Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fish Food

Mark it: Stanley Fish said that the crisis of the humanities has officially arrived -- their collapse "already happened, on Oct. 1, when George M. Philip, president of SUNY Albany, announced that the French, Italian, classics, Russian and theater programs were getting the axe."

His proposed course of action -- not necessarily for SUNY Albany in particular, but for humanists (and those who love them) generally: "The only thing that might fly — and I’m hardly optimistic — is politics, by which I mean the political efforts of senior academic administrators to explain and defend the core enterprise to those constituencies — legislatures, boards of trustees, alumni, parents and others — that have either let bad educational things happen or have actively connived in them."

See the rest of his article at The New York Times's site, here: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/11/the-crisis-of-the-humanities-officially-arrives/.

I'd appreciate it if someone could help me to understand what Fish thinks "the core enterprise" of the humanities actually IS. After all, as far as I can tell, he dismisses the central characterizations of (the value of) the humanities that we've been discussing here in conjunction with Nussbaum's book.


  1. This is total bloviation, and Fish is tiresome. You nailed it though, Vance: He advocates politicking on behalf of the humanities but has no vision of what such politicking would be on behalf of. Wake me when Fish has something constructive to add to the discussion.

  2. If I read his credentials correctly, Philip is not an academician. I wonder how many presidents and provosts, not to mention the makeup of what would be the equivalence of a board of directors, come from the business community, or non-academic environment. People coming from outside of academia would bring with them a different operational model and understanding of organizational justification and efficiency then if they were 'home grown,' so to speak.

  3. For Fish on the core enterprise of humanities, see below:



    There is an honesty to his position: study of the humanities is an end in itself, not a means to some political goal. The best way to persuade people to support opera, surely, is to take them to listen to an opera and hope they will react with delight and say "Yes, I want to support this." So too, on Fish's view, only when politicians experience the intellectual and aesthetic pleasures that come from the study of the humanities will they understand why it is worth cultivating.


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