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Reading: The Humanites: Toward an Impracticable Thinking


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The Humanites: Toward an Impracticable Thinking


Job Boot

Universiteit van Amsterdam, NL
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“The master is destined,” Maurice Blanchot writes in an essay titled “Thought and the Exigency of Discontinuity,” “not to facilitate paths of knowledge, but above all to render them not only more difficult, but truly impracticable” (6). This statement, so contrary to the common discourse that exists around matters of education, is what I would like to further explore in my paper. Especially today, when we raise the question about the value of the humanities in terms of usefulness and productivity, Blanchot’s statement does not only seem more strange, but also more important. What is at stake in this relation described by Blanchot where the teacher’s fate seems to be contrary to what is commonly taken for his goal? For Blanchot, this fate is not a failure but rather a prerogative. Indeed, Blanchot sees it as the opportunity to think plurally: to think thought as essentially plural. Indeed, when it becomes impossible for an object of knowledge—be it a fact or a concept—to be transferred perfectly from one interlocutor to the other, it becomes impossible to think the same thing in the same way. Of course, such continuity between interlocutors is the ideal of clear communication and its value need not be contested here. But nevertheless, I argue, it is this situation of radical impracticability, of inevitable discontinuity, which is proper to the humanities: to persistently question the conditions of thought makes impossible the perfect transference of knowledge. What matters in such questioning is not to think any singular truth but rather the interval that differentiates those who think. Such would be the exigency of discontinuity: to preserve the plurality of thought by persistently returning to it as a question rather than as an answer. Only then, it seems, can we keep open the conversation.
How to Cite: Boot, J., 2019. The Humanites: Toward an Impracticable Thinking. Junctions: Graduate Journal of the Humanities, 4(2), pp.8–17. DOI:
Published on 01 Oct 2019.
Peer Reviewed


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