Philology and Freedom

In: Philological Encounters
Sheldon Pollock Columbia University

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If as many observers believe the very survival of philology is in doubt across much of the globe, what are appropriate responses? Answering that question requires answering two others: what is philology, after all, and why should it be preserved? A new definition is offered here for the disciplinary form of philology: its distinctive subject is making sense of texts, its distinctive theoretical concept is interpretation, and its distinctive research methods include text-critical, rhetorical, hermeneutic and other forms of analysis. The point of preserving philology is to preserve the core values it encourages us to cultivate: commitments to truth, human solidarity, and critical self-awareness. The redefinition is meant to help free philology from itself, and identifying core values is meant to help us understand how philology can free us, both as scholars and as citizens.

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