Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Reasoning, and the application of that reasoning to create a better world, is the Humanities’ utility

237. January 14th,2008 2:24 pm
The study of the Humanities has taught me to critically analyze arguments and let me show you the utility of that study by taking apart a few of Fish’s claims.
1. To split the Humanities and the study of the Humanities into two is to create a false dilemma. Fish uses Herbert in his opening, a man who studied and taught rhetoric at Cambridge, and who would have never written the above line that so enthralls Fish without diligent study of the Bible, John Donne, and many other works of the literature. How do we begin to split the works of a person from the study that engendered that work? Fish wants a chicken without an egg.
2. Fish’s dismissal of “critical thinking” is a reductionist, strawman argument. His argument against critical thinking is that is it nonunique to the study of Humanities. He claims that these tools can be obtained by watching the Washington punditry or listening to sports radio. Yet never have I been exposed to the process and structure of argument while watching Chris Matthews. Perhaps I missed the episode in which he described the inner workings of syllogistic reasoning. Nor have I ever heard an analysis of ethos on sports radio. It is this disciplined and meta-understanding of reasoning that is unique to the classroom. To reduce this understanding to the endless blathering of sports radio is insulting.
3. Fish is again reductionist and strawman in his criticism of literary criticism. While I am persuaded that critics could do more to make their jargon accessible, to say that it’s only value is in “the (parochial) excitement experienced by those caught up in arcane discussions” is demonstrably false. Fish cannot recall the last time a poem made him spring to action, but the works of Judith Butler on performatives and Gayatri Spivak on the subaltern have inspired me and many others to work toward social justice and to question epistemological and ontological hegemony. Fish parenthetically notes “don’t ask” after mentioning these concepts, but not to ask questions about identity, race, gender, sexuality, power, and the violence and domination that occurs everyday because of these understandings of the world is to be complicit in these very real world consequences. If Fish wants to be complicit in racism, sexism, heteronormativity, fine, but do not be so bold as to call the questioning of these systems of oppression to be “arcane.”
Aesthetic wonderment is only an added bonus that comes along with the study of the Humanities. Reasoning, and the application of that reasoning to create a better world, is the Humanities’ utility.
— Posted by Patrick Moe

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