n South African Journal of Higher Education - Beyond relevance : in praise of useless knowledge

Volume 24, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



The influence of positivism in education has been on the increase in the recent past, with academic departments increasingly being asked to justify the money spent on them and show some level of cost effectiveness. There is no other cluster of academic disciplines that is adversely affected by new wave of positivism as the Humanities which is increasingly being pressured to prove its worth in a society that is increasingly materialistic and where education serves a mere instrumental goal. The pressure has been on the Humanities to diversify, to reinvent itself and become more relevant to a new and increasingly technological era. In this article, I attempt a redefinition of disciplinary relevance beyond the obvious instrumental use promoted by this new wave of positivism. In a move reminiscent of Bertrand Russell, I argue for the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge sake and also point to the contributions, which hitherto supposedly useless knowledge can make to human society and the furtherance of human knowledge.

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