The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has just put out a report on the need for strengthening studies in the humanities and the social sciences. It states its intent in these words:
As we strive to create a more civil public discourse, a more adaptable and creative workforce, and a more secure nation, the humanities and social sciences are the heart of the matter, the keeper of the republic—a source of national memory and civic vigor, cultural understanding and communication, individual fulfillment and the ideals we hold in common.
We should first give this a hearty amen. Such a statement fits nicely with the Christian civic humanism which we call for. It is interesting to see this statement coming from The American Academy of Arts and Sciences (take a look at their membership on pg. 5). We should point out, however, that the “social sciences”, insofar as there is a such a thing, must be understood as a subset of the humanities, for that is what they are: methodically rigorous observations about humans. Also, any genuine emphasis on the humanities will have to push back forcefully against the materialistic assumptions which currently dominate our discourse, as well as the excessive fascination with statistics which presupposes an objectivification of human life. And this language of “the heart of the matter” harks back to the Biblical usage of “heart”, that is, the soul. Any real renewal of the humanities necessarily presupposes the primacy of spirit, or it is just a sentimental luxury within a system which essentially contradicts what it is to be human.
The report certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s a decent start. We hope to see more..