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Korean Journal of General Education 2009;3(2):41-50.
Published online December 30, 2009.
University, Nation-State, and the Humanities
Sung-Won Lee
대학, 국가, 인문학
The ‘research university’ as the mode of existence of universities throughout the world is the product of modernity, and as such, has evolved in profound relationship with the modern nation-state. University has been recognized as one of the essential means for the modern state to function and to meet its ends. But knowledge produced by the university is constituted on the basis of ‘universality’ and, therefore, by definition transcends the boundaries of the nation, while at the same time it is asked to serve the purposes of the nation-state. Universities are not free from these seemingly contradictory tasks of the autonomous pursuit of truth and service to the purposes of the nation. This becomes more acute in the way universities exist in the ‘postmodern’ world. With the changes of the environment in which universities exist in society, universities are more likely to be looked upon in terms of “performativity”, just as ‘productive’ aspect of knowledge is emphasized before it is looked upon as ‘autonomous’ or ‘liberating’. Humanistic disciplines may tend to lose much of its appeals. But all urgent issues of the modern society that appear remote from the concerns of ‘the humanities’ not only have ethical and philosophical dimensions but are deeply related to the question of values. And, besides, they become the objects of the humanities or ‘human sciences’ as soon as their meanings are thought about historically. Therefore the ‘boundaries’ of the humanities we have habitually or unreflectively posed to ourselves have to be discarded. The task of the humanities is to be able to intervene in all serious issues of contemporary society, and there is virtually no limit to its possibilities insofar as we deal with human realities.
Key Words: The Idea of the university, Modern State and University, Diderot, Kant, Postmodernity and University, Function of the Humanities, Redefinition of the Humanities
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