Wednesday, March 03, 2010

"Hypocrites Have No Shame..." And neither do the desperate. Leiter only defends the humanities as continuous with the sciences, and actual scientists aren't interested. Why should they be? There is no scientific fix for the seductions of authority -the slip from reason to unreason- and even a writer of cheap fiction understands that more than Steven Weinberg. Philosophers "are not meta-physicists" [Hacker], and the pretense is costly. Following Leiter's link and to another:
Planned cuts at King's College London have sparked an international outcry, with scholars warning that the institution risks "disastrous" damage to its reputation and the loss of crucial research.
I understand the notion of the "research" university, but at some point the imaginary weight of terminology becomes too much. Universities are more than a playground or a sandbox for experts. The process of teaching is more important than the material. Any humanist knows, or should, that the act of communication itself is the most important thing. Teaching students about elementary particles so that they may be able later in life to find more elementary particles and know more about the universe is seen as carrying more weight than teaching students about Shakespeare so that they can teach more students about Shakespeare and maybe enjoy some esoteric dirty jokes they might otherwise have missed. "Research" implies "Progress". In fact outside those fields directly involved in saving or preserving life most academic fields are equally absurd, as absurd, as I've said, as mountain climbing: "We must go...!" Where? The process of developing sophisticated understandings of the world and the past are part of a process of developing sophisticated understandings of each other and ourselves, so that we may be become adults engaged in absurd activities rather than children. The purpose of education is or should be a wider perspective, not myopia. Bemoaning "the loss of crucial research" on the chemical composition of the grout used in the floors of Winchester Cathedral just telegraphs the anxiety of the humanities in the age of Sputnik.

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