[Humanist] 25.493 why keep it up?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Nov 19 09:17:02 CET 2011

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 493.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 18 Nov 2011 17:43:53 -0800
        From: Jascha Kessler <urim.urim at gmail.com>
        Subject: re: What boots it to maintain Humanistic discipline...?

I have been somewhat puzzled by the implicit doubt, if not anxious
skepticism tinging the Humanities/Technology thread of late.  I think the
other week some Senator in Washiington forcefully dismissed all educational
costs for maintaining anything but the Sciences and Technology.  His
rationale seems to have been the costs of education which does not produce
tangible economic promise for students in today's world.  While higher
education probably isn't helpful for "vocational" purposes, the crafts and
operations of technology, so far as studying languages or history, say, is
concerned, and thousands suffer peonage in the crypts of colleges,
universities and junior colleges, the notion that business and technology
are all that matter is simply Yahoo.  I attach a review of mine about a
book out earlier this year, which was a devastating cri de coeur [.pdf
file, URL below].  There is lots of such suffering about.

About 40 years ago the Chancellor Franklin D. Murphy, MD, gave a public
lecture in which he reviewed the history of American universities in the
20th century, and it was full of skepticism about what good would come of
the professional schools being attached to, or integrated with the
university, meaning medicine, engineering, business, all of which would not
only parasitize, but simply devour their host.  This matter of decrying
Humanities as useless is now a storm much larger than that little clour no
larger than a man's hand over the horizon.

In the end, anyone with the slightest acquaintance with, say Shakespeare,
would understand where the bottom line is.  Viz., As was asked of Plato,
Yes, but who will guard the Guardians?  Sounds theoretical, so I shall
quote the late Menachem Begin, a prime minister of Israel, who had been in
the death lager once.  He put the question in a practical, not
philosophical way.  When Europe [and the UN] offered to guarantee the
integrity and safety of the State, Israel, he asked, *And who will
guarantee the guarantors? *

In short, if the Business School, the Engineering School, the Medical
School, and yes, "Public Policy School" and Social "Sciences" are all that
matter for the future of our civilization, where will its graduates ever
get an inkling of the vast troves of history and thought from which a touch
of tainting can help in guiding the individual through all of life's
vicissitudes and training? This is not Dr. Pangloss lecturing Candide, who
lies under the debris of the great earthquake in Portugal.  Everyone knows
that the Doctor could do nothing for Lady Macbeth.  And that Macbeth's
retort was, Throw physick to the dogs.  Put on my armor!

Had Macbeth a bit more than military training, he might have known his fate
beforehand and not ventured to kill his guest, the old King.  Moral?  He
who runs will read it from these examples.

Jascha Kessler

Jascha Kessler
Professor Emeritus of Modern English & American Literature, UCLA
Telephone/Facsimile: 310.393.4648

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