Browse our archive of original historical documents on the themes of this book:

- Founding Principles

- Slavery

- Property Rights

- Women and the Right to Vote

- Women and the Family

- Was the Founding Undemocratic? The Property Requirement for Voting

- Poverty and Welfare

- Immigration and the Moral Conditions of Citizenship

- Afterword: Liberals and Conservatives Abandon the Principles of the Founding

.......................................

Home > Document Library > Afterword: Liberals and Conservatives Abandon the Principles of the Founding > Speaking for the Humanities


Speaking for the Humanities

American Council of Learned Societies
1989


[Six prominent humanities professors attack the idea that there are objective standards of just government. — TGW]

 

[In 1989 the American Council of Learned Societies issued a report on the humanities in American higher education, called "Speaking for the Humanities." It was authored by George Levine and five other prominent scholars at prestige universities.]

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of modern thought, even for many humanities professors and certainly for society at large, is its challenge to the …ideal of objectivity and disinterest. For that ideal is at the root of modern Western thought, it has been essential to the development of science, the West’s most distinctive intellectual contribution to world culture. Many of those who attack the humanities disciplines mistakenly believe that ideal also to be at the heart of the principles that underlie democracy—the belief that members of society can act against their own self-interest, recognizing a larger social good….

[T]he belief that all thought inevitably derives from particular standpoints, perspectives, and interests would seem to subvert the moral order…. [Yet] the consensus of most of the dominant theories [of today] is that all thought does, indeed, develop from particular standpoints, perspectives, interests…. A system of thought [must be] alert to the way interests generate thought and ideological assumptions govern the most self-evident truth….

We [in America] may wish to argue that a commitment to democracy is not ideological but a recognition of a universal truth, disinterestedly achieved, and unavailable to other more partisan cultures. This, ironically, makes the non-authoritarian democratic system entirely dependent on an asserted authority. We ought to be—and we are—able to defend our ideological commitments without recourse to such arguments….

We should not equate truth with our own political ideology….

[A]ll stances in scholarly research, as in the choice of values, imply a prior commitment to some basic belief system…. At its best, contemporary humanistic thinking does not peddle ideology, but rather attempts to sensitize us to the presence of ideology in our work, and to its capacity to delude us into promoting as universal values that in fact belong to one nation, one social class, one sect.

[From Chronicle of Higher Education, January 11, 1989, A14. ]





USING THIS SITE:

Home | Preface | Document Library | Book Reviews | Purchase | Meet the Author










This site is a project of the
Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University
and
The Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy

Send comments to:
info@VindicatingTheFounders.com