“Universities have become bureaucracies with countless meetings. … I suppose it is important for a university to put down roots, but it must not permit society to swallow it up. One example of what I mean is the growing tendency to desert the classics. From the perspective of corporations that think only in terms of money, and of government agencies that only value power, the classics must seem of absolutely no use. And from the perspective of students whose goal is to succeed in this kind of distorted world, ancient-language grammar books must seem useless. But I think that a nation of corporations, government agencies, and a university educational system that becomes distorted in this way is sure to collapse. In such a nation, means (money and power) become the ultimate end, and people become animals that seek only food and conquest. … But to be human is to value language. And, without thoroughly understanding the history of the human race’s search for truth and beauty … we cannot expect to be able to make our future ‘more human’ than it is now.”
(pp. 164–65 from ‘False democracy at the university and my support for the classics’ in In Search of Wisdom: One Philosopher’s Journey, a memoir by Imamichi Tomonobu)
Sent by a colleague in response to ‘Can the Humanities be Saved?‘ by Janice Fiamengo, which I circulated around the office yesterday.
So what do you think? Is a focus on work skills (Tomonobu) and the radicalisation of the humanities (Fiamengo) reducing our collective intellectual capital? Do the classics matter?