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Humanities Final Exam Notes.docx

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Sheldon Ungar

Humanities - Education - Disciplines - Quantitative v. Qualitative - Speculative Thinking o Speculative = theoretical o Synonyms: abstract, dangerous, dicey, hazardous, iffy, philosophical, risky o Empirical sciences help us understand the quantifiable aspects of the universe - Critical Thinking o “the intellectually disciplines process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depths, breadth, and fairness” o It helps us become and remain aware of the potential limits of universalized truth claims  Humanities scholars often work to critique, problematize, re- consider, and question structures, ideals, ideologies and theories. - Problematization - Plato’s Cave The University - Purpose o A social space in which knowledge is created, stored, transmitted, examined, and critiqued o Teachers, Scholars and Students  A dynamic relationship  Each forms and informs the other  Not mutually exclusive categories o E.g., Teachers are also learners (students), and vice versa o We create new knowledge through research, analysis, and critique  We contribute to scholarly discourse o Knowledge is stored in libraries, textbooks, websites, professors’ heads o We engage one another in conversation (literal or imagined via written works), offer critiques and respond to critiques of our own work, and subject all of our scholarly output to a process of peer review o The university as a space for construction of knowledge, but also for deconstruction of knowledge  Multiple opportunities to continually re-evaluate theories and trends within our disciplines  Looking to dismantle and/or correct forms of knowledge or information that have become antiquated, or which harbor prejudices, inequalities, or oppressive tendencies o The university is a unique locale, in which the creation and development of knowledge is given special importance - UofT Mission Statement o “The University of Toronto is dedicated to fostering an academic community in which the learning and scholarship of every member may flourish, with vigilant protection for individual human rights, and a resolute commitment to the principles of equal opportunity, equity and justice. Within the unique university context, the most crucial of all human rights are the rights of freedom of speech, academic freedom, and freedom of research. And we affirm that these rights are meaningless unless they entail the right to raise deeply disturbing questions and provocative challenges to the cherished beliefs of society at large and of the university itself. It is this human right to radical, critical teaching and research with which the university has a duty above all to be concerned; for there is no one else, no other institution and no other office, in our modern liberal democracy, which is the custodian of this most precious and vulnerable right of the liberated human spirit.” o Engaging in critical thinking offers us a greater understanding of the world, its different groups of people, their histories, the way they interact  Knowledge as a goal, but knowledge assembled in the spirit of equality and justice Epistemology - Epistemology: a “theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion” o “The study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity” - Information o We obtain information by consulting Google, but this is not necessarily a balanced source o Data, but not a neutral source  Profit motive  Information is ranked  Top dollar = top billing o Search Engine Optimization o Sponsored Results/ Ads  A good reason for consulting the university library search functions rather than Google. - Knowledge o Knowledge is not information o Knowledge is information processed through a thinking human mind o Plato defined knowledge as “Justified true belief” o Expertise; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject o What is known in a particular field or in total; facts and verified information o Awareness gained by experience of a fact or situation o The university as a space for construction of knowledge, but also for deconstruction of knowledge  Multiple opportunities to continually re-evaluate theories and trends within our disciplines  Looking to dismantle and/or correct forms of knowledge or information that have become antiquated, or which harbor prejudices, inequalities, or oppressive tendencies o In short, humans create knowledge  As such, this creation is part of being human o The university is a unique locale, in which the creation and development of knowledge is given special importance o Out thinking human minds are not entirely reliable o The Role of Sharing  Sharing = exchanging knowledge with one another, informing one another, helping one another, helping each othe expand our intellectual horizons  The university is the social institution (ideally) crated for this very purpose  Knowledge as a shared experience is crucial  Greater possibility of accurate transmission and (re-) investigation o We all become responsible for this knowledge - Truth History - A record of events that took place in the past o “The study of past events, particularly in human affairs... the past considered as a whole” (OED) - Liberationist approaches o Critical philosophers and historians have started challenging “official” histories  Liberation theology and liberation philosophy  “A clear awareness of (histories of oppression) can come to us only from a historical conspectus which emerges from below” o Conspectus: A general survey of a subject o Central and South America – 1960’s and 1970’s  Enrique Dussel is a liberation philosopher from Argentina  Emphasizing o Those who suffer o Those who are oppressed