Human Sciences

Reappraising the Humanities Through History and Philosophy

By Jens Hoyrup

Subjects: History Of Science
Series: SUNY series in Science, Technology, and Society
Paperback : 9780791446041, 448 pages, June 2000
Hardcover : 9780791446034, 448 pages, June 2000

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Table of contents


Some Fundamental Concepts

Part I: Institutions, Professions, and Ideas
Approaching the Humanities through their History and Settings

A Bronze Age Scribal Culture: A Sociological Fable with an Implicit Moral

Brain work and state formation

The first intellectuals

Scribal "humanism"

Classical Antiquity

The rise of philosophy

From the Sophists to Aristotle

The epoch of Hellenization

The impact of Christianity

The Middle Ages

An era of renascences

The Central Middle Ages (750 to 1050)

The age of the Liberal Arts

The rise of universities


The compromise

The fourteenth century

The post-medieval university

The Renaissance

Renaissance and Humanism

The wider context

Humanist scholarship, pedantry, and the humanities

A "Scientific Renaissance"?

The Early Modern Epoch and Classicism

A shifting centre of gravity

Courtly culture and classicism

From scientific to philosophical revolution

Scholarly and theoretical activity

The problem of the Baroque

The Enlightenment

The appearance of the "public sphere"

The Enlightenment movement and its workers

General themes and accomplishment

Philosophy redefined

Enlightenment and Revolution

The Nineteenth Century

The institutionalization of unbounded scientific quest

The German university reform and the humanities

"Positive knowledge"

Popularized science and popular science

Academic and non-academic humanities

Toward the Present: Scientific Humanities

Bibliographic Essay

Part II: Human Science and Human "Nature"

Cognitive Interests


Theories of Created Man

Determination by the body

Environmental determination


Weberian sociology: an example



Humanity as Freedom

The early Sartre: freedom as an absolute principle

The elusive connection: freedom versus explanation

Toward Synthesis: Human Nature as Dialectic and History


Summing up

Part III: The Art of Knowing
An Essay on Epistemology in Practice


Philosophy and the problem of knowledge

A Piagetian Introduction to the General Problem of Knowledge

Schemes and dialectic

The periods

Supplementary observations

The status of schemes and categories

The Nature and Demarcation of Scientific Knowledge

A pseudo-historical introduction to some key concepts

Empiricism and falsificationism

Instrumentalism and truth

Instruments or models?

A New Approach: Theories about the Scientific Process

Popper and Lakatos: theories or research programmes?

Theories falsified by theories

The limits of formalization

Kuhn: Paradigms and finger exercises

The structure of scientific development

Collective and individual knowledge

Two kinds of"logic"

Objections and further meditations

Truth, Causality, and Objectivity



Objectivity, subjectivity, and particularism

The Role of Norm

Logic and norms

Explanations of morality

Morality, language and social practice

Knowledge, norms and ideology

Value relativism and value nihilism

Institutional imperatives

Theoretical versus applied science

Further norms, contradictions, contradictory interpretations

The Theory of Interdisciplinary and Applied Science

Know-how and know-why

The acquisition of theoretical knowledge

The "Scientific-Technological Revolution"


Interdisciplinarity in basic research

Art and Cognition

Knowing about art

Knowing in art

Fresh eyes

Form versus contents

Gelsted and Epicuros

Art as thought experiments


Synthetical understanding and practical knowledge

Abbreviations and Bibliography

Name and Title Index

Subject Index

Offers historical and philosophical arguments for treating the humanities as sciences.


Human Sciences assesses the importance and value of the humanities historically and philosophically, and makes the case for treating them as sciences. Through careful examination of the characteristics they share with the natural and social sciences, as well as what distinguishes them from other scientific fields, the book argues that the humanities may be seen to correspond with the German/Latin Wissenschaft/scientia—that is, as systematic, organized bodies of knowledge, rather than as branches of knowledge that should necessarily emulate the quantitative and experimental approach of the natural sciences. After analyzing the humanities from historical and philosophical perspectives, the book presents a general philosophy of science that results from an analysis of the features that are shared by the humanities and the natural and social sciences, and then applies some of these insights to philosophical problems of particular relevance for the humanities, such as moral philosophy and the relation between art and cognition.

Jens Hoyrup is Professor in the Section for Philosophy and Science Studies at Roskilde University in Denmark and the author of In Measure, Number, and Weight: Studies in Mathematics and Culture, also published by SUNY Press.


"The originality of the work is unquestionable. It is the product of deep learning and reflection, and it provides a fresh look at the development of and the prospects for the humanities. " — Lewis Pyenson, coauthor of Servants of Nature: A History of Scientific Institutions, Enterprises, and Sensibilities

"This is an extremely timely subject, especially as the value and importance of the humanities have recently come into question so prominently in the national press. It is a continuing concern of higher education, especially as colleges and universities face increasing pressure to stress professional and scientific education. The question of how the humanities should serve to prepare students and the public at large for the many challenges life provides is one reason this book is of considerable interest. " — Joseph W. Dauben, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York