08 April, 2006

O the humanities!

Humanistic education aims first and foremost at knowledge, that knowledge that used to be called 'culture'. In the past this culture was largely transmitted and absorbed in the home or on travels. The universities did not concern themselves with such subjects as history or literature, art or music. Their aim was mainly vocational, and even a training in the Classics, though valued by society, had its vocational reasons. Nobody thought that it was the purpose of a university education to tell students about Shakespeare or Dickens, Michelangelo or Bach. These were things the 'cultured' person knew. They were neither fit objects for examinations nor for research. I happen to have some sympathy for this old-fashioned approach, for I think that the humanist really differs from the scientist in his relative valuation of knowledge and research. It is more relevant to know Shakespeare or Michelangelo than to 'do research' about them. Research may yield nothing fresh, but knowledge yields pleasure and enrichment.

— E. H. Gombrich, 'In Search of Cultural History' (1967)

2 comments:

Gawain said...

Beautiful. I should tatoo this on my chest or something.

Come to think about it, chest is no good, it will be hard to read. :)

Conrad H. Roth said...

I recommend upside down, or reversed for easy mirror-reading. Or you could use your arms.