Humanities vs Sciences

For me, the distinction between the humanities and the sciences is been one of values and methods.

The spirit of science and analytic disciplines does not come with values. It doesn’t come with a set of assumptions. It doesn’t have an agenda. There is no ideology, ideally. Logic is passionless. It is rational. It is mechanical. It must put feelings and beliefs aside and work out problems with dispassionate reason with the aim of clarity, or eliminating dissonance. It notes all it perceives, takes stock of the facts of the world, identifies areas of conflict and dissonance, and aims to rectify them through hypothesis. By essentially giving educated guesses and seeing if the logic of the given assumptions supports or denies the guess. Analytics just works with what is given. It’s methods. It’s formalized processes.

In the humanities, there is no end, no logical conclusion. Studying the human condition is a meditation. It is more about wisdom. The humanities examine the human condition through the lens of literature, through philosophy, through culture, through history. It seeks the answers to: what is man? Who is man? Why is man? What drives man? What is important? What is significant? What should be cherished? What should be protected? What is good? What is bad?

The humanities provide the moral framework to guide collective agreement toward optimal ends. The humanities synthesize human past behavior in order to develop an ethical value system. This value systems informs mankind as to what questions need to be asked, and what questions need to be answered to continue progressing.

In my mind, humanities are important for formulating the right questions. The humanities study the arc of civilization and human evolution and ask what questions are worth answering.

The humanities is an art for identifying what is universally human. It reveals the essence of humanity. It provides vision.

The sciences are primarily concerned with developing methods for answering these questions. They seek to build our problem solving power. They execute with logic and reason. They don’t let the heart get involved, they don’t let bias sway conclusions and justify self serving rationale. Science is work. It is labor. It is building experiments and testing and failing and repeating. It is execution. It is justifying methods by checking and double checking.

So the humanities ask questions.

Sciences provide the answers.

The best minds occupying both worlds have a balance.

You cannot be a great scientist without asking great questions, without understanding the significance of good questions.

You can master the methods, and become an expert calculator. But a calculator can’t solve problems without inputs. A great scientist must not only be able to solve problems, but know which problems are worth solving.

Unfortunately, I see our culture solving problems of no value. Great minds going into finance, entertainment, advertising. Developing methods for mass manipulation and control. Building Byzantine systems that take us where?

Likewise, I think the humanities can become an incoherent self gratifying vanity project. Lazy and self indulgent. Ego centric. Not aspiring to higher inconvenient truths.

It fails to add value when it fails to reach for what is universal.

So I dunno.

I think everyone should study both with equal vigor.

Arts and sciences are equally important.

I don’t want a society mindlessly working and solving problems that are unimportant for progressing mankind. Accepting whatever values are dictated by those in authority.

And I don’t want a society that’s completely consumed by feeling. And never testing the utility or veracity of these feelings and visions.

Don’t get me wrong. I think as a society we’re also doing amazing things with science and technology. More stem isn’t necessarily bad. Just not at the expense of our soul.

It’s important to know where we came from if we want a better idea of where we’re going.

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