Repost-‘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 writers 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.

Are the humanities in crisis?


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.

3 thoughts on “Repost-‘Steven Fuller In Project Syndicate: Who Needs The Humanities?’

  1. This may well be an unjust comment but Steven Fuller is a supporter of Intelligent Design and he holds the Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology at Warwick University. Neither this belief nor this postion gives me any confidence in his defense of the humanities. Perhaps the waning influence of the humanities has something to do with the way it is taught and maybe even the way Steven Fuller teaches it. I am certainly not convinced that teaching ‘Social Epistemology’ is the way to increase the perceived value of a humanities based education.

  2. Malcolm, that seems more than a little important to point out.

    Out of the stew of postmodernism, relativism, and the social sciences, come some strange hybrids.

  3. I checked out his page at Warwick and Wikipedia, and he seems to represent the problem of just what in the hell the humanities are aiming to be nowadays. All sorts of strange creatures stagger out of the swamp of relativism and postmodernism. I don’t know if he as an intelligent design proponent or not or simply making an argument, and whether that’s a goal here.

    I’ll put up anybody asking questions of what the humanities ought to be, especially with this technological revolution going on.

    I can recall being a fan of TS Eliot and New Criticism, and not pleased with post structuralism, what I later found out was cultural Marxism which often starts with politics (Lionel Trilling) and on through existentialism, the nihilistic Nietzscheans, French theory and again, the relativist, postmodern swamp buzzing with hybrids and feminists and other ‘ists’

    Roger Scruton, Leo Strauss, and others offer voices of dissent which I find important.

    I just walked away and didn’t look back for many years, finding ‘real’ philosophy again and getting on with life.

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