Humanities prof to materialist Steve Pinker: Stop caricaturing us
|August 26, 2013||Posted by News under News, Philosophy, Science|
At Chronicle of Higher Education, , English prof Geoff Shullenberger advises materialist cognitive psychologist Steve Pinker against caricaturing the humanities.
That’s somewhat like advising a vampire bat against night flight. If he takes your advice, his career is over. (Note: We could live with that.)
We’ve noted the pushback against Pinker’s arrogant and totally unfounded scientism (belief that science can answer all questions worth asking). Shullenberger notes,
While there is already much more room for collaboration than Pinker’s diagnosis suggests, those in the humanities also have legitimate reasons to be wary of the language of “consilience.” Beneath the “both sides win” rhetoric of Pinker’s argument, it is hard not to glimpse an effort to subject the humanities to the sciences institutionally and intellectually, to turn them into ancillary disciplines reliant on the sciences for the production of theory. This effort ominously resembles recent proposals by state governments to definance the study of the humanities because they allegedly offer no economic benefits. For many humanities scholars, to concede the superiority of the data-driven and results-oriented methods Pinker advocates would be to surrender to the quantitative, economistic biases of the culture at large.
Fair enough, but the humanities have often written their own death sentences by publicly cultivating the idea that all judgments of quality are irrelevant or suspect. If that is true, then humanities departments are expensively run group homes for people with problems with life in general.
The problem with Pinker’s view, on the other hand, is that it results in stupidities like literary Darwinism and worse.
Then, by the time we have reduced the Iliad or the Beowulf or the Bhagavad Gita to a gang of chimps panhooting in the trees, we have got outside literature altogether… down the main drain, it seems.
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose