou Dunyi 周敦頤 (1017–1073), believed that wen was simply a vehicle for carrying the Dao, and was thus, implicitly, dispensable. This idea was met with resistance from one of the leading intellectual figures of the time—the philosopher, poet and statesman Su Shi 蘇軾 (1037–1101). While some of Su’s contemporaries, in their attempts to demonstrate that the world was real, and that truth was knowable, downplayed the role of individual experience and perception, Su stressed the necessity of subjective, individual experience as giving access, and concrete expression, to Dao. Su’s philosophical project came in the form of defending the enterprise of wen—writing as a creative, individual endeavor—and asserting that the quest for unity with the Dao could only be realized through direct, personal engagement in wen and other forms of meaningful practice. Through his philosophy of wen, Su sought to show that the search for truth, meaning and order did not—and could not—be achieved by transcending subjective experience. Instead, it had to be carried out at the point of encounter between self and the world, in the realm of practice.
Humanities2014, 3(4), 546-566; doi:10.3390/h3040546 - published 9 October 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The body came to be taken seriously as a topic of cultural history during the “corporeal” or “bodily” turn in the 1980s and 1990s. Soon, however, critique was raised against these studies’ conceptualization of the body as discursively shaped and socially disciplined: individual bodily agency and feeling were felt to be absent in the idea of the material body. This article critically analyzes new approaches in the field of body history, particularly the so-called “material turn”. It argues that the material turn, especially in the guise of praxiography, has a lot to offer historians of the body, such as more attention to material practices, to different kinds of actors and a more open eye to encounters. Potential problems of praxiographical analyses of the body in history include the complicated relationship between discourses and practices and the neglect of the political and feminist potential of deconstructive discourse analyses. However, a focus on the relationship between practices of knowledge production and the representation of the body may also provide new ways of opening up historical power relations.
Humanities2014, 3(4), 517-545; doi:10.3390/h3040517 - published 2 October 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: What happens to Fanonism when, instead of resistance or liberation, it becomes a discourse of invention? What happens to Fanon’s critique of colonialism and his imagining of a decolonial future, when that critique and imagining are staked not on the refusal of racial humanity itself (in the sense of an appeal to a “new humanism”…), but in the sense that Fanonism itself, as such, would be a discourse and reading of invention? In this essay I compare Fanon’s reading of invention with that of C.L.R. James’s reading of spontaneity in Notes on Dialectics.
Humanities2014, 3(4), 442-516; doi:10.3390/h3040442 - published 2 October 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Scientific orthodoxy based on the acquired authority of some scientists has seriously hampered the progress of the natural sciences in the past and continues to do so today because of new societal influences, such as directive funding and political interference in the setting of research objectives. Enhancing the progress of science must continue to be an important priority in order to meet the future needs of mankind. Yet priority setting between different branches of research is currently controversial because of the limited availability of funds and the political interference. For sound priority setting, an adequate level of scientific literacy is required among policy makers, a subject that will attract attention throughout this paper. The “introduction” gives an overview of the issues at stake. Prevailing pessimistic views of the future of our complex society are viewed as being similar to a medieval doomsday syndrome. Pathways to a new renaissance and age of reason are suggested. Three major recommendations are made: (i) Freedom of inquiry must be protected; (ii) The political misuse of potential environmental scares needs to be investigated before doomsday predictions alarm public perceptions and hence shape policies; (iii) The search for excellence in the leadership of science should be emphasized because it should not be based largely on acquired authority. The current controversy over possible impacts of rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere on climate is analyzed as a case study.
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.