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Humanities in the 21st century

As many have observed, the humanities (and allied disciplines) at U.S. universities have gotten rather silly, these last few decades. Now they’re also falling from favor among job-conscious students:

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—The humanities division at Harvard University…is attracting fewer undergraduates…

Universities’ humanities divisions and liberal-arts colleges across the nation are facing similar challenges in the wake of stepped-up global economic competition, a job market that is disproportionately rewarding graduates in the hard sciences, rising tuition and sky-high student-debt levels.

Among recent college graduates who majored in English, the unemployment rate was 9.8%; for philosophy and religious-studies majors, it was 9.5%; and for history majors, it was also 9.5%…By comparison, recent chemistry graduates were unemployed at a rate of just 5.8%; and elementary-education graduates were at 5%.

Coincidence?

But, not to worry: Harvard’s Humanities department is prepared to sneer at anyone who doesn’t see how tremendously valuable they are:

This “is an anti-intellectual moment, and what matters to me is that we, the people in arts and humanities, find creative and affirmative ways of engaging the moment,” said Diana Sorensen, Harvard’s dean of Arts and Humanities…

Homi Bhabha, director of the Humanities Center at Harvard….said he didn’t give much weight to criticism from some elected officials who carp that young people need to go into fields that are supposedly more useful. “I think that’s because they have a very primitive and reductive view of what is essential in society,” he said.

Get it? If the Humanities are in decline – despite this being an age of left-wing triumph, and with university revenues/budgets near all-time highs – it’s not the fault of Humanities professors for too often failing to teach kids how to reason, usefully, about life’s problems. No, no, no. It’s everyone else’s fault for being primitive, reductionist and anti-intellectual.

All I can say is: I have an idea of what’s genuinely intellectual, and Sorensen/Bhabha are not it.

Via Zero Hedge.

UPDATE (from Dan): Jeff addresses a topic near and dear to my heart. There are many reasons the humanities are in decline and a good number of them trace back to the humanities professors themselves who focus on esoterica and offer, in the words of Homi Bhabha (whom Jeff quoted above) a “reductive view of what is essential in society”.

Perhaps were more humanities professors to show a genuine passion for the ideals which had defined their professor until scholars (thinking they were really quite clever) started “deconstructing” it in the 1970s, they would find greater interest among students.  But, professors would then have to make the case why the study of philosophy and great works of literature mattered to those who pursued careers in law, medicine, banking and commerce.

I highly recommend Bruce Bawer’s The Victims’ Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind which explores one aspect of the humanities’ decline in contemporary academia.

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52 Comments

  1. a job market that is correctly rewarding graduates in the hard sciences

    Fixed.

    Comment by V the K — June 10, 2013 @ 5:50 pm - June 10, 2013

  2. I was a history major from very good private college in the early 1970′s…………… I had to go back to college to get something that gave me a good paying job.

    Comment by SC.Swampfox — June 10, 2013 @ 6:29 pm - June 10, 2013

  3. I basically double-majored in a humanities-related field and a social science. But in my day, they taught you to think. When I got to the job world, it worked out because top employers were looking for people who could think (and were willing to train them).

    I’ve known some very successful humanities majors. The common denominators are:
    (1) they approached (or were taught) their field in a way that developed their ability to think, i.e., to reason about life’s problems and problem-solve.
    (2) they kept on training in other things. (“lifelong learning”)

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 10, 2013 @ 6:41 pm - June 10, 2013

  4. That was my experience as well. Back when I went into the serious business world, many employers were looking for graduates with a degree in a humanity. It was explained to me that they were educable, literate, and malleable. Their point was they were going to train them their way in how they wanted things done. Myself, political science and economics from an eastern state university that can’t hire a qualified athletic director. Oh well, they have become a bastion of liberalism, so they deserve it!!

    Comment by mixitup — June 10, 2013 @ 6:55 pm - June 10, 2013

  5. I sub quite a bit for Fresno High. One of the classes I often preside over is called Human Geography….. I’m still not quite sure exactly what it’s purpose is. Here’s the description:

    Human geography is the study of the many cultural aspects found throughout the world and how they relate to the spaces and places where they originate and then travel as people continually move across various areas.

