The Spirit of Humanities

Synthesis Philosophica 25 (1):101-107 (2010)

Abstract
Sažetak Joachim Ritter and others tried to justify the humanities with a theory of “compensation”. According to Ritter, the humanities compensate the losses and risks caused by the progress of modernization. The theory of compensation seems to offer a justification of the humanities in relation to the dynamics of the modern world. Prima facie it seems to be attractive in times when the success of natural sciences and technology is evident and the humanities are put on the defensive. The article, however, raises four objections to the theory of compensation: the theory is characterized by an antiquarian interest in history; it takes into consideration only the conservative function of the humanities; it degrades the humanities to a mere appendix and supplement of cultural change; and it overestimates the competence of the humanities to balance the losses and risks of modernization. A treatise on the history of the church does not compensate modern losses of faith. An essay on Caspar David Friedrich is no compensation for a ruined landscape. The belief that every loss and damage finds its compensation probably refers back to the religious belief in forgiveness or the philosophical arguments for theodicy. The conclusion is that the humanities should not be justified by arguments of utility. They are “useful” because they do not have to be useful at all
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