By Christopher Fynsk
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But before turning to “Sendoffs,” I would like to underscore two important and related points made by him in the light of his diagnostics of the new philosophical exigencies. The Wrst is that the challenge to philosophy’s hegemonic position as arbiter of rational inquiry—a challenge to the entire “univertical” ordering of knowledge in the space of the universitas—obliges philosophy (or the thought that would succeed it) to entertain an open set of transversal relations with emergent forms of knowledge and their technical elaborations.
The everaccelerating consolidation of technocratic imperatives and the dissipation of political existence have terrible implications for life in North America and on a global scale. The very meaning of modern experience and its multifold articulations in differing 41 42 • The Claim of Language forms of life is at stake in the technical transformations underway. From where, if not the humanities, might the fundamental questions related to this contemporary situation be raised? Are the humanities not crucial to reXection on the nature of the human and a host of ethicopolitical issues including the nature of being-together and relations to the earth?
But for many observers at the time, the emergent need for reXection pointed to a crucial role for the humanities in public life. Many, as one will remember, turned to institutions of faith, but there was undeniably a place for the humanities that was awaiting articulation. Why did this articulation fail to appear? The forces arrayed against such a project cannot be underestimated. (Beyond immediate forms of intimidation in that period, I refer to the economic, The Claim of Language • 43 technocratic, and disciplinary forces that increasingly paralyze democratic life; one will recall that citizens were urged after 9/11 to resume their roles as consumers).