Critical Disinterestedness and Ideological Commitment: An Impasse?
Irish Philosophical Society, pp. 16-26.
Is critical disinterestedness possible? Or, is it, for that matter, even desirable? These are the major questions that hover above this essay - large questions which we face at the outset. For the moment we need to establish, first, what might be meant by 'disinterestedness'. For those whose major business is with the English literary tradition, the first name that will unfailingly come to mind when the term is mentioned is that of Matthew Arnold. The word 'disinterestedness' famously occurs in what remains one of the most widely read of Arnold's critical essays, 'The Function of Criticism at the Present Time'. Arnold pauses to ask, what rule ought to condition the activity of English criticism? His answer is as follows:
The rule may be summed up in one word - disinterestedness. And how is criticism to show disinterestedness? By keeping aloof from what is called 'the practical view of things'; by resolutely following the law of its own nature, which is to be a free play of the mind on all subjects which it touches.
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