    Some of the main cultural phenomena studied in human geography include language, religion, different economic and governmental structures, art, music, and other cultural aspects that explain how and/or why people function as they do in the areas in which they live. Globalization is also becoming increasingly important to the field of human geography as it is allowing these specific aspects of culture to easily travel across the globe.

    Cultural landscapes are also important because they link culture to the physical environments in which people live. This is vital because it can either limit or nurture the development of various aspects of culture. For instance, people living in a rural area are often more culturally tied to the natural environment around them than those living in a large metropolitan area. This is generally the focus of the “Man-Land Tradition” in the Four Traditions of geography and studies human impact on nature, the impact of nature on humans, and people’s perception of the environment.

    I haven’t had a chance to really evaluate exactly what this is trying to accomplish. Since I value highly the “connectiveness” of history – not just the standard timeline this happened and this happened and this happened – but the “why did this happen?” I could see this as an avenue to help students recognize why the Russians took over Eastern Europe after WW 2 or how internal changes in rural America in the 1920 contributed to the bank crisis of the Great Crash or why the Brits acted the way they did and felt justified in doing so leading up to the American Revolution.

    But, seeing the mention of “culture” a bazillion times in the description, noting that this curricula evolved out of Berkley, and this:

    >blockquote>Today, human geography is still practiced and more specialized fields within it such as feminist geography, children’s geography, tourism studies, urban geography, the geography of sexuality and space, and political geography have developed to further aid in the study of cultural practices and human activities as they relate spatially to the world.……

    the geography of sexuality and space“???

    What does that even mean????

    … From what I’ve seen of it, it didn’t seem all that cogent.

    But, as I said, I’m not familiar enough with it to make a definitive judgement.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — June 10, 2013 @ 7:15 pm - June 10, 2013

  6. Here’s the link to the page I got the quotes from.

    http://geography.about.com/od/culturalgeography/a/humangeography.htm

    Comment by Sonicfrog — June 10, 2013 @ 7:16 pm - June 10, 2013

  7. “ the geography of sexuality and space“???

    What does that even mean????

    It means full bureaucratic employment and increased union dues.

    Comment by Ignatius — June 10, 2013 @ 7:33 pm - June 10, 2013

  8. Video: Jordan Sekulow on Fox News with Geraldo: Scandals Plague Obama Admin

    http://commoncts.blogspot.com/2013/06/video-jordan-sekulow-on-fox-news-with.html

    Comment by Steve — June 10, 2013 @ 8:13 pm - June 10, 2013

  9. The apex of intellectualism is hard science, anyway.

    Comment by Rattlesnake — June 10, 2013 @ 8:50 pm - June 10, 2013

  10. I took a couple human geography courses in university last year, mostly because I’m a geography nerd and I wanted to take some fun courses (I had to take a non-science course as part of my program anyway). They were fun, but I don’t see how they could have been very useful aside from propagating knowledge (to future academics, for example). The professor didn’t seem to teach in a politically biased manner (except against communism), which was nice.

    Comment by Rattlesnake — June 10, 2013 @ 8:56 pm - June 10, 2013

  11. The apex of intellectualism is hard consensus science, anyway.

    Fixed it for you.

    Comment by heliotrope — June 10, 2013 @ 8:58 pm - June 10, 2013

  12. The problem is that those who do not study the humanities never learn how to master critical thinking.

    I’m not talking here about what tax-funded schools have done to the humanities — cluttering them up with “gender studies,” or teaching kids how to put condoms on bananas. I’m talking about history, philosophy or — hell, even learning how to read and write the language they speak.

    They’re being taught how to use computers, so computers can do their thinking for them. Wake up. This is what’s really going on.

    Don’t be so quick to cheer the demise of the humanities. In your haste to turn this into yet another boilerplate Left-versus-Right issue, you may be missing the bigger picture.

