From Chronicle of Higher Education: No case for the humanities as such

File:Accueil scribe invert.pngJustin Stover writes at Chronicle Review:

he reality is that the humanities have always been about courtoisie, a constellation of interests, tastes, and prejudices that marks one as a member of a particular class. That class does not have to be imagined solely in economic terms. Indeed, the humanities have sometimes done a good job of producing a class with some socioeconomic diversity. But it is a class nonetheless. Roman boys (of a certain social background) labored under the rod of the grammaticus because their parents wanted to initiate them into the community of Virgil readers — a community that spanned much of the vast Roman world, and which gave the bureaucratic class a certain cohesion it otherwise lacked. In the Middle Ages, reading Virgil, commenting on Aristotle, participating in quaestiones disputatae, writing chansons de geste and romances — these set apart scholars — bachelors, masters, and doctors alike — as an international community.

This remains true today. Deep down, what most humanists value about the humanities is that they offer participation in a community in which they can share similar tastes in reading, art, food, travel, music, media, and yes, politics. We might talk about academic diversity, but the academy is a tribe, and one with relatively predictable tastes. It does not take a particularly sharp observer to guess whether a given humanist might be fond of some new book reviewed favorably in the LRB or some new music discussed enthusiastically on NPR. The guess might not always be right, but if even odds are offered, our observer could get away with a tidy sum. If the bet were on political affiliation, the payoff would be almost guaranteed.

As teachers, what humanists want most of all is to initiate their students into that class. Despite occasional conservative paranoia, there is not some sinister academic plot to brainwash students with liberal dogma. Instead, humanists are doing what they have always done, trying to bring students into a class loosely defined around a broad constellation of judgments and tastes. This constellation might include political judgments, but it is never reducible to politics.More.

Stover’s essay talks about the humanities as traditionally understood and conveniently omits the problem of postmodern identity politics taking over the humanities. Unfortunately, when the riots start and arrests and hospitalizations follow, “this constellation” is indeed “reducible to politics.”

And, as postmodernism sinks deeper, there will be no case for the sciences either.

See also: Astrophysicist: Many worlds (a multiverse) splits our minds into two outcomes This essay seems to follow up on the 2017 one below. It’s a polite way of saying the multiverse is science’s assisted suicide. But that may not be a problem for the Cool buzz that sells cosmology today.


The multiverse is science’s assisted suicide