Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Limping Onwards

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  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Carol Stewart,

    Thanks Giovanni. Anything by Primo Levi has my undivided attention.

    If there is a book that makes a better case for why we shouldn't think in terms of humanism vs the sciences than The Periodic Table, I have yet to encounter it.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7386 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I well remember the "What is Philosophy?" lecture that the HOD gave to all new students, which used the metaphor of a search for a mystical lost mountain, in a fantasy land. The teachers were likened to guides. But he was at great pains to point out that not everyone found a mountain, and those who did, did not necessarily find the same mountain, and he couldn't tell you for sure if any mountain was the right mountain to find. It was a humorous and abridged and inverted version of Journey to the East so far as I could tell.

    The funniest part was the reaction of other students after the class to this bloody strange start to an entire field of inquiry. To me it was pretty clear what he was getting at, that it was the journey that mattered. But others it threw into fits of rage and they promptly dropped the subject. This was probably a very good idea for them. Some people thought it was just bad poetry, and thought that they could probably find better guides. Some thought they knew which mountains they were heading for already and how to get there (I fell into this category). Others had no idea what to make of it.

    To me, it was exciting. That was what drew me in, not the promise of riches. So far as I'm concerned I'm still on that journey and mere riches are but a stepping stone to what really counts.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    If there is a book that makes a better case for why we shouldn't think in terms of humanism vs the sciences than The Periodic Table, I have yet to encounter it.

    Just so. I think it may be my favourite book ever.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 662 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Yours and mine both.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7386 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    While I am actually inclined to believe that educating students on Breillat's use of bondage in Romance does serve a public good I think there should be greater restrictions on entry to concentrate resources on those that can best make use of them.

    Unversities function pretty much like the rest of society - squabbling over power and resources, the clash of egos etc. No amount of critical thinking changes certain fundamentals. I'm not sure academics have a lot to offer there.

    It's slightly bleak but whenever I hear talk of intellectuals I think of

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • John Armstrong,

    I've probably missed the boat on this one now, but I wonder if the 'problem' with the humanities (in the context of this discussion) is that they generally deal with subjective or inter-subjective ways of knowing, which probably makes it difficult to justify them in terms of collective or social benefit. One way of doing it is has already been done upthread: argue for the value of the humanities in terms of the benefits they bring to disciplines or professional fields outside the humanities. This is fair enough, but I think that the subjective, and therefore often very personal nature of historical scholarship (my area of very limited expertise) and other humanities subjects has real value in its own right. One of the main lessons of postmodernism is that subjectivity inflects everything (including science, but that is another discussion). That means, for me, that a key skill for students and academics working in the humanities is the development of self-awareness. Acknowledging your own shit is a useful first step to acknowledging everyone else's. I am pretty sure that I am a better husband, a better father, and a more engaged and useful citizen now than I would have been had I decided to keep driving trucks at the age of 29, instead of enrolling in Waikato University's history programme. No offence to truck drivers intended.

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2007 • 132 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Well, Danyl’s 33% correct, which must be some comfort.

    One out of three ain't bad.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1376 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    John Armstrong: a key skill for students and academics working in the humanities is the development of self-awareness. Acknowledging your own shit is a useful first step to acknowledging everyone else's.

    Just driving by to acknowledge the truth of this. There's something about having to read and synthesize vast quantities of interpretation that helps develop ... discursive empathy? A realization that your own words won't be the last to be written on a subject, no matter how good you might think you are? An acknowedgement that ideas are three (four?) dimensional, and that people necessarily view them from different perspectives, according to their situatedness in place and time?

    It seems to me that these ways of reading and writing are not so available to those who have been educated in the STEM disciplines, with consequences that are rather visible on this thread.

    East Greenwich • Since Mar 2008 • 433 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Russell:

    Just to add a name to your list of Kiwi "public intellectuals", I'd respectfully submit the name lRoy Parsons -- though I'm not sure if you'd count trade. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Caleb D'Anvers,

    Another argument that comes to me right now, bubbling from within, is that any popular discipline from which people are excluded by virtue of lack of funds is very likely to immediately become the very one that entrenches class privilege. This was where humanities started - they were, very largely, an education in the values of the elite, and training in how to be elite, and as such there is a very simple socialist argument against the idea, without there even needing to be any real value in them at all. Which is not to say there is no value, it's just another reason they should be available as widely as possible.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Russell:

    Just to add a name to your list of Kiwi "public intellectuals", I'd respectfully submit the name Roy Parsons -- though I'm not sure if you'd count trade. :)

    Absolutely. Gordon Tait was another bookseller to offer leadership in ideas. I remember Tait's name from my childhood, so he obviously had an impact.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18970 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    another reason they should be available as widely as possible

    You could even argue for affirmative action targetting rather than universal cover if you're making a class equity argument.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16772 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Caleb D'Anvers,

    discursive empathy

    I like that notion

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16772 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Here's what it's like in most western universities today: The Market Colonization of Intellectuals

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1574 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX,

    New Zealand's Next Public Intellectual - will of course be required to pose (symbolically) with a sheep - Sacha


    I'm interested in what sort of pose would be struck?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1199 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to DexterX,

    an empathic one, naturally

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16772 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX, in reply to Sacha,

    As I thought - NZ next top Public Intellectual would take the sheep’s lead.

    Being able to be lead by a sheep is one measure of intellect.

    To All

    As regards the raging mass debate on the merits of “education” I would say no education is ever wasted, IMHO the merit of an education is the discipline to think critically, it is what you do after your formal education that matters most.

    I like the thought that intelligence is the ability to profit from ones experience, with profit not meaning just money in the bank.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1199 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Speaking of Easton, for whom I have a great deal of respect, I remember being less than impressed by him once when he poo-pooed in passing in one of his columns the fact that somebody had been funded to study the history of the orgasm. What struck me is that he passed judgment on it without feeling that he had a need to elaborate, as if it was self-evidently ridiculous (think hip hop tour). But it seems equally uncontroversial to me that the orgasm would of course have a history, and of course it would be interesting, and of course such a study could have many valuable offshoots and implications.

    Okay, this is going to sound a bit odd so bear with me: I've been challenged on the above, and not only I wasn't able to find a reference for what I claimed Easton had written, but I could rule out that he had written it since all of his Listener columns are archived ab urbe condita or thereabouts. I therefore unreservedly apologise and withdraw the above paragraph.

    As you all were.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7386 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Discussion of the female orgasm is however alive and well at the Lady Garden.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16772 posts Report Reply

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