    Comment by Lori Heine — June 11, 2013 @ 12:51 am - June 11, 2013

  13. “The problem is that those who do not study the humanities never learn how to master critical thinking”

    My engineering degree says otherwise.

    Comment by Blair Ivey — June 11, 2013 @ 1:03 am - June 11, 2013

  14. #13 — So you think that if kids simply learn enough about engineering, they’ll no longer need to know anything about history? To be able to construct a coherent sentence? Really?

    That’s not only sad, it’s frightening.

    Statist partisanship really has killed common sense.

    Comment by Lori Heine — June 11, 2013 @ 1:23 am - June 11, 2013

  15. You’re both right. Engineering does take (and teach) critical thinking. And, it’s no substitute for learning history, literature, etc. The death of the humanities – by which I mean, the dumbing-down at many schools over the last few decades – is sad.

    I do make it a bit of a left-right issue, in that I attribute the dumbing-down more to the “Progressive” academics.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 11, 2013 @ 1:40 am - June 11, 2013

  16. To Lori Heine

    The internet doesn’t allow for a reasonable facsimile of laughter, so you’ll just have to imagine it.

    Do you really believe that because I’ve trained in a technical specialty that I’m ignorant of the larger picture? I’ve been reading history since I was single-digits years old; it’s what informs my political views. I can write. I’ve had technical and liberal educations. People are not one-trick ponies because human beings are generalists.

    I am a fan of anything done really well. It’s a joy to watch. But I have watched the ‘dumbing down’ of knowledge, and it’s not a good way to go. And as you can clearly see, all of my sentences are coherent.

    Comment by Blair Ivey — June 11, 2013 @ 3:10 am - June 11, 2013

  17. Unless you’re planning to teach…or go on to grad-school for law or architecture…studying the Humanities is getting to be a tough-sell. Communications and Psychology have become the by-words for no-salable-skills and meaningless B.A. degrees.

    Comment by Ted B. (Charging Rhino) — June 11, 2013 @ 3:48 am - June 11, 2013

  18. #16 — And the response to “dumbing down knowledge” is — to succumb? To give up? To toss away humanities studies as a lost cause?

    Your sentences may be coherent, but if you believe that, you’re a quitter. You’re advocating the surrender of something the human race can’t afford to lose.

    What I criticized here is an attitude that cheers the humanities’ demise, dismissing them as inherently “leftist” — and therefore one-dimensionally bad.

    If you find my argument laughable, you’ve considerably overrated your intelligence.

    Comment by Lori Heine — June 11, 2013 @ 3:51 am - June 11, 2013

  19. I read where something like one-third of college freshlings require remedial math and reading courses. What is it about me that I think if you need remedial courses in the basics, you probably don’t belong in college?

    Comment by V the K — June 11, 2013 @ 6:21 am - June 11, 2013

  20. Long ago, I worked up a course in critical thinking based on literature. It involved examining a theme and distilling it to the basic questions which helped to make the theme intriguing to the readers. For instance, regarding the Declaration of Independence it is necessary to ask a series of questions about “unalienable rights” and what they are and where they originate and if they are universal and do they ever change and must there be a unity among the people for them to exist and so forth. These are not questions based on ascertaining factual, provable answers. They are meant to get people thinking, listening to others, reacting and accepting new views while being less strident about one’s own views.

    Lots of wannabe intellectuals call this a doorway to circular argument. They could not be more wrong. It is a demonstration of how views differ and new understandings emerge and some “truths” are not so “self evident.” It is not anything related to circular argument, it is the introduction to timeless inquiry and a touchstone with past great thinkers.

    Within a fairly short span of time, the students begin to ask these questions automatically and the process of critical thinking has begun. Some students, however, sit and compost and have no idea of what is going on. They may be among the brightest. They just don’t have time for silly stuff or they are so certain of things that they just bristle with self assured mockery as others try to trouble out inconsistencies that they have suddenly discovered.

    The liberal arts were at the core of Thomas Jefferson’s university in Charlottesville Virginia. He laid out rows of student housing paralleling a common lawn where the students could greet and see one another. The student rooms were between a series of large homes housing the teachers and providing classrooms in this “academical village.” Everything was engineered in a way to keep the questions at the heart of learning in the air. It was, in a sense, a planned think tank.

