The ethics of humanistic scholarship: On knowledge and acknowledgement

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My aim in this paper is to characterize the professional good served by the humanities as various academic disciplines, particularly in relation to the general academic good, namely, the pursuit of knowledge in theoretical and scholarly research, and to evaluate the public and ethical dimension of that professional good and the constraints it imposes upon practitioners. My argument will be that the humanities aim at both knowledge of objective facts and acknowledgement of the human status of their subject matter, and that there are facts (and truths) about human life and society that are inaccessible except through such humanistic acknowledgement. As such, the humanities require the adoption of evaluative, other-oriented points of view, and they serve the public by advancing a reflective view of the very conditions of the public's own constitution. In short, the humanities incorporate the view that practical and evaluative wisdom is not only essential for the full pursuit of truth, but that it is also an essential public good in any wellordered society, especially in contemporary democracies. The discussion proceeds by examining various examples of both the professional and the public good in question, and focuses particularly on cases of excessive acknowledgement in the form of uncritical apologetics and excessive objectification in various forms of reductionism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-298
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of the Philosophy of History
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • Academic values
  • Humanities
  • Knowledge and acknowledgement
  • Objectification
  • Professional ethics
  • Radical evil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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