Sunday, March 21, 2010

In a word, let me state a proposition which incredible as it is, is easily demonstrated. We do not presently have even the rudiments of a coherent science of man. All we can say for sure is that man can no longer be understood as an organism with a roster of needs. Show me a man with his needs satisfied and I'll show you a man in serious trouble.


But finally what are the consequences of Peirce's discovery that precisely that which is distinctive in human behavior, language, art, thought itself, is not accounted for, is not accounted for by the standard scientific paradigm which has been sovereign for three hundred years, that indeed, science as we know it cannot utter a single word about what it is to be born a human individual, to live, and to die?

There is one consequence which is good for us humanists. It is quite simply that these "sentences" of art, poetry, and the novel ought to be taken very seriously indeed since these are the cognitive, scientific, if you will, statements that we have about what it is to be human. The humanities, in a word, are not the minstrels of the age whose only role is to provide R&R to tired technicians and consumers after work. Rather are the humanities the elder brother of the sciences, who sees how the new scientist got his tail in a crack when he takes on the human subject as object and who even shows him the shape of a new science.

From a 1989 C-Span broadcast: "The Fateful Rift: The San Andreas Fault in the Modern Mind".


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