o Those who are victims o Those who are on the “losing” side of history o Shifting the historical focus away from the colonizers and onto those who were colonized - Colonialism o “the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically” (OED) o Establishing physical “colonies” o Example: Conquistadores: Spanish explorers and military personnel  Central and South America  Expanding the Spanish Empire through colonies and exploitation of native peoples and resources  Also, evangelizing: Spreading Catholicism (often by force) o Permanent shift in the cultures of the region  The majority religion in Central and South America is Catholicism  Indigenous people were slaughtered or put into slavery  Increasingly difficult to pass down traditional beliefs  Belief out Catholicism was prohibited  Many religious items were destroyed o Silver figures melted down and transported to Spain - Imperialism o “The policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas; the extension or imposition of power” (MW) o “a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through colonization, use of military force, or other mean”(OED) o Establish mental “colonies” - Syncretism o “the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought” (OED) o Example – Marian devotion  Mary is a key figure in any form of Catholicism  “Virgin” mother of Jesus of Nazareth  But, this is taken to more extreme lengths in Central and South America  Shrines and pilgrimages o Mary as Goddess o Colonial powers were dominant powers, changing the social, cultural, and religious landscape  Merging of religions  Unique forms of worship  A total cultural shift brought on by colonialism Ideology - “A system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy; the set of beliefs characteristic of a group or individual” (OED) - “A systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture; a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture” (MW) - Hegemony o “leadership or dominance, especially by one state or social group over others” (OED) o “Preponderant* influence or authority over others; the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group” (MW)  *Preponderant: “Having superior weight, force or influence” (MW) o Ideologies become hegemonic when they are adopted by the dominant class in a given society  Hegemony is often critiqued and the term usually has a negative inflection - Cultural Hegemony o Antonio Gramsci – Gramsci’s primary legacy to scholarship is the theory of cultural hegemony  A Marxist thinker; social and economic “class” o Cultural Hegemony: The theory that the ruling class of a given society superimposes its values (economic, political, religious, etc) on the lower classes, thereby persuading the latter to accept the status quo, despite this being against their better interests (because the result is often that the lower classes end up with less mobility, if any)  Occurs with a persuasive system of assumptions, meanings, and values that shapes the way things look, what they mean, and therefore what reality is for the majority of people within a given culture o Cultural hegemony is how dominant culture maintains its dominant position  It does so through persuasive and coercive means  Through the use of institutions to formalize power  The employment of a bureaucracy to make power seem abstract (and therefore not attached to any one individual)  The persuasion of the populace to accept the ideals of the hegemonic group through education, advertising, television programming, the web and so on - Culture Industry o Culture and cultural forms become products for “selling” to populations  Ideas and norms, ways of living, dominant ideology come to be advertised as much as physical, material products  “Culture Industry” implies something constructed o Just as material concerns shape our world, so do the ideologies with which we identify  The purpose of the “Culture Industry” is acceptance and reproduction of the elements that make up the norms of the society. o The ideologies of a culture are often transmitted through media  As with history, it matters how our cultural narrative is told Semiotics - The study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation o Signs can be verbal, visual or auditory - Foundational Thinkers o Charles Sanders Peirce o Ferdinand de Saussure  Argued that signs only make sense as part of a formal, generalized and abstract system - Signs and Symbols o Sign: “an object, quality, or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else” (OED) o Symbol: “a thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract” (OED) - Representations o We create meaning about the world around us through representation o Through presence o Through absence  Within sign-sets (signifiers of related, but not identical, signified objects) we know something is “a” because it is not “b”  A “tree” is a tree because it is not a shrub, a hedge, a bush, a flower, a blade of grass, etc.  Absence of these other signs give presence to the sign “tree” - Discourse and Symbol Exchange o Discourse  Written or spoken communication or debate;  A formal discussion of a topic in speech or writing  A connected series of utterances; a text or conversation - Binary Oppositions - Common Signs and Meaning - Transcendental Signifier Technology - “The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry; - Machinery and devices developed from scientific knowledge - “The use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems” (MW) - Theories of Technology o Instrumental Theory/ Neutrality Theory  Premise: The technologies we use are inherently neutral  It is the human use and application of these technologies that lead to problematic social an
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