Why students are fleeing the humanities + If God is dead, your time is everything

Why students are fleeing the humanities

EXCERPT: University faculty as a whole have made a sharp ideological turn toward the far left in the past two decades - a pattern that is extensively borne out in survey data. In a very short period, professors who self-identify on the left grew from a stable plurality of around 40–45 percent of the academy to a clear majority of 60 percent.

The skew, however, has played out unevenly across academic disciplines. Subjects that do not engage very heavily with political content such as the hard sciences, math, engineering, and many professional degrees still have a relatively balanced faculty. But faculty in subjects that do engage in political content — especially the humanities and social sciences — skew much further to the left than the rest of the academy.

While an ideological skew is not necessarily a problem in itself provided that the faculty teach and permit discussions of a broad diversity of viewpoints, the recent leftward shift of the professoriate may actually be taking its toll on academia in another way.

Students are currently fleeing the humanities and many of the social sciences in droves. Although professors in these subjects are apt to blame their woes at attracting majors on budget cuts and a weak job market, a fair amount of evidence shows that undergraduate humanities degrees are highly fungible for obtaining entry-level jobs after college (with the exception of those that require a very specific skill set). There are still substantial salary differentials depending on what major one chooses, and many of the humanities end up on the lower side of the distribution. But humanities employment data also point to a broad array of career paths beyond the specific subject area, with the largest share actually going into managerial roles.

So why are humanities and closely related social science degrees in such dire straits these days? That’s a complex question that likely has many components related to rising tuition and shifts in student preferences about what they want to study. The politicization of these fields, however, may play an under-recognized role in the decline of student interest. We may see some evidence for this thesis in the chart... (MORE)

If God Is Dead, Your Time Is Everything

EXCERPT: . . . These are visions of the secular. A systematic articulation of the atheistic world view, the one Marilynne Robinson may have been waiting for, is provided by an important new book, Martin Hägglund’s “This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom” (Pantheon). Hägglund doesn’t mention any of the writers I quoted, because he is working philosophically, from general principles.

[...] The great merit of Hägglund’s book is that he releases atheism from its ancient curse: its sticky intimacy with theism. Hägglund has no need for a parasitical relationship to the host (which, for instance, contaminates the so-called New Atheism), because he’s not interested in disproving the host’s existence. So, instead of being forced into, say, rationalist triumphalism (there is no God, and science is His prophet), he can expand the definition of the secular life so that it incorporates many of the elements traditionally thought of as religious. Hägglund’s argument here is aided by Hegel’s thinking about religion. For Hegel, as Hägglund reads him, a religious institution is really just a community that has come together to ennoble “a governing set of norms—a shared understanding of what counts as good and just.” The object of devotion is thus really the community itself. “God” is just the name we give “the self-legislated communal norms (the principles to which the congregation holds itself),” and “Christ” the name we give the beloved agent who animates these norms.

It’s strange that Hägglund, in a book that moves so easily between Hegel and Marx, doesn’t mention the German philosopher who bridges those two thinkers, and who wrote more lucidly than either about religion: Ludwig Feuerbach. In “The Essence of Christianity” (1841), Feuerbach proposed that when human beings worship God they are simply worshipping what they themselves value, and are projecting those values onto the figment of objectivity they choose to call God. Feuerbach is particularly interesting on the question of immortality. He says that Heaven is the real God of man: it is Heaven we are really after. When Christians say, “If there is no immortality, then there is no God,” they are actually saying, “If I am not immortal, then there is no God.” They make God dependent on them. “As man conceives his heaven, so he conceives his God,” Feuerbach writes.

Feuerbach wanted to liberate human beings from their harmful self-deceptions, but Hägglund sees no imperative to disdain this venerable meaning-making projection, no need to close down all the temples and churches and wash them away with a strong dose of Dawkins. Instead, religious practice could be seen as valuable and even cherishable, once it is understood to be a natural human quest for meaning. Everything flows from the double assumption that only finitude makes for ultimate meaning and that most religious values are unconsciously secular. We are meaning-haunted creatures.

That is the theory, at least. I’m not sure Hägglund can quite summon this ideal generosity toward all forms of religious practice... (MORE - details)

Possibly Related Threads…
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  The C-theory of time asks if time really has a direction (philosophy of science) C C 1 170 Aug 5, 2019 02:14 AM
Last Post: Quantum Quack
  The Shrinking World of Ideas: Neuroscience Is Ruining the Humanities C C 2 1,096 Nov 27, 2014 07:02 PM
Last Post: Yazata

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)