Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Oh, Oh, The Humanities

The humanities, that ragtag collection of sciences, speculations and ancient intellectual artifacts devoted to the study of humans keeps on taking hits. In a world that prizes relevance, they are often seem disdainful of the test to insiders and failing it to the outsiders. The golden age of the humanities was probably at the end of the age of European conquest, when there was still new worlds to explore and when they were still seen as an enabling technology for that conquest.

That age has passed, but they face another headwind. Without new cultures to analyze and digest, their microscopes are turned increasingly on our own, and that examination can be as disconcerting and unpleasant as any other endoscopy. Cultural conservatives in particular are disturbed, but liberals are equally discomfitted by challenges to their orthodoxies.