As humanities scholars continue to struggle for public support, maybe they will replace the word “truth” with “wisdom” as shorthand for the value of their work. A panel of distinguished scholars often deployed the latter word as they discussed “The Public Face of the Humanities” on Friday here at the annual meeting of the American Council of Learned Societies.
That is not to say that the term “wisdom” was left uncontested—it, too, has become suspect over the years—nor, on the flip side, were the panelists uniform in rejecting the notion of truth. But they did agree on at least one thing: that humanities scholars need to communicate that their research, no less than research in the hard sciences, produces new knowledge.
“I sometimes sense a desire, among humanists, to believe that what we need to do is to pretend that the past 30 or 40 years of intellectual history didn’t happen—or that it was all a wrong turn,” said Michael Bérubé, a professor of literature and the director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University. <Read more.>