- Aug 2023
Imagine the younger generation studying great books andlearning the liberal arts. Imagine an adult population con-tinuing to turn to the same sources of strength, inspiration,and communication. We could talk to one another then. Weshould be even better specialists than we are today because wecould understand the history of our specialty and its relationto all the others. We would be better citizens and better men.We might turn out to be the nucleus of the world community.
Is the cohesive nature of Hutchins and Adler's enterprise for the humanities and the Great Conversation, part of the kernel of the rise of interdisciplinarity seen in the early 2000s onward in academia (and possibly industry).
Certainly large portions are the result of uber-specialization, particularly in spaces which have concatenated and have allowed people to specialize in multiple areas to create new combinatorial creative possibilities.
The mathematical specialist, for example, canget further faster into the great mathematicians than a readerwho is without his specialized training. With the help ofgreat books, specialized knowledge can radiate out into agenuine interfiltration of common learning and common life.
Here Hutchins is again prefiguring C.P. Snow's "two cultures". He makes the argument that by having a shared base of knowledge and culture in our society's past history of knowledge (and especially early scientists and mathematicians), everyone, despite their individual interests and specializations, can be an active participant in a broader human conversation.
The task is to have a communitynevertheless, and to discover means of using specialties topromote it. This can be done through the Great Conversa-tion.
We need some common culture to bind humanity together. Hutchins makes the argument that the Great Conversation can help to effectuate this binding through shared culture and knowledge.
Perhaps he is even more right in the 2000s than he was in the 1950s?
- The Great Conversation
- Robert Maynard Hutchins
- two cultures
- shared culture
- economic specialization
- resurgence of the humanities
- the commons
- combinatorial creativity
- death of the humanities
- interdisciplinary research
- Mortimer J. Adler
- interdisciplinary studies
- knowledge specialization
- Jan 2023
Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 20.1 (1899) 108-113 (at 108): With all our advance in scientific astronomy, the average modern man is not so familiar with the sky as was his antique brother, and some of the blunders in modern works of fiction that are scored from time to time in scientific journals would hardly have been possible for a ploughman of antiquity, not to say a sailor. The world needs every now and then a reminder that the modern head holds different things from the ancient brain-pan, not necessarily more.
How painfully true this may have been in 1899, it's now much worse in 2023!
Specialization of knowledge tends to fit the lifeways of the people who hold and maintain it. Changing lifeways means one must lose one or more domains and begin using or curating different domains of knowledge.
In a global world of specialization, humans who specialize are forced to rely more heavily on the experience and veracity of those around them who have also specialized. One may be able to have a Ph.D. in astrophysics, but their knowledge of the state of the art in anthropology or economic policy may be therefore utterly undeveloped. As a result they will need to rely on the knowledge and help of others in maintaining those domains.
This knowledge specialization means that politicians will need to be more open about what they think and say, yet instead politicians seem to be some of the least knowledge about almost anything.
This is just the start of a somewhat well-formed thesis I've developed elsewhere, but not previously written out... more to come...
- shifting domains of knowledge
- Indigenous astronomy
- Basil L. Gildersleeve
- reliance on others
- representative government
- modernity vs. antiquity
- knowledge specialization
- Aug 2022
Livan, G., Pappalardo, G., & Mantegna, R. N. (2021). Quantifying the relationship between specialisation and reputation in an online platform. ArXiv:2111.07144 [Physics]. http://arxiv.org/abs/2111.07144