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Re: I'm Guilty

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Posted by Benjamin Nelson on February 28, 2001 00:34:02 UTC


Science and the Humanities should not be viewed as opposing competencies, but rather as separate ones, with each of these two dimensions adding separately to a person's qualities. Some of us, of course, are more naturally attuned to the emotional mind's special symbolic modes: poetry, song, metaphor and simile, dreams and myths. And those who have a natural attunement to these symbolic modes are sure to be more successful at articulating its messages, whether as a novelist, poet or songwriter. Still, there are many paths to success in life, and many domains in which other aptitudes are rewarded. In our increasingly knowledge-based society, mathematical skill is certainly one.

Nevertheless, the very name, "Homo sapiens," the thinking species, is misleading in light of the appreciation of what it means to have no instruction in the Humanities at all. As we all know from experience, when it comes to shaping our decisions and our actions, the emotional mind counts every bit as much. And much evidence testifies that we have gone too far in emphasizing the value and import of the purely rational; for better or worse, intelligence can come to nothing when an impoverished emotional mind holds sway. Hence, there is much to be said for a constructive contribution to creative and spiritual life -- it can temper the soul.

To be sure, our neocortex, so much larger than in any other species, has added all that is distinctly human; it is the seat of human thought and adds feeling to what we think about -- whether it be art, literature, symbols or idle imagining. So just imagine, for example, what life would be like without it. What would we be like? Everything would take on gray neutrality. A stimulus, be it a favorite aunt or detested acquaintance, no longer would trigger either attraction or aversion. Perhaps we could play music or write poetry with technical virtuosity, but we could not feel its passion. Faith, hope, devotion, love are missing entirely from a coldly cognitive view; hence, Humanities -- along with science -- enrich, a model of the mind that ignores one or the other is impoverished.

B. L. Nelson

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