    The modern university has too often become a vocational program or an indoctrination center.

    Certainly, a person can learn to be a strong critical thinker without a bit of college education or “training” in critical thinking. But the liberal arts can not survive a regime that imposes an “academic morality.” The liberal arts depend on a common understanding of freedom of thought, speech, religion, the rule of law for the common good, limited regulation, the freedom to engage in commerce, and a belief system that embraces certain “unalienable rights” which may not be enumerated.

    Messy, but essential. The other course is the route statism.

    Comment by heliotrope — June 11, 2013 @ 8:54 am - June 11, 2013

  21. The problem isn’t humanities as a discipline but a view of the humanities that affords a faux-intellectual basis for much of progressivism. I have degrees in engineering, music, arts & sciences, and history and the humanities coursework I enrolled in (required and elective) allowed the kind of navel-gazing upon which leftist thinking thrives. There are a very limited number of correct answers to most questions posed in the natural sciences but the number of correct answers and points of view in, say, many of the social sciences and humanities only depends upon the flexibility of the professor and whether anything is wrong besides having a definite opinion that wrong exists.

    It’s a right/left issue because the right has abandoned (or has been chased from) the humanities, rightists appreciate facts and consistent logic, and modern humanities curricula stress the very things upon which progressivism thrives: inconsistency, illogic, control of others (a leftist professor’s classroom is a fascinating microcosm of mind-control, manipulation, favoritism, closed-mindedness, and Animal Farm dynamics), emotion, tribalism, etc.

    Vector-based physics ain’t nearly so warm and fuzzy. I’m always a little amused when a Sociology major is awfully proud of their summa gpa but honors are denied a Physics major who is ‘fortunate’ to earn a 3.6.

    Comment by Ignatius — June 11, 2013 @ 9:48 am - June 11, 2013

  22. “Critical thinking” for too many means that “you agree with me”.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — June 11, 2013 @ 10:34 am - June 11, 2013

  23. And, for too many others (or sometimes even the same people), it means that “I don’t agree with you.”

    There is nothing wrong with 2 critical thinkers agreeing. It shouldn’t be about human relations or “positioning” in either direction; it should simply be about truth, and the methods by which truth is known. (a.k.a., cognitive method)

    All critical thinkers should agree that 2 + 2 = 4. Or, say, that existence exists; that some Universe exists independently of our minds. If someone can’t, they’re not a genuine critical thinker; they’re just posing.

    But of course, they should also understand *why* it’s true that 2 + 2 = 4, or that existence exists. If they’re only agreeing in order to fit in, again they’re posing.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 11, 2013 @ 12:39 pm - June 11, 2013

  24. I have to say that I was wrong in my earlier comment (#9). I posted it in response to the self-righteous pseudo-intellectual humanities professors quoted above. But, I see now that intellectualism is a process of critical thinking in any field. It just doesn’t exist (for the most part) in modern humanities.

    Comment by Rattlesnake — June 11, 2013 @ 2:22 pm - June 11, 2013

  25. Polling is the lovechild parent for those who are pushing an agenda.

    Polling results pretend to have measured agreement.

    Silly gooses need such agreement. They want to be “smart” by being in the majority.

    However, the polling classes have turned “critical thinking” into a propaganda language euphemism for guiding the misguided. Those who are not on board with the “good side” need to be reeducated by intensive “critical thinking” training. [see: Orwell; Mao; Bernays; Freud; Le Bon; Core Curriculum]

    Many commenters here have been frustrated by the liberals who post comments which proclaim a “truth” while refusing to engage in supporting it. The immediate course of liberal commenters is to shift the topic to the neanderthal inability of the reader to engage in “critical thinking” as evidenced by the reader’s temerity in failing to agree with the liberal.

    Suffering fools gladly is not an obligatory precondition underlying critical thinking. Thus, liberals often get a full dose of disdain.

