Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Knowing and Doing in Humanities and Arts

Robert N. Gaines.

Recent attempts to bridge the gap between science and humanities have all but dismissed humanities as useful skills or empirical phenomena ripe for scientific explanation. This paper aims to reposition humanities in the intellectual and social landscape. Specifically, it discusses nine modes in which knowledge and socially productive action proceed from humanities and arts: rhetorical, artistic, philological interpretive, phenomenological interpretive, explanatory historical, narrative historical, technical/aesthetic critical, cultural critical, and analytical.

Within rhetorical and artistic modes, the knowledge created chiefly concerns principles for arousing cognitive responses in audiences of practical discourses and artworks. In most other modes, the knowledge created is principally a form of explanation. Philological and phenomenological interpretations of texts explain their significance starting either from the sender's contextual meaning-intention or the receiver's situational understanding. Explanatory and narrative histories both explain events, but focus upon their nature, succession, and causes or upon their diegetical reconstruction consistent with ideological heuristics. Technical/aesthetic as well as cultural criticisms both explain significant human behavior, one with reference to practical or artistic principles and objectives, the other with reference to cultural structures that regulate power and desire. Finally, the analytical mode creates theoretical knowledge of matters and relations that depend upon human understanding and conventions.

Socially productive action arises from all modes and may be indirect, through selection and development of subject matters, or direct, through confrontation of social issues using discursive or aesthetic advocacy, interpretation of regulative symbolism, historicism of actions and deliberations, conception of unsanctioned signification, and analysis of immediate social concerns.


Robert N. Gaines  (United States)
Director of Honors Humanities
College of Arts and Humanities
University of Maryland, College Park

  • Humanities
  • Arts
  • Modes of knowing and doing
  • Knowledge
  • Socially productive action
  • Rhetoric
  • Interpretation
  • History
  • Criticism
  • Analysis

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)