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The Humanities and the Understanding of Reality

The Humanities and the Understanding of Reality

Monroe C. Beardsley
Northrop Frye
Frank Kermode
Barry Bingham
Copyright Date: 1966
Pages: 96
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  • Book Info
    The Humanities and the Understanding of Reality
    Book Description:

    In their concern with the perennial controversy between the two great areas in which men seek knowledge, three eminent literary scholars and a distinguished journalist in these essays address themselves to the question, "Do the humanities provide a form of understanding of reality that the sciences do not?"

    Monroe C. Beardsley maintains that the humanities considered as contributors to knowledge must deal with the same subject matter as the sciences, but literature and the arts can enlarge our powers of understanding human nature, although not in the way the sciences do (under empirically or logically verifiable laws). Northrop Frye, while acknowledging the difference in methodology and mental attitude, asserts that the humanities, on the other hand, express man's concern for this world most clearly in the myths by which man realizes his involvement in mankind and his responsibility for his own destiny.

    Frank Kermode argues that to follow the ways of sciences in searching out repetitions such as make myths is to lose sight of the unique, particular, and concrete expressions which underlie personal participation and sharpen the sensibilities. And this experience, he maintains, is the peculiar contribution of the humanities. In the final essay, Barry Bingham, editor and publisher of theLouisville Courier-Joumal, calls for a vigorous cultivation of the liberal arts in American life.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6446-5
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    (pp. v-xi)
    Thomas B. Stroup

    The four papers which constitute this volume were delivered as lectures at the Conference on the Humanities held as a part of the Centennial Program at the University of Kentucky on October 22-23, 1965. Some of them have been slightly revised since their delivery. The conference was one among several set up by the Centennial Committee to consider scholarly and scientific subjects or to discuss the place of each of the several broad divisions of learning in the academic order of life. The special purpose of this Conference on the Humanities was to examine afresh the qualities peculiar to the...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xii-xii)
    (pp. 1-31)

    Does the question put to this symposium suggest that something is required by way of a defense of the humanities? This cannot be because they are in perilous straits; in some ways, they have not had it so good for a long time. They receive unstinted lip service, at least, from the most respectable sources; they get enough students to keep their teachers occupied; they are held in esteem by the professional schools of medicine and engineering, which insist that the undergraduates who come their way should have been exposed to humane learning. And now we are about to have...

    (pp. 32-54)

    As I understand it, I am being asked to discuss the question: What do the humanities provide for human culture that the sciences do not provide? My own field is literature, and literature seems to belong to two groups: the creative arts, including music and painting, and the verbal disciplines, including history and philosophy. Both may be regarded as humanities, but we have to distinguish them even when we associate them. The question itself is, I suppose, legitimate enough: it is, I take it, simply a matter of trying to indicate the different functions of different things. It is difficult,...

    (pp. 55-74)

    When a university reaches the age of one hundred years it is as wise as it will ever be. It has acquired a real knowledge of how knowledge changes. It knows the secrets not only of learning, but of unlearning. Its faculty has experienced the full taste of mortality and at the same time come to understand the nature of its immortality aspersona ficta.It is conversant with other immortal persons, with the perpetuity of the exigent young, who nevertheless pass on quadrennially. It is wise, in short, because it has acquired over its century an instinctive understanding of...

    (pp. 75-84)

    I feel that I should start this statement with an apology. There is a good deal of presumption in my appearing here to talk about the humanities among such eminent specialists as the other speakers at this Conference.

    I come to you from the untidy field of journalism. The word “journalese” is not traditionally a term of flattery. At its best it is a synonym for hurried and superficial expression. At its most pejorative it is used to describe the cheap, the meretricious, and the vulgar. Many people in the academic world no doubt view the writing that is set...