Is It Possible the Democratic and Critical Humanism----On the Humanism of Edward W. Said

Project: National Science and Technology CouncilNational Science and Technology Council Academic Grants

Project Details


The Edward Said’s intellectual legacy will be primarily political—not just in the popular imagination, but also perhaps in the eyes of academic research. But the last completed book Humanism and Democratic Criticism he wrote, allow us to situate this legacy in the larger philosophical setting of his humanism. One is the discourses of epistemology, Said believed that self-knowledge is unattainable without an equal degree of self-criticism and the awareness that comes from studying and experiencing other peoples, traditions, and ideas. The other is an ethical argument. Ever since the ascendancy of critical theory and multicultural studies in the 1960s and 1970s, a more democratic form of humanism—one that aims to incorporate, emancipate, and enlighten—is attainable. The traditional humanistic education has been under assault. Once-sacred literary canon that associated with Euro-centralism and even imperialism is now more likely to be ridiculed than revered. There are other learned traditions in the world, there are other cultures, and there are other geniuses. Proposing a return to philology is the Said’s supplement about aesthetics. Throughout the Eric Auerbach’s critical masterpiece, Mimesis, Said contends that words are not merely passive reception figures but vital resistance agents in historical and political change. Intellectuals must reclaim an active role in public life, but at the same time, insularity and parochialism, as well as the academic trend toward needless jargon and obscurantism, must be combated. The “humanities crisis,” according to Said, is based on the misperception that there is an inexorable conflict between established traditions and our increasingly complex and diversified world. Yet this position fails to recognize that the canonized thinkers of today were the revolutionaries of yesterday and that the nature of human progress is to question, upset, and reform. In this time of heightened contradiction between globalization and exclusiveness, is it possible and still effective the critical and democratic, even philological humanism? This project tries to demonstrate the Said’s last work in 2003 that provides a persuasive case for humanistic education on our shared intellectual heritage.

Project IDs

Project ID:PF10607-0656
External Project ID:MOST106-2410-H182-011
Effective start/end date01/08/1731/07/18


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