Abstract

The humanities have been historically posited as a unique discipline among others insofar as the humanities’ most primary study concerns the limits and frontiers of discourse as such. Consequently, the future of the humanities coincides with their ability to modify disciplinary borders and to adapt to shifting socio-economic, political, and scientific contexts. Along these lines, Catherine Malabou argues that the humanities have always posited themselves as “plastic” but have yet to take seriously the transformative relation between the humanities and the sciences that this plasticity portends. By questioning the division between the humanities and the sciences at the level of their plastic limits, Malabou suggests that scientific advancements in biological plasticity offer a keen articulation of discursive traits typically regarded as exclusive to the humanities. As such, Malabou problematizes classic divisions between literature and biology, philosophy and neuroscience, by demonstrating science’s empirical materialization of the humanities’ quasi-transcendental structures of difference. This essay follows Malabou’s sustained critique of the humanities in order to account for this “becoming empirical of the transcendental” that undergirds her elaboration of plasticity as a philosophical concept. Doing so highlights the malleability of the concept itself, yet also questions the possibility that plasticity’s scientism will ever be able to extricate itself entirely from a “transcendental” commitment to “the promise.”

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6539
Print ISSN
0300-7162
Pages
pp. 6-25
Launched on MUSE
2013-09-12
Open Access
No
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