In the Forum

The final word at On the Human belongs to the man best suited for that role, Geoffrey Harpham, director of the National Humanities Center. You can verify the truth of this claim for yourself by turning to his essay, In Praise of Pleasure. “Pleasure” is the perfect book-end to close our multi-year project, a project that began with Geoff’s 2006 piece Science and the Theft of Humanity. There, Geoff suggested controversially that scientists with their modes of empirical investigation and explanation were poaching on turf once reserved for humanities scholars with their methods of literary and historical understanding. Here, Geoff returns to respond to some of the more aggressive “scientistic” claims made in our pages and to celebrate—we won’t provoke further by saying “one last time”—the enduring pleasures of the humanities.

Geoff’s vision in 2004 created the Autonomy, Singularity, and Creativity (ASC) project and his persistent efforts over the years nurtured ASC into a phenomenon of international prominence. On the Human extended the face-to-face ASC gatherings into the virtual world; we held our seminars online. Without Geoff’s guidance and support, OTH could not have carried out its mission. Virtually single-handed, Geoff Harpham stimulated an interdisciplinary dialog as probing and deep as it has been wide and sustained. What a privilege it has been for all of us at OTH to work alongside him.

Geoffrey Harpham is president and director of the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, the only institute for advanced study in the world dedicated exclusively to the humanities. He was trained as a literary scholar, but his work has encompassed a wide range of topics and fields. Among his many books are On the Grotesque: Strategies of Contradiction in Art and Literature (1982); Shadows of Ethics: Criticism and the Just Society (1999); and Language Alone: The Critical Fetish of Modernity (2002). His longstanding scholarly interests include the role of ethics in literary study, the place of language in intellectual history, and the work of Joseph Conrad. He has collaborated with M. H. Abrams on A Glossary of Literary Terms, now in its tenth edition. In recent years, he has become a prominent historian of and advocate for the humanities; The Humanities and the Dream of America appeared in 2011. He has received fellowships from the J. S. Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Please join us in this discussion of the significance and uncertain future of the humanities. We’ll leave the comment section on Geoff’s article open until February 20. After he replies, we’ll deposit all of OTH’s holdings in a permanent archive easily accessible from the NHC website. No one will be home, but the door will be open for you.

Adieu, and thank you.


Ray Tallis has posted his final reply to commentors on his essay A Suicidal Tendency in the Humanities.

In the News

In the News is a monthly round-up of recent developments in the study of humans, animals, and machines. We provide links to two references for each story: first, to the scholarly record in the professional literature and, second, to a popular media account illustrating how the research is being presented to the public. Compiled by Curtis Tigges. Read more.

Previous Contributors

Banaji, Mahzarin. The Dark Dark Side of the Mind

Bateson, Sir Patrick. Hunting and Science

Batson, Dan. Empathic Concern and Altruism in Humans

Beer, Dame Gillian. Late Darwin And The Problem Of The Human

Biletzki, Anat. The Sacred and the Humane

Benzon, William L. Cultural Evolution: A Vehicle For Cooperative Interaction Between The Sciences And The Humanities

Bérubé, Michael. Humans, Disabilities, and the Humanities?

Blackmore, Susan. Temes: An Emerging Third Replicator

Blier, Suzanne Preston. Animalia: The Natural World, Art, and Theory

Boden, Margaret. Can Computer Models Help Us To Understand Human Creativity?

Broch-Due, Vigdis. Animal In Mind: People, Cattle and Shared Nature on the African Savannah

Carroll, Joe. The Adaptive Function of Literature and the Other Arts

Carruthers, Peter. Knowledge of our own thoughts is just as interpretive as knowledge of the thoughts of others.

Churchland, Patricia and Christopher Suhler. Control: Conscious And Otherwise

De Waal, Frans. Morals Without God?

Deacon, Terrence. On the Human: Rethinking the Natural Selection of Human Language

Dennett, Daniel. Whole-Body Apoptosis and the Meanings of Lives

Doris, John. Do You Know What You’re Doing?

Gillespie, Michael Allen. Science and the Humanities

Gruen, Lori. The Ethics of Captivity

Hacking, Ian. Commercial Genome Reading

Harnad, Stevan. Doing, Feeling, Meaning and Explaining

Hayles, Katherine N. Distributing/Disturbing the Chinese Room

Hrdy, Sarah Blaffer. How Humans Became Such Other-Regarding Apes

Kaufman, Les. Loaves, Fishes, and the Human Side of Ecosystems

Knobe, Joshua. Do People Actually Believe in Objective Moral Truths?

Krech III, Shepard. The Nature and Culture of Birds

Leiter, Brian. Moral Skepticism And Moral Disagreement: Developing An Argument From Nietzsche

Lenoir, Tim. Contemplating Singularity

Lycan, William. Qualitative Experience in Machines

MacKinnon, Catharine. Are Women Human?

Marino, Lori. A Trans-Species Perspective on Nature

Marks, Stuart A. Wild Animals and a Different Human Face

McCarty, Willard. Who Am I Computing?

McLennan, Rebecca. When Felons Were Human

McMahan, Jeff. The Meat Eaters: Would the controlled extinction of carnivorous species be a good thing?

Mills, Charles. The Political Economy of Personhood

Moya, Paula. A Story in Two Parts, With An Ending Yet To Be Written

Pippin, Robert. Participants and Spectators

Pogge, Thomas. The Health Impact Fund: A Better Way to Reward New Medicines

Prinz, Jesse. Does Consciousness Outstrip Sensation?

Rabinow, Paul. Biopower, Dignity, Synthetic Anthropos

Railton, Peter. Moral Camouflage Or Moral Monkeys?

Regan, Tom. The Case for Animal Rights

Ritvo, Harriet. Going Forth and Multiplying: Animal Acclimatization and Invasion

Ritvo, Harriet. Humans And Humanists (And Scientists)

Robinson, William. Challenges for a Humanoid Robot

Rosati, Connie S. Narrative and Personal Good

Rosenberg, Alex. The Disenchanted Naturalist’s Guide to Reality

Rosenberg, Alex. Final Thoughts of a Disenchanted Naturalist

Sandler, Ronald. Enhancing Moral Status?

Sapolsky, Robert. This Is Your Brain on Metaphors

Savage-Rumbaugh, Sue. Human Language—Human Consciousness

Serpell, James. One Man’s Meat: Further Thoughts on the Evolution of Animal Food Taboos

Singer, Peter. Taking Life: Animals

Sober, Elliott. Common Ancestry and Natural Selection in Darwin’s Origin

Sterelny, Kim. The Evolved Apprentice

Stoneking, Mark. Does Culture Prevent or Drive Human Evolution?

Strier, Karen B. The Challenge of Comparisons in Primatology

Suhler, Christopher and Patricia Churchland. Control: Conscious And Otherwise

Tallis, Raymond. A Suicidal Tendency in the Humanities

Tallis, Raymond. Does Evolution Explain Our Behavior?

Tabbi, Joseph. On Reading 300 Works Of Electronic Literature

Turner, Mark. The Scope of Human Thought

Vazire, Simine. Bright Spots and Blind Spots in Self-Knowledge