Humanities as/and/of Crises
Date of Original Version
Beginning with a brief historical survey (picking up the story with the Renaissance), Colapietro’s purpose is to highlight the ways in which the humanities, from their origin to the present, have been implicated in cultural crises. They are ineluctably the sites of such crises. Optimally, they are resources for clarifying the significance of the crises at the center of any culture. If the humanities are not in intense crises, culture and education are in deepest trouble. Though this might be offered as a glib or facile reply to the state of affairs, it can also be framed in a responsible and orienting manner. W. B. Gallie’s concept of “an essentially contested concept” provides an important resource for framing the humanities as/and/of crises in this manner.
Colapietro’s exploration of the humanities is part of both his historical work (the recovery of American pragmatists such as Peirce, James, and Dewey for crises of American democracy) and one of his systematic concerns (articulating an understanding of history which provides a via media, an approach offering an alternative to self-defeating forms of historical “relativism” and the untenable position of absolutism or objectivism). Colapietro’s presentation is central to his interests and commitments, as these animate his work as a scholar.