    It is my opinion that dullards think. They are even capable of “street smarts” that surpass the wisdom of others under some circumstances. Sometimes, they can Google and weave something together that, at first reading, seems thought out. But that does not qualify as “critical” or “deep” or “higher order” thinking.

    The manipulation of facts in math and science eventually grows more complex and extracts those with the analysis skills and intuitive understanding from those who can no longer handle the complexity. The difference between the application of higher thinking in the math and sciences and general intelligence among humans is that math and science produce unvarying answers.

    Tyranny is the serious business of molding the population to utter unvarying support and allegiance to the imposed order and ingesting the party line as the core belief system. Critical thinking is not permitted.

    So, I separate the powers of thinking critically in the general realm of human contact from manipulating numbers and the application of technology stemming from science. More than that, I have always resisted the notion that there is any science involved in studying history, societies, literature and philosophy. Without question, a great deal “statistical analysis” has infected these traditional liberal arts, but “social science” and “political science” and “sociology” and “human geography” are all hokum and highly subjective treatments.

    Comment by heliotrope — June 11, 2013 @ 3:19 pm - June 11, 2013

  26. I understand critical thinking and analytical thinking as two different things. One is no less important than the other; the world needs plenty of both.

    Fields in the mathematics and sciences generally employ analytical thinking, while languages, history, philosophy, etc. (at their best) develop critical thinking. Through them, kids learn what makes people tick, how human civilization has developed over time, what the great ideas have been throughout history, etc.

    If I say someone’s discipline does not specifically utilize critical thinking, THAT is what I mean. They know how to build an arch, or send a rocket into space, or treat a disease. None of those things can, certainly, be said to be less important than what the humanities each.

    It doesn’t need to be seen as a simplistic “either/or” unless it is politicized.

    Comment by Lori Heine — June 11, 2013 @ 6:34 pm - June 11, 2013

  27. Lori, thanks for specifying.

    FWIW, I’ve been using “critical thinking” in a broad sense as “thinking actively enough, independently enough, and truthfully/rationally enough that you can see through political B.S. and arrive at a deeper understanding of what is going on.” That could come from hard sciences (where you are at least trained to think logically), or from humanities (if the latter are taught right).

    As heliotrope points out, my definition is pretty much the opposite of what today’s academics mean by “critical thinking”; they mean indoctrination into a religion of subjective epistemology (“truth depends on your point of view”), peer-pressure ethics, and identity politics (tending to collectivism, thus to authoritarian socialism).

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 11, 2013 @ 6:41 pm - June 11, 2013

  28. #18

    Still laughing. At you.

    Comment by Blair Ivey — June 12, 2013 @ 2:49 am - June 12, 2013

  29. #28 — Wow, aren’t you a fine example of critical thinking! Not to mention emotional maturity.

    Thanks for demonstrating the value of your education.

    Comment by Lori Heine — June 12, 2013 @ 4:30 am - June 12, 2013

  30. Lori and Blair, I don’t know what you two are arguing about, given that you both are in agreement about the importance of the humanities, in general (or at least you seem to be).

    What am I missing here?

    Comment by My Sharia Moor — June 12, 2013 @ 6:05 am - June 12, 2013

  31. I graduated from a small private college in May of 1973, just as the Watergate hearings were beginning. I call those my hippie years. I grew my hair long and sometimes went to class barefooted. I truly loved college, and hated to leave. As I said, I received a degree in History. Back then their were none of the crazy courses that they have now. But even then the professors were nearly all liberal. The subject of homosexuality would come in class from time to time when we discussed an historical figure. I would tend to cringe at some of the remarks made by my fellow classmates on the side. There was no general discussion of homosexuality itself. For the most part, in our small Southern college the gay students were not harassed or denigrated. No one was really out. We all all knew of some students that appeared to be gay hung out together. I will admit that I wish I had come out soon after leaving college and moved away from my hometown. Life would have been a lot bettter.

    Comment by SC.Swampfox — June 12, 2013 @ 6:30 am - June 12, 2013

  32. I feel like my undergraduate education was wasted and if I had to do it again, I would have gone the science/engineering route instead and chosen a smaller engineering school instead of the large but reputable university I went to. Fortunately, I was able to compensate for a bad undergraduate decision by getting my Masters in Technology and Business.

