Leon Wieseltier in Defense of the Humanities

“Use the new technologies for the old purposes.”

Addressing the 2013 graduating class of Brandeis University, New Republic literary editor Leon Wiesseltier offered a beautiful and timely defense of humanism, the purpose of seeking knowledge, and the arts and humanities.  His speech is reprinted at the New Republic site here under the title “Perhaps Culture is New the Counterculture.”

It’s hard to choose a pull-quote, but here’s one I hope will inspire you to read the whole piece:

“Knowledge can be acquired only over time and only by method. And the devices that we carry like addicts in our hands are disfiguring our mental lives also in other ways: for example, they generate a hitherto unimaginable number of numbers, numbers about everything under the sun, and so they are transforming us into a culture of data, into a cult of data, in which no human activity and no human expression is immune to quantification, in which happiness is a fit subject for economists,  in which the ordeals of the human heart are inappropriately translated into mathematical expressions, leaving us with new illusions of clarity and new illusions of control.”

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