Two cultures, one humanity (2 of 2)

December 2, 2010

Amid the sound and fury of the Browne plans and the Comprehensive Spending Review, it was wonderfully refreshing to read Martin Mills' eloquent plea for rapprochement between the sciences and the social sciences.

The problem he identifies is, if anything, more painful in the humanities, where views of human nature prevail that have altered little since the 19th and early 20th centuries. The spectres of "essentialism" and "biological determinism" still keep many well disciplined, fearful of constructive engagement with the human sciences. On the other hand, attempts at "Darwinian" literary criticism tend to be either specific but embarrassingly facile, or persuasive but general accounts of the evolutionary significance of narrative.

There is a pressing need for consilience without imperialism, motivated by, as Mills says, "a common sense of a mutual intellectual problem that actually needs to be solved".

Greg Garrard, Bath Spa University.

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