This public collection of excerpts and quotations on the “Values of the Humanities” was created as part of the broad research process for this project. It helps us to locate what we mean by the collective term “Critical Humanities”
“In so far as the human being takes centre stage as a creator of culture, anthropology is the fundamental science or key science of the humanities.”
Humanities in a nutshell
Ethics and critical thought
The humanities activate “critical and self-critical thinking, ethical awareness, contextual classification, respectful handling of different cultures [...] and awareness of responsible, self-reliant action”.
Monika Litscher, cultural scientist
The historical development of reality
“The humanities make it clear that conditions that have evolved historically shape our actions, that judgement is inevitable and that these judgements can never be final.”
Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences
Understanding symbolic worlds
Humanities “deal with worlds perceived differently by collectives, as they are experienced and conveyed through symbols and signs. The humanities analyse the recording, categorisation, understanding and evaluation of this respective symbolic world in all its aspects.”
Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences (SAGW)
Translated from the website abouthumanities.sagw.ch, Bern 2016, p. 6.
Humanities aim at "the critical review of imaginings, ideas and linguistic images. They try to replace dogmatics and ideology with critical discussion and thus create reflective and orientational knowledge. This knowledge enables the individual to form his or her own opinion – a bedrock of any democratic order.”
Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences
A society's knowledge of themselves
“The humanities are the 'place' where modern societies acquire knowledge of themselves in a scientific form. [...] it is their task to do this in such a way that their focus is on the cultural whole, on culture as the epitome of all human work and ways of life, on the cultural form of the world, including the natural sciences and the humanities themselves.”
Wolfgang Frühwald, Hans Robert Jauß, Reinhart Koselleck, Jürgen Mittelstraß, Burkhart Steinwachs:
Geisteswissenschaften heute. Frankfurt am Main 1991, p. 51f. (The findings of a research project by the German Council of Science and Humanities and the West German Rectors' Conference)
“The humanities consist of these three classes of statements: facts, theorems, value judgments and rules.“
The humanities as compensational studies
“The humanities help traditions so people can endure modernisation; the humanities are [...] not hostile to modernisation, but – as compensation for the damage caused by modernisation – they make modernisation possible. For this they require the art of re-familiarising worlds of origin that have become alien."
Quoted and translated from: Über die Unvermeidlichkeit der Geisteswissenschaften. In: Apologie des Zufälligen. Philosophische Studien. Stuttgart 1986, p. 105.
The humanities as orientational knowledge
“Auratization of purpose leads to a devaluation of meaningful activities, which – in university terms – includes the humanities, especially the general studies. The necessary question: 'Cui bono?' is understood exclusively as 'for whose benefit?' and is thus, so to speak, subject to business thinking.”
Quoted and translated from: Die Unbildungskatastrophe. Was heißt ,Geisteswissenschaft’ und ,Studium generale’? Zu welchem Ende braucht man sie und wozu ,Bildung’?, in: Robertson-von Trotha, Caroline Y. (Hg.): Schlüsselqualifikationen für Studium, Beruf und Gesellschaft : Technische Universitäten im Kontext der Kompetenzdiskussion, Karlsruhe 2017, p. 73.
Theory of unlearning
“Education once had to do with the pretension of conveying the illusory character of supposed certainties of a time. A society that, in the name of supposed efficiency and blinded by the idea of being able to subject everything to the control of the economic gaze, curtails the freedom of thought and thus takes away the opportunity of recognising illusions as such, has committed itself to illiteracy, regardless of how much of knowledge it may also have accumulated in its memories.”
Konrad Paul Liessmann
Quoted and translated from: Theorie der Unbildung. Die Irrtümer der Wissensgesellschaft. Wien 2006, p. 175.
The urge for knowledge suffices
“It still depends on Eros, the urge for knowledge and creative spiritual activity. The humanities can be particularly suitable for him, since with their hermeneutic method they are mainly geared towards understanding human existence and strive to give meaning. Of course, they are based on phenomenology: you can only fathom what is behind things if you pay attention to the things themselves.”
