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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 the Louisville Courier-Joumal, calls for a vigorous cultivation of the liberal arts in American life.
Thomas B. Stroup is professor of English at the University of Kentucky.
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Humanities, Higher education
Stroup, Thomas B., "The Humanities and the Understanding of Reality" (1966). Higher Education. 6.