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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


DE BEER, Fanie. Sciences of the spirit: Free or enslaved. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2012, vol.52, n.4, pp.732-748. ISSN 2224-7912.

This article tries to identify the key issues that threaten the sciences of the spirit with their denigration, and eventually their catastrophic downfall. The economistic political economy of science, political policies promoting at all cost the Market economy, the informationalistic notion imposed on knowledge, and the scientistic-reductionistic rationalisation of science towards a position of research and nothing more are the main culprits. It is suggested that these different issues are in effect working in an hegemonical way towards the radical dismantling of the authenticity of the sciences of the spirit, the outcome of which will be, and which is to a great extent already the case, the degrading, annexation and enslavement of these sciences to the position of servitude and dependence, and eventually of obsolescence. It is highly imperative for these sciences to realise the possibility of an alternative to this position of servitude, the condition of which would be that they remain free and independent. In order to achieve this alternative they have to be alert for various semblances of solutions to their crises, with the explicit pretence of salvaging their fate by cryptic, disastrous alternatives that will ensure and even unceremoniously deepen their downfall instead of redeeming their fate. It is not possible to salvage the sciences of the spirit by applying cosmetic strategies as if the relief of their crises can be effectuated by adding some kind of glamour to their appearance. Their unequivocal mission should be fully to commit themselves to a situation radically different from such cosmetic endeavours. Their real and deepest challenge is perhaps more of an ethical nature in the sense of working towards a radical comprehensive materialisation of societal, political, institutional and cognitive transformation, which require a certain definite freedom from economistic parameters and superficial populistic political ambitions. As a matter of fact, their ambition, on the contrary, should be to liberate the economy from precisely such economistic enslavement, and politics from any superficial, one-sided and opportunistic strategies. They have to warn firmly against the destructive dimensions of transformational policies and strategies in favour of a more comprehensive and constructive theory of form-giving to a formless and unstructured society, with sometimes fatal consequences for individuals. For the fulfilment of these objectives a number of central and crucially important issues should be highlighted and intensively and extensively explored by these sciences: human spirituality and what it really means to be human, both as singular individuals and as members of communities; comprehensive literacy and the ability to think, write and read properly should be pursued at all cost and against the odds; the much neglected notion of truth should be brought into the open as the most debatable issue to be reflected upon; a ruthless uncovering of reductionistic tendencies in the pursuit of the best possible science and the production, invention and dissemination of true and life-changing knowledges; the absence of meaning as the source and manifestation of nihilism should clearly be identified and its recovery and the re-invention of the world and the reenchantment of "world" as the home of meaning, should be enthusiastically pursued, fully aware of the fact that the sciences of the spirit are the only ones equipped for this lofty endeavour. Let these challenges be pursued wholeheartedly.

Keywords : Sciences of the spirit; freedom; enslavement; alternative; challenge; being human; truth; knowledge; literacy; world; meaning.

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