    Comment by V the K — June 12, 2013 @ 7:59 am - June 12, 2013

  33. V the K, I became a CPA.

    Comment by SC.Swampfox — June 12, 2013 @ 8:31 am - June 12, 2013

  34. V the K, I got an accounting job the first week after getting out of college in 1973 and held that job for 10 years until I was fired. I had a hard time accepting my homosexuality and I will admit I was a mental wreck. As they say you can’t pray the gay away. I sure as hell tried. In 1979 the company sent myself and a partner down to Florido to pick up and be trained on a huge DEC computer for the office. We had a that huge computer with one input terminal and one large dot matrix printer. When I left we had six CPAs two accountants studying for the CPA exam and six secretaries. Everyone was vying to get something done on the computer. We had one hell of a bottle neck. And, I felt that I was on the bottom of the totem poll. After I was fired, I bought one of the very first IBM PC computers. I became the master of the spreadsheet, which I consider one of the best applications of all time for the computer. Of course word processing was a given. The typewriter has all but disappeared.

    Comment by SC.Swampfox — June 12, 2013 @ 8:56 am - June 12, 2013

  35. #30 — MSM, I’m not sure what this other person’s issue is, aside from a boo-boo on his/her vanity that evidently nobody’s adequately kissed.

    In #26, I clarified what I was saying. You and others seem to understand it. I’m fine with it. And you’re right. We do basically agree.

    Comment by Lori Heine — June 12, 2013 @ 2:52 pm - June 12, 2013

  36. I majored in technical theater, and I have to say that it’s been extremely useful. The history and lit portion gave me the humanities/critical thinking training (plus a pretty good grounding in world literature and history.) I learned how to sew, make patterns, dye fabric, carpentry, welding, painting (scenography, water color and gouche), drafting, basic electricity, wiring, lighting, PROJECT MANAGEMENT, etc… The job market was slim IN THEATER but I was able to move into architectural lighting and ultimately in to construction management. (I graduated in the 80′s; a lot of theater programs have gotten to heavy into wacky crap, so a theater degree these days may not be nearly as useful)

    Comment by lee — June 12, 2013 @ 8:54 pm - June 12, 2013

  37. Oh, yeah. The technical element of the theater work–lighting and stagecraft–involved a certain amount of basic analytical thinking. People think theater is a fluffy major, but it sure wasn’t when and where I got mine.

    Comment by lee — June 12, 2013 @ 8:58 pm - June 12, 2013

  38. lee… + 1

    I didn’t finish my theater degree…. Had a major falling out with the dance instructor, who demanded that everyone bounce as they stretch…. A big NO for anyone who has any athletic training (slowly stretch to your max – bouncing = pulled muscles). Did I mention the dance instructor was the wife of the chair of the theater dept? :-) There was no wining that argument. There was only an “F” grade to be had.

    Before I majored in theater, I dabbled in both electrical engineering and English. Both were useful in theater via lighting design and script writing.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — June 12, 2013 @ 9:05 pm - June 12, 2013

  39. I recently graduated with a bachelors in Communication Studies and a minor in Economics. I thoroughly love the subject of communication, and I certainly enjoyed studying how people interact. The economics is also very useful in understanding how our markets function, however I was more interested in studying economics from the behavioral perspective.

    Although I did not have to declare a specialty in communication studies, I chose to focus on rhetoric and social influence. Through this focus I feel I am much more equipped to analyze and examine the persuasive ploys that I encounter on a daily basis. Additionally, despite my rhetoric professor having been a strong democrat, I am now much more aware of the ploys used by liberals to sway you to their way of thinking. As I was told many times, rhetoric was the first subject chosen by the ancient Greeks when they devised the liberal arts, because they realized how important it was for citizens in a democratic society to understand rhetorical ploys. In my opinion that still holds true today, and perhaps it is more important than ever.

