The Decline of the Humanities—and Civilization

The headline is a little cataclysmic and yet it seems we are letting the sciences, which are to be loved and cherished, squash the more nebulous importance of the humanities. Life is an organ of chaos – it feeds off everything. It feeds off inquiry, dreams and analysis, off observation and imagination.

Do not make us choose because in choosing we will have amputated a part of ourselves whichever choice we make.

The experience of millions of people seeking living contact with the arts (largely conceived) should wake us up to a central fact: Most people need and want the arts in their lives. Our civilization may now be so coarsened that we will eliminate the humanities from our schools, and we will train citizens only for technical skills which give them no sense of what they are living for, or why. But if that happens, the humanities will continue to flow elsewhere, into unofficial forums, and people will flow with them to satisfy their needs for song and story, for explanation, for the drama of seeking and making sense. The unofficial academy will become the real academy where the arts and philosophy and history survive. And where we try to remember what it is to be fully human. But in that case, we shall also have suffered a massive loss, and it remains a serious question whether a democratic society could survive such a collapse in values, and the quest for values. That quest, ever renewed, is the province of the humanities, and it is at risk.

The Decline of the Humanities—and Civilization

Published by

The Sleepcoat League

Armchair anthropologist, sometime scribe, freelance philosopher, amateur artist, part-time poet, musical maven, alliteration aficionado.

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