Another Terrible Defense of “The Humanities”

Somebody in my social media feeds passed along a link to this interview with Berkeley professor Daniel Boyarin about “the humanities,” at NPR’s science-y blog. This is, of course, relevant to my interests, but sadly, but while it’s a short piece, it contains a lot to hate. For one thing, after the dismissive one-two of […]

This Is Not What I Want As a Defense of “The Humanities”

Yesterday was Founders Day at Union, celebrating the 220th anniversary of the granting of a charter for the college. The name of the event always carries a sort of British-boarding-school air for me, and never fails to earworm me with a very particular rugby song, but really it’s just one of those formal-procession-and-big-speaker events that […]

Two Cultures of Incompressibility

Also coming to my attention during the weekend blog shutdown was this Princeton Alumni Weekly piece on the rhetoric of crisis in the humanities. Like several other authors before him, Gideon Rosen points out that there’s little numerical evidence of a real “crisis,” and that most of the cries of alarm you hear from academics […]

On Class and Skills and Education

In a comment to yesterday’s post about the liberal arts, Eric Lund makes a good point: The best argument I have ever heard for doing scholarship in literature and other such fields is that some people find it fun. I single this out as a good point not because I want to sneer at the […]

How to Think Like a Scientist, Sixty Years Ago

The stupid Steven Pinker business from a few weeks ago turned out to do one good thing after all. It led to this post at Making Science Public, which quoted some books by Jacob Bronowski that sounded relevant to my interests. And, indeed, on checking The Common Sense of Science out of the college library, […]

A Pox on Both Your Cultures

A lot has been written about Steven Pinker’s article about “scientism,” most of it mocking his grandiose overreach in passages like this: These thinkers—Descartes, Spinoza, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Rousseau, Leibniz, Kant, Smith—are all the more remarkable for having crafted their ideas in the absence of formal theory and empirical data. The mathematical theories of information, […]