Philosophy v. the Humanities

Jump up and shout and say hallelujah if you are one of the myriad millions who care about the internecine academic battles between philosophy and the other humanities!


Okay, fine. Not as thrilling as March Madness. But here's the deal. Philosophy in the U.S. and England is, in general, quite isolated from the other humanities. We each think what the other does is BS. But we (that is, philosophers) are right.

It is quite sad, however, that there is very little dialogue between the disciplines. When other humanities folks rely on philosophers for support for their work, they tend to be philosophers not at all highly regarded within philosophy. Greater understanding might make everyone's work better.

Not only that, philosophers tend to lose out on humanities funding because it is awarded by people in other humanities. Also a shame.

Jason Stanley has a nice defense of the purpose of philosophy in today's world. Not exactly the one I'd write, but definitely worth a read and on the right track.


  1. This sounds a bit like the relationship between physical sciences and mathematics. Math can be pure math (math for its own sake) and applied math (mathematics that is useful in other fields). Pure math seems to rank higher than applied math on the status scale, at least when I was in school. Since applied math makes science itself possible, 'dialog' between math and science is valued. Applied math is usually funded by the people that use it, while pure math has to depend on recognition that the pure math of today may well be pressed into use as the applied math of tomorrow.

    Perhaps the problem, particularly with PoMo style Humanities, is that the Humanities types are insufficiently aware of the need for rigor and clarity in thought, and therefore unappreciative of the path applied philosophy has marked out. Or so it seems to this geek. I've always thought Philosophy in general made sense, but haven't had that same feeling for some areas of the Humanities.

  2. amazing yes, but I agree with gj above. but for me, as to mathematics whether pure or applied I am totally lost, which makes my life hell when I am asked to edit the basic English in research papers from that department.
    In my field it is the difference between linguists and Language teachers. We pretty much hate each other (ha). Linguists try to discover principles of universal grammar in L2 acquisition, but for teachers the experience is very different. Teaching English to Chinese speakers is very different than teaching English to Spanish speakers, as both are very different than teaching English to a mixed group. Principles of universal grammar has more relevance to a mixed group, but to a single language group is simply not as important. It is far more useful to know their language to understand the contrastive grammar.
    So getting back to the main point, even within a field the dialog might not be where it should be.