Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Big Shaggy

It's a terrible moniker, but it is nonetheless the term du jour in a wonderful column by David Brooks on the need, more than ever, for a humanities education. A most "useful" kind of education to have!

Here is my favorite part of what he has to say, because it touches on the ability to think analogously. Making good analogies is an effect of a creative, educated mind. Thinking analogously is not thinking that is careless or ad hoc. Analogies are a way of making the merely metaphorical more orderly. Unlike so many of the empirical claims common to the social and natural sciences, analogies are not governed by strict deductive or inductive inference. Here's Brooks:

Studying the humanities will give you a wealth of analogies. People think by comparison — Iraq is either like Vietnam or Bosnia; your boss is like Narcissus or Solon. People who have a wealth of analogies in their minds can think more precisely than those with few analogies. If you go through college without reading Thucydides, Herodotus and Gibbon, you’ll have been cheated out of a great repertoire of comparisons.

Too much of what passes for a university education these days is being driven by the need to teach "skills" and to "train" students. We see this creeping trend even in Theology, especially in "biblical studies" where philology and language driven methods substitute for genuine inquiry into theological meaning and hermeneutically shaped purpose. As if data and method are all what really counts.

There is an almost "in-humane" aspect to this trend - as the increasing number of advocates for theological exegesis have readily diagnosed in regards to biblical studies.

But do read the whole thing here.

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