The role of the humanities in the modern university: Some historical and philosophical considerations

This article examines the controversial notion of the role and value of the humanities in the contemporary university. It provides a review of the history of the emergence of the humanities in the European universities, arguing that any attempt to justify the presence of the humanities in the modern university in instrumental terms is futile. Through its depiction of the evolution of the humanities as a particular compendium of disciplinary fields, the article demonstrates that the humanities have become a focal point for the exploration of the problems of meaning, significance and truth, which are inherent components of language itself. Through its portrayal of the historical development of the humanities, the article emphasizes the interminable nature of these problems, stressing that the inconclusive quality of these debates is a definitive feature of Modernity itself—the humanities have become the locus for Modernity's self-awareness. The articulation and extension of this self-awareness is an imperative that eludes the logic of instrumental reason to provide a justificatory category of its own.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1467-9752.2008.00607.x
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