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Humanities 2016, 5(1), 11;

The Indispensability of the Humanities for the 21st Century

Department of Philosophy & Religion, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC 28403, USA
Academic Editor: Paul Keen
Received: 26 October 2015 / Revised: 15 January 2016 / Accepted: 25 January 2016 / Published: 4 February 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Humanities in a Utilitarian Age)
Full-Text   |   PDF [257 KB, uploaded 4 February 2016]


This essay surveys the state of the humanities at this critical time. What will be the role of the humanities at the end of this century and beyond? I discuss the “crisis of the humanities” by examining the current challenges of globalization, economic shifts, and extensive budget cuts. I also discuss the social and political divisions that contribute to a crisis within the humanities. Since the culture wars that began in the 1960’s, the content, scope, and focus of the humanities have changed dramatically, and this has impacted how the humanities are perceived and valued by the general public. The second half of the essay makes the case for the vital importance of the humanities. I argue that the fate of the humanities is inseparable from the future of human beings. I highlight the current problems of war, environmental degradation, and mass surveillance that must be managed before they overwhelm and derail the potential for dramatic progress. Following recent scholarship and research trends, I explain how technological advancements will lead to the most significant evolutionary changes to the human being in aeons. Through technologies such as bionics, transgenesis, robotics, genetic engineering, and artificial intelligence, Homo sapiens might be enabled to transcend its former limits and usher in an era of transhumanism. The relevant question is: What do we want to be? I argue that enhancement technologies will make their beneficiaries more robotic and less human, and explain why we must treasure the advantages of our distinctly human capacities and resist the prospect of empowering ourselves to become automatons. My underlying thesis is that developing an understanding of the most insightful ideas and cultivating an appreciation for the greatest creative works that humankind has produced will be crucial for maintaining our humanity. The humanities thus make a unique and indispensable contribution to defining what and who we want our descendants to be. View Full-Text
Keywords: technology; universities; utilitarianism; hedonism; liberalism; surveillance; genetic engineering; robotics; transhumanism; simulation technology; universities; utilitarianism; hedonism; liberalism; surveillance; genetic engineering; robotics; transhumanism; simulation
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Habibi, D.A. The Indispensability of the Humanities for the 21st Century. Humanities 2016, 5, 11.

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