Steven Fuller In Project Syndicate: Who Needs The Humanities?

Full article here.

“This enabled first him and then her to command authority regardless of birth, resulting in the forging of networks and even institutions whose benefits cut deeply across bloodlines.”

Yes, the humanities are vital to a democracy, or at least in creating common experience through a mastery of language, rhetoric, and expression.  This occurs by reading, writing and discussing novels, philosophical texts, poems and ocassionally, music.   It can be a great leveller and unifier.

“The university began with the humanities at its heart, but today it is playing catch-up with the natural sciences.”

Which university was that, exactly?  Even when functioning well, the humanities aim towards philosophy, and have vaguely modelled themselves after the sciences, at least in this country.  Most importantly they focus on the contribution of artists.  We read Walt Whitman for his poems.   

“Nevertheless, to paraphrase Keynes, every time we turn on the radio or television, read a newspaper, pick up a novel, or watch a movie, we are in the thrall of one or more dead humanists who set the terms of reference through which we see the world.”

Yes, but we are also in thrall to Maxwell’s equations and thories of electromagnetism that helped invent the radio and T.V.  And to be cruder, we rely on the printing press for the newspaper and novel…the camera for the movies.

I guess Fuller means most people could benefit from reading the great artists to understand what’s right in front of them and to broaden and deepen their thinking.  I agree, but would also like to point out that thinking doesn’t begin nor end there.


Here’s a quote from George Santayana:

The young man who has not wept is a savage, and the old man who will not laugh is a fool.

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