William H. Wahl


In a recent characterization of the parameters of posthumanism, Professor Cary Wolfe calls upon Jacques Derrida as a means of framing one side of its methodological commitments. In the 1971 interview his Posthumanities webpage cites, Derrida emphasizes how we might criticize science “in the name of something other than truth and science,” and further, how science might look once “the metaphysical value of truth has been put into question.”1 No doubt Wolfe is correct to note Derrida’s concerns here in connection with the future of the humanities. For what threatens this future most is the view that science should reign in the academy based on its ‘more rigorous’ modes of inquiry. Increasingly, administrators fall into step with a current political climate that sees the alpha and omega of higher education in job training, and in related ostensible, pragmatic endeavors. Yet, in this crescendo of utility exists a corresponding Odyssean will to ignore questions as to the possibility of knowledge, scientific or otherwise. And the reasons for these stopped-up ears have an equally unimaginative and circular basis: such problems ‘are no longer worth considering because they do not benefit science or technological progress’. Exacerbating this refusal to hear is the current generation of philosophical nodders, who, while knowing better, do nothing to dissuade us from the belief that scientific methods can discover truth on the basis of common-sense.2 Given these attitudes, it is hardly surprising, despite Derrida’s ‘siren call’, that the humanities are attempting self-renewal. But as we reimagine the humanities we must also understand that the positivist ‘template for knowledge’remains at the helm. Thus, important though Derrida’s questions are for the humanities, post- or otherwise, awakening the academy from its current methodological slumber requires more of an alarm than an enchanting song.

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