Writing in The New Criterion, Wilfred McClay recently offered the following as a definition of the study of the humanities: “The distinctive task of the humanities, unlike the natural sciences and social sciences, is to grasp human things in human terms, without converting or reducing or translating them into something else…..Hence it will become necessary for the humanities to defend ‘the human’, taking their bearings from the problems and prospects now opening before us in the realms of biotechnologies and medicine.”
And the problems and prospects now opening before us in the blooming world of artificial intelligence (AI) are like none we have ever faced before because they involve the growing capability for man to transform his very nature. Meanwhile, the perceived value of the study of the arts and humanities has been consistently downgraded over the past several decades because of its declining relevance to the commercial world. Do I sense an opportunity here in defending ‘the human’? Could it be that there will be a booming demand for a restoration of this value that will revive the critical role of the arts and humanities?
I say ‘maybe’, but only after we clean up the junk in higher education, which will be no small task. What do you think?