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Scientism, the coronavirus, and the death of the humanities

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“Nearly everyone seems to believe the humanities are in crisis,” huffed the literary scholar Paul Jay in 2014. But Jay wasn’t sold: his skepticism was sufficiently strong, in fact, that he put the word crisis in scare quotes in his book The Humanities “Crisis” and the Future of Literary Studies. Jay turned out to be one among a prominent collection of professors in the 2010s who gainsaid the crisis-talk surrounding the modern humanities.A few short years later, does anyone still believe this? Although at the time Jay wrote his book the outlook for the humanities in American higher education was far from rosy, the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the dire circumstances for contemporary humanistic study. Cash-strapped colleges and universities have begun closing humanities departments and ousting faculty members. Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin, for example, announced the discontinuation of its classics, philosophy, and “great ideas” majors, which will put 23 faculty members out of work. Its president concomitantly proclaimed that “Carthage has always been, is, and will always be a liberal arts institution.” Given that the school boasts majors in accounting, finance, and public relations and has dismantled its classics and philosophy departments, one wonders whether its leaders know what the liberal arts are.To add insult to injury, Illinois Wesleyan University has recently disclosed the shuttering of its classics department and slated programs in religion, French, and Italian for the chopping block. Who’s the president of Illinois Wesleyan? S. Georgia Nugent, a classical scholar and the 2017 president of the Society for Classical Studies. A few years ago, when Paul Jay was denying the crisis for the humanities, Nugent was composing editorials in favor of liberal learning. Now she’s busy stripping away the humanities from her university.How has this happened? How have humanistic disciplines such as philosophy and classics—which previously played a dominant role. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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