January 7th, 2008

Will the Humanities Save Us? by Stanley Fish

Click to read a New York Times Opinion.
Thus spoke Fish:
Nowadays, larding your conversations with small bits of erudition is more likely to irritate than to win friends and influence people.

To which I say...
...Unless you are talking to me. Then I probably love you.

Seriously though larding?! Such verbage.
I guess I'm all for fat conversations.

More quotes, and my thoughts:
"The premise of secular humanism (or of just old-fashioned humanism) is that the examples of action and thought portrayed in the enduring works of literature, philosophy and history can create in readers the desire to emulate them."

NO, it's about exposure to different points of view, to novel concepts, to departed humans, to visions of the future, and the contextualization of history.

If it was as Fish suggests in this silly sentence, we'd still be keeping woman out of the theatres for fear of spontaneous miscarriages.
(Why just yesterday consideration of the character Hedda Gabler caused my womb to leap upwards and strangle my brain!)

"If it were true, the most generous, patient, good-hearted and honest people on earth would be the members of literature and philosophy departments, who spend every waking hour with great books and great thoughts"

NO, but it gives them more options. And what people do with their knowledge is up to them. Like we've never seen an evil dictator with a fetish for literature... or, to extend the humanities to include popular culture, film (Kim Jong-il, anyone?)

The ultimate conclusion of the article DOES make sense- that the humanities are self perpetuating and therefore do not need the justification of the sciences (which would infer the very hierarchy that was being denied.)

However Fish's narrow, strictly transitive example of how the humanities impact people is so laughable I can't believe it's in print. Of course, I'm not saying anything that the growing number of commentators haven't opined more eloquently but gez!

Your thoughts?