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n Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe - Nut gees? Die stand van die geesteswetenskappe in Suid-Afrika : navorsings- en oorsigartikel : besinning oor die geesteswetenskappe en menslike geestelikheid

Volume 52, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0041-4751

Abstract

In hierdie bydrae word die bevindinge en aanbevelings van die Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) se verslag oor die toestand waarin die geesteswetenskappe in Suid-Afrika verkeer wat in 2011 gepubliseer is, krities onder die loep geneem. Na 'n kort opsomming van die belangrikste gevolgtrekkings van die verslag, word 'n kritiese blik op die metodologie van die sogenaamde "konsensusstudie" gewerp. Daarna word die aandag gevestig op bepaalde vooronderstellings waarop die wyer debat rondom die stand van die geesteswetenskappe berus. ASSAf se bevindinge op grond waarvan hulle ook bepaalde aanbevelings maak oor hoe die gediagnoseerde krisis aangepak kan word, poog om 'n aantal van hierdie problematiese vooronderstellings te bevraagteken. By nadere ondersoek blyk hierdie (laasgenoemde) pogings egter net 'n skynprotes te wees teen die instrumentele logika van die heersende neoliberale bestel wat in werklikheid die verslag se pleidooi onderlê. Die belangrikste vooronderstellings sluit in: (1) die vooronderstelde waterskeiding tusssen die geesteswetenskappe en die natuur- of eksakte wetenskappe; (2) die onkritiese aanname dat enige vorm van wetenskap (ook die geesteswetenskappe) "regstreeks bruikbaar" moet wees. (3) Laastens, die vooronderstelling dat "die geesteswetenskappe" na 'n konsekwent gedefinieerde en koherente geheel verwys terwyl dit in werklikheid 'n sambreelterm is wat in verskillende kontekste (in díe verslag teenoor ander verslae asook die breër debat, byvoorbeeld) verskillend aangewend word en dikwels 'n versameling dissiplines saamgroepeer. Ten slotte, lig ek my pleidooi ten gunste van die "nieregstreekse bruikbaarheid" van die geesteswetenskappe toe aan die hand van die dekonstruktiewe strategie wat die binêre logika van nut-of-niks wil uitdaag met 'n "beide/en"-benadering wat daarop aandring dat die nieregstreekse nuttigheidswaarde van kritiek 'n noodsaaklike voorvereiste is vir werkbare alternatiewe oplossings.


This contribution critically considers the findings and recommendations of the report published in 2011 by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) on the state of the humanities in South Africa. The study concludes that the humanities are in crisis, but despite the crisis situation in which they find themselves it is undeniable that they are indispensable. The humanities are indispensable because of their use or instrumental value as providing "the glue of Ubuntu" (ASSAf 2011:32) and nurturing "the intellectual lifeblood of a democratic project" (ibid., pp. 14, 137). In other words, the humanities are of vital importance because they teach us how to be truly "human" and how to live with other "humans" in "society" by uncovering our mutual dependence and fostering a feeling of solidarity (ibid., p. 25). The fact that the humanities convey essential analytical, interpretative and problem solving skills is constitutive of their human- and community-building capacity.
According to ASSAf, this ideal model of what it means to be "human" and what constitutes "community", which the humanities are equipped to realise, is premised on the humanistic philosophy of Ubuntu that defines the essence of being human in terms of our mutual connectedness. The study opposes this "ideal" model to the neo-liberal model that engenders competition, individualisation, self-responsibilisation and fragmentation instead of a sense of solidarity and fellow feeling. In other words, the study defends the humanities on the basis of their instrumental value in the realisation of the ideal (Ubuntu-inspired) model of community. They teach essential communication skills that facilitate "being truly human" or a "human-centred community", which the study considers to be the heart or "spirit" of the humanities (p. 33).
Ubuntu - essentially the idea that we are truly human only through other people - is not a politically neutral concept or philosophy, however. It is fundamentally complicit with the neo-liberal politico-economic policy which the post-apartheid government took over from their predecessors. Hence, the crux of my critique against the ASSAf-study is that it defends the humanities on the basis of their instrumental value and at the expense of their intrinsic value that supposes an autonomous position independent of political, economic or ideological prejudices or affiliations. The instrumental nature of their exposition undermines the "spirit" of the humanities, which they claim to defend and rests upon the very neo-liberal logic which they in principle oppose.

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/content/akgees/52/4/EJC129914
2012-12-01
2019-08-25

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