[lit-ideas] Re: Anti-Humanism & Its Enemies

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 17 Nov 2007 09:08:19 EST

Eric Yost waxes logical and implicates:
"Stupid J. L. cannot infer 'anti-humanism' from the meaning of 'anti' +  
'humanism', and thus provides entries for both -- I'll comment on the first  
However, I was trying to see if Lady Montagu in her copious letters was  
reprimanding some of her lady friends, "Oh, I've been to such an anti-humanist  
party. It was a total fracas". 

I love a snob quote.
Anyway, the problem with deriving 'anti-humanism' from 'humanism' is that  
anti-humanists don't want to do that. They don't want to even HEAR about  
'humans', let alone 'humanists'.
But let's see what Yost has found for us:
'humanism'  probably derives from from Middle French high culture, where the  
top word was "il est un humaniste" (as applied to Charlemagne and  Alcuin), 
itself from Classical Latin "humanus" plus, not the Classical suffixe  -ista, 
but from the later, Middle French "-iste" "-ist". This suffix is  
controversial. A sophos, wise man, becomes a sophist, a sophisticated. Now a  
can be defined as a person (usually, or a doctrine,  or more to the point, a 
MARTIAN) who pursues the study of the Humanities. 
There is a quote in Yost's cite here, "She has been  accused by humanists of 
having an exclusive interest in social  sciences" (Publ's Mod. Lang. 
Association of American"
So the idea is that a humanist is NOT a scientist, which  is a blow. Because 
in classical antiquity, they did use 'saptientia' a lot, for  lack of better 
word, meaning 'sophia', which was 'episteme', so that sophoi, or  even 
philosophoi would now be considered not only scientists but humanists ('the  
sciences', les sciences humaines, in French). 
This has to do with the neo-Kantian (Dilthey) distinction  between 'natural 
sciences' and 'human sciences'. In his parlance,  naturwissenschaft versus 
geistwissenschaft, which is also a blow, since you  cannot be into the latter 
be a 'materialist', for example ('geist' =  'ghost') 
Yost continues:
"called for a greater understanding between  scientists and humanists -- 
This relates to something that boring author, C. P. Snow,  called a 'clash' 
between the two things. In general, in England (at the  gentleman's club level) 
there _is_ such a clash -- but in general it is  agreed that scientists have 
no class, and cannot really join a club. Humanists  neither, but if you want 
to join a club, like "White's", or the Saville, you  better be acquainted with 
the humaniores litera rather than on how to dissect a  frog. 
Yost continues:
"an adherent or practitioner of Renaissance  humanism ; specifically : a 
Renaissance scholar devoting himself to the  study of classical letters"
L. K. Helm has talked about his, and I disagree. I think  Renaissance has 
been OVER-INFLATED, and OVER-RATED. I shouldn't be saying that,  because I hold 
an Italian citizenhsip, and it's nice to see such a centrality of  thought 
ascribed to something which is basically an Italian thing. But I claim  that 
Renaissace 'men' (never 'woman'?) were just parroting the  Greeks.
I studied that in my research into the English Grand Tour.  While the English 
gentleman's highest point in the Grand Tour was indeed Rome  (and the Cafe 
Grecco, in Piazza Spagna), his writings and love, and things, were  focused on 
the Greeks. Take sculpture. Writing on art in this period makes a  distinction 
in terms of quality very manifest between:
FIRST LEVEL: A Greek original
SECOND LEVEL, Class B: A Roman copy of the  original
THIRD LEVEL: Class C. A silly Renaissance copy of a Roman  copy of a Greek 

Give me a break!

Yost continues:

"A humanist is also a person who is devoted to human welfare : one who  is 
marked by a strong interest in or concern for man : HUMANITARIAN, a  humanist, 
lover of all sorts of people -- Yale  Review."
It's ironic that they quote from this elitist Ivy League  publication to 
illustrate that! The description of 'sort' as in 'sort of people'  is already 
offensive. But for that person I use 'anthropologist', a person  interested in 
sorts of people, like McCreery is. 
Yost continues:

"a humanist, who felt deeply about inequality ...  wherever he saw it -- Max 
Lerner> 3 a often capitalized : a person  who subscribes to the doctrines of 
scientific humanism ; specifically :  a member of a religious society or cult 
subscribing to such doctrines b  : a person who subscribes to a form of  
philosophical humanism c : NEW HUMANIST."
Well, this collocations escape me, as I'm not sure what  scientific humanism 
is, or that horrible phrase, new humanist.
I would consider Grice. He got his B. A. in Lit. Hum. --  does that make him 
a 'humanist'. YES.
Ditto, myself, since I graduated from the 'Faculty of  Humanities'.
But I wouldn't show it off with the usually ultimately  derogatory suffix, 
-ist. And the quote for today is
-- which is ascribed to TERENCE -- I was reading him  yesterday. What a bore 
of a playright. All his comedies -- I only have LOEB No.  1 -- are based on 
MELANDER, and on top of that, since Terence was a former  slave, they have been 
criticised on the ground that it was his master, Plubius  Marcus, as having 
written them, but as having found it not too classy to show as  a 
Apparently, Terence was originally a Spaniard, so that may  account for his 
lack of humor of any sort.
Not even with titles like THE EUNUCH can he distill any  humor into the 
preceedings. In this play, one of the characters -- big deal --  'dresses up as 
eunuch' to enter a frigidarium or something. Man, I would have  had him cut his 
balls, if only to get a sincere laughter from the spectators. 
JL Speranza  
      Buenos Aires,  Argentina

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