Konrad Paul Liessmann
Quoted and translated from: Hermann Glaser: Die Unbildungskatastrophe. Was heißt, Geisteswissenschaft’ und, Studium generale’? Zu welchem Ende braucht man sie und wozu, Bildung’?, in: Robertson-von Trotha, Caroline Y. (Hg.): Schlüsselqualifikationen für Studium, Beruf und Gesellschaft : Technische Universitäten im Kontext der Kompetenzdiskussion, Karlsruhe 2017, p. 77.
The political dimension of education
"Against the background of the interrelationships between people and the world, education presents itself as a process of mediation between internal human conditions and external, social conditions, which leads to an individual entirety of personal abilities: the social content of education results from the relationship of people to nature, to society and their history as well as from the relationship to the spiritual and aesthetic works of humankind (Wolfgang Klafki)."
Quoted and translated from: Die Unbildungskatastrophe. Was heißt, Geisteswissenschaft’ und, Studium generale’? Zu welchem Ende braucht man sie und wozu, Bildung’?, in: Robertson-von Trotha, Caroline Y. (Hg.): Schlüsselqualifikationen für Studium, Beruf und Gesellschaft : Technische Universitäten im Kontext der Kompetenzdiskussion, Karlsruhe 2017, p. 92.
Humanities in the world of work
“Academic study (contributes) primarily to education [...]. And of course you also hope to get a better job. All statistics show that five years after graduation, humanities graduates have just as good a job as the physicists, chemists and architects of the world. But they have a job that is not directly related to Egyptology or ethnology. When an ethnologist works at the State Secretariat, it is said in Switzerland that he is a failed ethnologist. No! I argue: he is a clever person, who works at the State Secretariat."
“In all areas of life and science, you need leeway in which you can combine and simulate facts and thoughts in different ways and then check the results in a comparative manner (this is called ‘optimising’). A rushed process often ends in something frazzled; it would be better to arrive more slowly at good solutions that have proven themselves through long-lastingness than to quickly come to wrong reactions.”
Quoted and translated from: Die Unbildungskatastrophe. Was heißt, Geisteswissenschaft’ und, Studium generale’? Zu welchem Ende braucht man sie und wozu, Bildung’?, in: Robertson-von Trotha, Caroline Y. (Hg.): Schlüsselqualifikationen für Studium, Beruf und Gesellschaft : Technische Universitäten im Kontext der Kompetenzdiskussion, Karlsruhe 2017, p. 88.
“The language of the humanities must stop being so complex and convoluted. It has to take on the character of an essay so that everyone who wants to can understand it.”
(Stefan Schulze Beiering)
“Action anthropology [means an] anthropology of practise focussing on the subject acting strategically under conditions of social asymmetry.”
Anthropological Horizons. The Humanities and the Human Practise. In: Anthropological Journal on European Cultures 1,1 (1990), p. 13-33.
Another history and other stories
“We have a desperate need for other stories, not fairy tales in which everything is possible for the pure of heart, courageous souls or the reuniting of goodwills, but stories recounting how situations can be transformed when thinking they can be achieved together by those who undergo them (…) Histories that bear in thinking together as a work to be done. And we need these histories to affirm their plurality, because it is not a matter of constructing a model but of a practical experiment. Because it is not a matter of converting us but of repopulating the devastated desert of our imagination.”
2015 “In Catastrophic Times – Resisting the Coming Barbarism”. Open Humanities Press/meson press: p. 132.
Thought as a complex materialistic practice
"Thinking is a materialist practice. It is not some kind of into the sky, theories from above, but rich materialist inquiring with each other, who and where we are, and so what, the old what is to be done, the question that leads to the Russian Revolution. What is to be done in periods of profound historical and earthly transformation, that are extremely dangerous. I think thinking together, reading and writing and speaking and performing and dancing and growing and risking and working; thinking is a complex materialist practice for somehow coming together to be less stupid!"