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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Stanley Fish at the NY Times: "The humanities are their own good."

Interesting post by Stanley Fish over at the New York Times.

From the piece:

"To the question “of what use are the humanities?”, the only honest answer is none whatsoever. And it is an answer that brings honor to its subject. Justification, after all, confers value on an activity from a perspective outside its performance. An activity that cannot be justified is an activity that refuses to regard itself as instrumental to some larger good. The humanities are their own good. There is nothing more to say, and anything that is said – even when it takes the form of Kronman’s inspiring cadences – diminishes the object of its supposed praise."

What do you think?


Scott Walters said...

I'd say Kant said this in 1790, and only a charlatan like Stanley Fish can repeat it in the NY Times and think he's saying something worth saying. As an antidote, I recommend Martha Nussbaum's brilliant book Cultivating Humanity,, paying particular attention to the chapter entitled "Narrative Imagination." Bah! Stanley Fish!

Art said...

Reading the whole piece is depressing.

IT was a struggle to continue reading past the paragraph where Fish compares reading, debating and studying of the great writings thoughts and histories of the world to being able to drop quips at a party. I'll see Scott's Bah! and raise him an Ugh!

Fish, I am sure, would be the first to praise the men who created The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, one of the crowning achievements of Western Thought and not a bad "application" of such studies. In fact, he argues very strongly against the idea of the Constitution as a "living document."

Fish often asks questions or presents theses in his column which take into account the thoughts and innovations of some of the world's greatest philosophers and he even referenced a Phillip K. Dick novel in an Op/ed about the Supreme Court.

Now, Fish is absolutely correct about morality. One of our local critics Bill Marx once put it perfectly, "I am sure there were guards at Auschwitz thumbing through Goethe."

Humanities won't make you a better person, but neither will B-School, (Enron?), or the sciences, (Chemical Ali?)