Collini’s What are universities for? – Deel 2

Brain Hieronder weer een paar citaten uit het boek van Stefan Collini:
– wat zijn/doen de Geesteswetenschappen? (citaat ‘Humaniora’; zie ook de post over Hannah Arendt);
– wat is onderzoek? En wat is begrijpen, en een intellectuele uitdaging aangaan (citaten ‘Intellectual endeavour’; zie ook mijn post The legitimacy of an intellectual endeavor op de blog Library 333);

«Going beyond lexicography, it may be helpful to say that the label ‘the humanities’ is now taken to embrace that collection of disciplines which attempt to understand, across barriers of time and culture, the actions and creations of other human beings considered as bearers of meaning, where the emphasis tends to fall on matters to do with individual or cultural distinctiveness and not on matters which are primarily susceptible to characterization in purely statistical or biological terms» (p. 64) «The humanities, it has been well said, ‘explore what it means to be human: the words, ideas, narratives and the art and artefacts that help us make sense of our lives and the world we live in: how we have created it and are created by it’. The forms of enquiry grouped together under this label are ways of encountering the record of human activity in its greatest richness and diversity. To attempt to deepen our understanding of this or that aspect of that activity is an intelligible and purposeful expression of disciplined human curiosity and is – insofar as the phrase makes any sense in this context – an end in itself» (p. 85). «For example, every literary scholar’s awareness of the range of significant writing by women in earlier centuries has been extended in ways never imagined a couple of generations ago, just as there are now whole areas of social and cultural history which barely existed before historians began systematically to quiz the evidence from earlier centuries about the activities of that half of the population which scarcely figured in many public records» (p. 67-68).

Intellectual endeavour (1)
«Intellectual enquiry is in itself ungovernable: there is no predicting where thought and analysis may lead when allowed to play freely over almost any topic, as the history of science abundantly illustrates […] Human understanding, when not chained to a particular instrumental task, is restless, always pushing onwards, though not in a single or fixed or entirely knowable direction, and there is no one moment along that journey where we can say in general or in the abstract that the degree of understanding being sought has passed from the useful to the useless […] all endeavours after systematic understanding of some particular subject-matter are prone to generate further reflections on the limitations or the premises of that understanding which cannot themselves be uniquely corralled or subordinated to present uses. Moreover, present uses soon become outdated, but the forms of enquiry they provoked do not, or at least they get absorbed into continuing larger enquiries» (pp. 55-56). «Understanding does not work like a drop-down ‘dialog box’: it involves reflection on the ways the newly encountered material does or doesn’t fit with categories and experiences which the understander already possesses. And reflection is more, or other, than just a ‘skill’» (p. 145). «… skills-talk represents a failure of nerve. It is an attempt to justify an activity not in its own appropriate terms, but in terms derived from another set of categories altogether, categories drawn from the instrumental world of commerce and industry» (p. 144). «One rough and ready distinction between university education and professional training is that education relativizes and constantly calls into question the information which training simply transmits» (p. 56).

Intellectual endeavour (2)
«The default condition of the scholar is one of intellectual dissatisfaction. No matter how exhilarating it may be to discover new evidence or come up with an illuminatingly apt characterization, one can never (and perhaps should never) entirely banish the sense that the current state of one’s work can only ever have the status of an interim report, always vulnerable to being challenged, corrected, or simply bypassed. The mind searches for pattern, for a kind or order, but this is a restless, endless process. […] Someone else can always start from somewhere else – and so, therefore, can we. There can only ever be interim reports». (p. 66)

De illustratie komt uit de website Think humanities Amsterdam.

About blognostrumuva

blog voor de Collectie Romaanse Talen van de Universiteitsbibliotheek van de UvA (universiteit van Amsterdam)
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