Thursday, April 8, 2010

Science and Art: Evolution and Fiction (Again)

Did you disagree with that article about "Knowing They Know You Know" a couple of days ago?  (Homero, I'm looking at you here.)  Then check out the op-ed follow-up from The New York Times, "Can 'Neuro Lit Crit' Save the Humanities," which has a bunch of people tell you their opinions on this new phenomenon.

I think I most agree with William M. Chace, who says, "In all such instances, 'English' behaved as supplicant, assuming that the other discipline was powerful in ways that it was not. But in all such instances, what began as infatuation ended with a dismal parting." 

2 comments:

Homero said...

It's like you're trying to bait me on this...

I don't have any issue with interdiscipline studies-- in fact, I'd say that it's important to understand how one's field of studey fits into other aspects of things.

What I have issue with is the pity party tone that some academics have. The quote from Blakey Vermeule grates me the most:
So we [humanities academics] kind of missed the boat [on the "Chomskyan revolution in cognitive science "] That seems to be changing a bit, and profoundly for the good in my view. But cognitive poetics is deeply humanistic. Its goal seems to be to understand what makes the experience of art so rich and powerful — not to explain the experience away or somehow nail it to the wall, as some of its critics fear.

Literature. Is. Not. A. Science.

There is nothing (OK, nothing is a big qualifier, but this topic pisses me off) emperical about literature (with or without the big "L")

The humanities (which I define as basically any fielf of study that lacks mathmatics as a fundemental core) do not need saving. Like you, Lindsay, I also agree mostly with Chane's quote-- contempary English departments have had to sell their 'worth' to the engineers, the chemist, the premed, insisit that it is *to* a worth while field of study.

The humanities, when taught well, sow, harvest and cultivate the most important of skills that is over looked: critical thinking. Understanding intertexuality, metaphore, hell, even dipthongs and meter, force an individual to bridge a multitude of subjects together to truly understand them.

/rant.

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

I wasn't trying to bait you, honest! I'm just really interested in how inter-disciplinary education once was and no longer is. (I had a high school teacher who would bitterly complain about the "univeral" university education that no longer is. We specialize almost from the moment we apply to college when we have to declare our major on our applications.)

Yes, of course the humanities are not empirical, but I really think that the humanities can explore elements of the sciences--but we're missing out on a whole depth of understanding by putting "engineering" in one box and "English" in another. Maybe it's naive, but I think that the times of the greatest intellectual growth (the Renaissance, the Enlightenment) occurred in times when people were expected to be fairly well-rounded.

Now we have had a technological boom, and, okay, both the internet and the cotton gin are just fan-diddly-tastic, but no one's really thinking about anything from an ethical point of view--because "computer software" and "philosophy" are considered two separate realms of though.

For example, now we have shit like Rapelay going on, and no one's really talking about what it means and what the ethical ramifications of it are, they're just jumping straight to BAN IT! BAN THE DIRTY JAPANESE GAME! ... okay, that was a tangent, but I stand by it.

I just think we're living in a polarized time (artsy vs. scientific, liberal vs. conservative) that could be made a hell of a lot better if we all at least attempted to meet in the middle.

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