    I have never been too concerned for the marketability of my degree given that I knew I would be going to graduate school, and that I will be working in the student affairs field within higher education. I am very aware of the trouble many of my peers are having in regards to their job searches. Unfortunately, communication studies is not the most marketable degree, despite how important the subject matter is to an individual within our society.

    Comment by B. Long — June 13, 2013 @ 12:52 am - June 13, 2013

  40. There is no great concurrence between learning and wisdom.
    Sir Francis Bacon
    English author, courtier, & philosopher (1561 – 1626)

    Comment by Bastiat Fan — June 13, 2013 @ 3:03 am - June 13, 2013

  41. I love this site, it is so informative and lots of laughs to make it a perfect mix. As a Humanities major with a love of the science, a mix is really the key.

    Comment by Mike — June 13, 2013 @ 5:43 am - June 13, 2013

  42. Interestingly, this topic has been much on my mind lately. Remember that lady who wrote the letter telling women at Princeton to find someone to marry in college? I read an article about it on some libertarian site. More interestingly, I read several pages of comments on it. I’ve been a libertarian for nearly twenty-five years now. When I read the comments I was embarrassed about it. There was a full throated discussion about how marriage is an old idea and how instead of getting married you should live together. There was also a discussion about how long you can live with someone before you have to chuck them for legal reasons, which is actually good because you probably want to get a new version anyway by that point. In four or five pages, there was only one person posting to defend love as the basis of a relationship. It was horrific.
    I’ve been wondering since if we have been so busy putting forward the precepts of freedom, have we neglected to point out the “why” for freedom? Yes, there may be no place for a professional poet, but Sir Walter Raleigh wasn’t a professional poet and his poetry stirs my heart. I am with so many others who recognize that a liberal arts education isn’t just nice, it’s essential. Else our scientists become so obsessed with if they can do something, they ignore the question why they should do it.

    Comment by Carolynp — June 14, 2013 @ 1:25 pm - June 14, 2013

  43. I’ve been wondering since if we have been so busy putting forward the precepts of freedom, have we neglected to point out the “why” for freedom?

    Comment by Carolynp — June 14, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

    That’s a very good point, Carolyn.

    The problem is twofold:

    For one, it’s not just the ‘why’ of freedom that hasn’t been emphasized, it’s also that any emphasis on the ‘how’ of freedom has gone wanting for at least the last two generations.
    You can’t have true freedom and liberty absent any standards by which you measure whether or not those freedoms are being exercised in a responsible manner.

    Secondly, the bastardizing of the language so that ‘rights’ to too many people now means “getting what I want when I want it” (including having it stolen from others and given to them).

    That’s why we have a nation that’s chock full of, for instance, Occupy morons and various other narcissists who claim a right to having other’s pay for their college ‘education’, a right to matriculate for four (or more) years taking silly classes in worthless BS (examples of which are made in this thread), and the right, further still, to be rewarded for this garbage (that they believe represents something valuable) by being given a position at a company immediately upon graduation at a salary of 50K and up.

    Comment by Jman1961 — June 14, 2013 @ 4:43 pm - June 14, 2013

  44. [...] at Gay Patriot has up a really interesting blog post on “Humanities in the 21st [...]

    Pingback by Jihawg Ammo: Pork-Infused Bullets to Deter Terrorists and Weekend Links! — June 15, 2013 @ 8:45 pm - June 15, 2013

  45. It’s a right/left issue because the right has abandoned (or has been chased from) the humanities, rightists appreciate facts and consistent logic

    Erm… that seems to me a bit of a stretch, unless you want to argue that the whole of Christian moral theology (for example) is a “leftist” endeavor!

    I would concede that Catholic “natural law” theology often has a high degree of internal logical consistency. But overall, it’s a system based not on consistency with empiric facts, but on consistency with unprovable axioms that are accepted as necessarily true by the consensus of the faithful.

    Comment by Throbert McGee — June 16, 2013 @ 4:38 pm - June 16, 2013

  46. P.S. Or, in some of Aquinas’s arguments, there may have been consistency with purported empiric facts that were promulgated by scholars of the day but that eventually turned out to have no scientific basis.

