Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Errant Thought

The Humanities! The very name should call up something wild. From the moment Socrates started wandering the Greek market and driving Athenian aristocrats to their wits end, their place has always been out in the world, making connections between the business of living and the higher reaches of one’s own thought, and drawing out implications from all that life has to offer. The genius of the humanities lies in the errant thought, the wild supposition, the provocation — in Ginsburg’s howl at society. What this motley collection of disciplines is missing is an appreciation of the fact that the humanities have always been undisciplined, that they are essentially non-disciplinary in nature. And if we want to save them, they have to be de-disciplined and de-professionalized.
–excerpt from Humanities, Not Harvard by Chris Buczinsky & Robert Frodeman

The authors—like most people, both outside as well as inside academia or, more specifically, the field of philosophy—misunderstand phenomenology, which is not an attempt to ape the sciences. Rather, phenomenology is a critique of scientism–the use and belief in science as providing the sole or the highest standard of knowledge. Phenomenology goes so far as to reintroduce experience (which is always lived experience) back into knowledge! Science, on the other hand, abstracts knowledge from its lived aspect.

Regardless of their talking out their asses about the methodology of phenomenology, they do get to the crux of the problem in education in the above excerpt. I've been doing the work of de-disciplining myself for some time now. It's tediously difficult to push beyond the disciplinary parameters imposed by education, even when I have only ever studied in interdisciplinary programs. But interdisciplinarity has its own disciplining effect–a narrowing of vision for that which only the discipline (even that of interdisciplinarity) has eyes. If anything, phenomenology is the methodology par excellence to gain back an entire field of vision. Learning to see again, not merely with the eyes but with every sense the body/mind is capable of.

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