The Sciences vs. Humanities: A Power Struggle

In a recent blog for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Michael Brown emphasizes that we need to think about the humanities not just as those disciplines that “specialize in expression, appreciation of qualitative aspects of life, and the promotion and expression of ‘values,'” but also as disciplines that provide crucial knowledge about our social nature. Thinking of the humanities only in terms of enrichment, Brown argues, positions instrumental reason as the only valid source of knowledge and justifies giving priority to STEM disciplines over the humanities:

Such a claim assumes that progress requires a curriculum dominated by courses that fit the ideal of an individualistic, outcomes-oriented, utilitarian model of citizenship. In this model, citizenship involves seeing problems as essentially technical and obeying laws driven by technocratic ideals centered on exclusion.

To defend the STEM disciplines at the expense of the humanities requires discounting our social nature. This defense also requires us to assume that all value questions should be settled according to the logic of a “price-making money market,” presumed to be self-equilibrating, efficient, value-neutral, just, and generalizable to all human affairs that matter.

Read the full blog at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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