    E.g., in making his “natural law” case against onanism, Aquinas may have been relying on the false but then-common belief that men can run out of semen. (He doesn’t actually say this, but for some reason he thinks it’s quite uncontroversial that emitting semen for non-procreative reasons is intrinsically “contrary to man’s good” — whereas walking on one’s hands or picking up a spoon with one’s toes is , for some reason, NOT contrary to “natural order.”)

    Comment by Throbert McGee — June 16, 2013 @ 4:44 pm - June 16, 2013

  47. I would finally point out that in the “state religion” of the USSR — call it Englomarxoleninism or Sovietism or whatever — the objective scientific certainty and reliabilty of dialectic materialism was constantly asserted, while the subjectivity and falseness of “bourgeois science” was also constantly asserted.

    So, the claim that belief in facts and certainty is characteristic of the Right while waffling subjectivism is characteristic of the Left just doesn’t make much sense to me, historically speaking.

    At best you might make a more qualified claim that today’s Left has degenerated intellectually (possibly because they were traumatized by the poor predictive power of 19th century Marxist theory, or possibly because they’re fraudulent sinecures willfully running a racket to keep themselves employed, or possibly for other reasons).

    Comment by Throbert McGee — June 16, 2013 @ 4:54 pm - June 16, 2013

  48. So, the claim that belief in facts and certainty is characteristic of the Right while waffling subjectivism is characteristic of the Left just doesn’t make much sense to me, historically speaking.

    Your conclusion doesn’t follow from your example, TMG. You leave out the possibility that the Marxists might have been lying, or self-deceived or otherwise just plain wrong, when they were busy claiming to be scientific and objective.

    They believed in Hegelian “logic” which is, if anything, a contradiction of logic. I can stand on my head claiming to be scientific and objective all day long, but that wouldn’t make it so. Only actually being scientific and objective (that is, actually believing in objective reality and following the methods of an objective epistemology, by which I may discover objective reality) can make it so.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 17, 2013 @ 2:48 pm - June 17, 2013

  49. “Your conclusion doesn’t follow from your example, TMG. You leave out the possibility that the Marxists might have been lying, or self-deceived or otherwise just plain wrong, when they were busy claiming to be scientific and objective”

    And I can accept that claim ILC, as long as you can also accept that the very same claim can be said of your position. After all–”you leave out the possibility that the [Rightists] might have been lying, or self-deceived or otherwise just plain wrong, when they were busy claiming to be scientific and objective.”

    People can hold positions that do not accord with rational scientific positions and be rightist. One can ask why there are many today that believe that the sun revolves around the earth; or that evolution is a crock.To the extent that these folks hold such views because of “religious faith” or because they look for “a scientific rationale that accords with their religious beliefs” rather than based in the scientific method, that is the extent to which those folks fit your critique of those who are unwilling to use “objective epistemology.”

    And Dan: “make the case why the study of philosophy and great works of literature mattered to those who pursued careers in law, medicine, banking and commerce” I thought HT provided a good answer at #20.

    Comment by Passing By — June 17, 2013 @ 10:56 pm - June 17, 2013

  50. the [Rightists] might have been lying, or self-deceived or otherwise just plain wrong, when they were busy claiming to be scientific and objective

    Umm, yeah… except that I don’t know that I ever left out that possibility.

    People can hold positions that do not accord with rational scientific positions and be rightist

    Of course. In fact, there are entire branches of rightism – such as monarchism – that I can’t agree are rational.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 22, 2013 @ 8:46 pm - June 22, 2013

  51. “Umm, yeah… except that I don’t know that I ever left out that possibility.”
    No worries. Just being helpful in rounding out the portrait you were painting! :)

    Comment by Passing By — June 23, 2013 @ 2:17 pm - June 23, 2013

  52. “such as monarchism – that I can’t agree are rational.”
    Agreed–the whole divine right of kings assumption is a little much to take…

    Comment by Passing By — June 23, 2013 @ 2:42 pm - June 23, 2013

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