Literary scientific theory

September 5, 2013

David Aberbach’s arguments for cross-disciplinary study are compelling, but apply beyond the humanities: scientists should read literature, too (“A taste of Hard Times”, Opinion, 22 August). Our graduates must justify their science to society and to themselves, and can draw upon literature, philosophy and theology to do so. Ecological science, for example, can tell us how to conserve species, but the bigger question is why should we? Answers to that come as compellingly, and more eloquently, from the words of John Clare, Peter Singer and the Book of Job than from the pages of Nature. Our responsibilities as teachers include encouraging our students to ignore bogus subject boundaries and to find inspiration across disciplines.

Mark Huxham
Edinburgh Napier University

 

More than 20 years ago, I completed my first degree in interdisciplinary human studies at the University of Bradford, where philosophy, literature, sociology and psychology were taught alongside each other and accorded equal weight in their ability to shed light on social problems. During that course, to give just two examples, I learned a great deal about the philosophy of science from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and about post-colonialism from the novels of Nadine Gordimer. David Aberbach doesn’t appear to see any role for female writers in influencing future political leaders: this hardly seems like progress.

Andrea Capstick
University of Bradford

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