The Role of the Humanities and Social Sciences

The humanities embrace the study of literature, the arts, philo­so­phy, the relations between them, and their relations with the rest of life.  The social sciences, including history, attempt to construct a body of knowledge about human beings in their social relationships.  The humanities are concerned with developing sensitivities and recognizing distinctions rather than amass­ing objective knowledge.  The social sciences, although aspiring to objectivi­ty, seek solutions to social problems more than they seek to make disinterested observations, making them prone to ideological defilement.

The humanities take the long view, though they tend to look backward more than forward.  They see the arts as tracing the course of development of civilizations.  The centuries pass as days.

An understanding of the history of philosophy is par­ticularly valuable for creating an awareness of the awful abyss humanity has ever before it.  The tenuousness of all knowledge and the gaping chasms of ignorance stand all too apparent.

This understanding can provide subtle corrections to assured verities of the social sciences.  The social scien­tists’ reliance on pragmatic methodologies and their quick acceptance of linguistic models can be seen for what they are.

Perhaps the chief contribution that the humanities can make is to provide a stable perspective for viewing litera­ture and the arts.  By seeing literature and the arts as a tapestry whose warp are long threads of evolutionary deve­lopment held together by regionally based cultures, the course of future development be­comes easier to envision.  The humanities also perform a crucial­ly important intellec­tual function, namely that of providing the conceptual and theor­eti­cal underpin­nings of the arts.  These underpinnings consist of a mixture of understandings of works of litera­ture and art expressed in written form.  They are a mixture of writings by artists and writings by

non-artist scholars.  They provide critiques of litera­ture and the other arts to aid the on-going conversation between the writers and artists, scholars, and the public.

The role of the social sciences in describing and analyz­ing human behavior and determining causes of social condi­tions was described in the section on “The Validity of Assessments of Worth and Value” (pages 77 ff).  The des­cription there gave good evidence that it could be very fruitful for the social and behavioral sciences to adopt this book’s concepts of abili­ties, well-being and doing good.

The Role of Government

For the purposes of this discussion the term “government” is intended to cover government at all levels.  At the international level the function of government can be ex­pected to evolve and to become more extensive.  In the immediate future the function of international government, namely the United Nations, is to maintain international peace and to work for various reforms and organize relief from famine.  Effectively, there is a second government–a kind of oligarchy–controlling the international monetary and credit system.

The remainder of the discussion of government is con­cerned with national and especially state (provincial) and local government.

From the perspective of this book a good life is seen as a life that is good from the view­point of the person living it and from the view­points of others able to appraise it.  It is seen as a life of good citizenship and of acting justly and pru­dently, a life that makes full and appropriate use of one’s intel­lectual facul­ties and of any special talents that one may have.  It is seen as a life concerned with the acquisition of virtue, sound practical judg­ment, and useful skills.  Finally, it is seen as a life guided by both ethical rules and moral judg­ment, which need to be devel­oped together as one learns to appreciate ethical subtle­ties.

The function of government is seen as doing all that it effec­tively can to enable and encourage its citizens to live this type of good life.  Thus government needs to uphold and exem­plify virtue and to ensure that appropriate kinds of training and education are available to all.

To fulfill its function government must ensure that what might be called “very full employment” is maintained.  By this is meant an availability of employment that as nearly as possible makes full use of each person’s capacities through a backlog of public works, grants to artists, and publicly operated sales of worker services.  Under the publicly operated sales of worker services workers would receive less than their normal wage or only basic subsis­tence, with government making a profit wherever possible.

Government should provide basic sustenance to indigent and homeless people but require them to accept employment if they are physi­cally capable of working.  The governmental “very full employment” program would make every effort to ensure that jobs were available.

National, state and local governments have a responsibi­lity for preserving the physical environment.  In the ab­sence of means of international enforcement each nation has an obligation of good citizenship to accept its fair share of the burden and to also  extend special financial assis­tance to countries such as Brazil which lack the resources to deal with special problems.

It is also in conformity with this book’s view of the well-ordered state that government should ensure the teach­ing of morals and social skills in school.  Other areas that need emphasis are training in the arts and in biology and ecology.

As for government function of enforcing the law, it is proposed that punish­ment should be designed to aid the development of the person or group that is being punished.  Seriously harmful crimes could be deterred by harsh punish­ment and repe­titions could be prevented by long-term removal from society where no milder treatment can be expected to be adequately effective.

It should likewise be part of government’s function to assure the availability of child care and parental training as described in the section giving recommended policies concerning abortion-related issues (pages 97 ff).


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