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Homo Ludens (1938) and the crisis in the humanities

Koen Tanghe (UGent)
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Abstract
Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens (1938) is, in certain circles, still highly esteemed as a paradigm of humanist scholarship. Huizinga argues that cultures arise and unfold in and as play but that they tend to lose their playfulness as they mature. As a gifted writer and erudite philologist, cross-cultural historian, and culture critic, he made a, at first sight, brilliant case for this intriguing thesis. However, a more thorough reading shows that it is unsatisfactory as an explanatory treatise about the link between human play and human cultures. It is argued that this striking combination of intellectual brilliance and lack of convincing content is symptomatic of the lingering crisis in the humanities and that Huizinga's masterwork thus excellently exemplifies the need of what will be called soft consilience between the humanities and science. It was anathema for Huizinga because of his strong belief in the vocational, epistemic, and methodological autonomy of the humanities, but any academic treatise on the role of play in human cultures should start out from the scientific perspective of the biology of our species and of play.
Keywords
Huizinga, humanities, Homo Ludens, play, science, culture

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Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

Chicago
Tanghe, Koen. 2016. “Homo Ludens (1938) and the Crisis in the Humanities.” Cogent Arts & Humanities 3.
APA
Tanghe, K. (2016). Homo Ludens (1938) and the crisis in the humanities. COGENT ARTS & HUMANITIES, 3.
Vancouver
1.
Tanghe K. Homo Ludens (1938) and the crisis in the humanities. COGENT ARTS & HUMANITIES. 2016;3.
MLA
Tanghe, Koen. “Homo Ludens (1938) and the Crisis in the Humanities.” COGENT ARTS & HUMANITIES 3 (2016): n. pag. Print.
@article{8518155,
  abstract     = {Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens (1938) is, in certain circles, still highly esteemed as a paradigm of humanist scholarship. Huizinga argues that cultures arise and unfold in and as play but that they tend to lose their playfulness as they mature. As a gifted writer and erudite philologist, cross-cultural historian, and culture critic, he made a, at first sight, brilliant case for this intriguing thesis. However, a more thorough reading shows that it is unsatisfactory as an explanatory treatise about the link between human play and human cultures. It is argued that this striking combination of intellectual brilliance and lack of convincing content is symptomatic of the lingering crisis in the humanities and that Huizinga's masterwork thus excellently exemplifies the need of what will be called soft consilience between the humanities and science. It was anathema for Huizinga because of his strong belief in the vocational, epistemic, and methodological autonomy of the humanities, but any academic treatise on the role of play in human cultures should start out from the scientific perspective of the biology of our species and of play.},
  articleno    = {1245087},
  author       = {Tanghe, Koen},
  issn         = {2331-1983},
  journal      = {COGENT ARTS \& HUMANITIES},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {15},
  title        = {Homo Ludens (1938) and the crisis in the humanities},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23311983.2016.1245087},
  volume       = {3},
  year         = {2016},
}

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