Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I found this article about self-help uses of literature in The Guardian pretty annoying, though not surprising.

Incidentally there was a column by Stanley Fish in The New York Times on the same subject - asking "Will the Humanities Save Us?", a couple of days back. He goes to the other extreme.

It is not the business of the humanities to save us, no more than it is their business to bring revenue to a state or a university. What then do they do? They don’t do anything, if by “do” is meant bring about effects in the world. And if they don’t bring about effects in the world they cannot be justified except in relation to the pleasure they give to those who enjoy them.

To the question “of what use are the humanities?”, the only honest answer is none whatsoever. And it is an answer that brings honor to its subject. Justification, after all, confers value on an activity from a perspective outside its performance. An activity that cannot be justified is an activity that refuses to regard itself as instrumental to some larger good. The humanities are their own good.

1 comment:

Szerelem said...

I had read the Stanley Fish article but not the one in The Guardian. I wonder why such discussion just diverge to's rather frustrating.