Donut Age: America's Donut Magazine

Relevance of the humanities

Re-reading my Ivan Tribble rant, I realize that I may be construed as stating that the humanities have no relevance or practical application. In fact, I believe quite the opposite. The methods of inquiry and habits of thought that are at the heart of the humanities are relevant and, in fact, desperately needed today. Rhetoric, narrative, ethics, logic, critical analysis, historical perspective, aesthetic judgment, working with sources, synthesizing information — all of these humanistic faculties are regularly called upon in people's daily lives.

(As a side note, all of these faculties are involved in the activity of blogging. It could even be said that blogging represents the triumph of the humanistic over the technical on the web. Not, of course, that there isn't a lot of technical geekery surrounding blog culture, but the primary utility of blogging systems, and presumably why they have been so enormously successful, is that they automate as much of the technical stuff as possible and free the blogger to think about the writing and not code. If you want to hack stylesheets, fool around with plugins, or even develop your own custom system, you can, but it is not necessary, and it is typically a whole separate activity.)

Just to be clear then, my beef is not with the humanities as a discipline but with humanists as a profession. Instead of vigorously asserting the importance of their disciplines to the concerns of anyone besides scholars, humanists have allowed and sometimes contributed to the characterization of their work as trivial and divorced from reality.