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    Default Overcoming Distrust of Authority During Formal Education in the Humanities

    Do people who naturally distrust authority have stories about how they overcame this to formally study the humanities?

    My own experience is not such an example. But I would like to learn about others experiences.

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    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    I believe analysis (text analysis, I mean) in the humanities is inherently subjective. Thus you have to find an (academic) author which is in your wavelenght.

    Alternatively, contemporary authors can accept or discard the specific analysis of their work.
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    That's interesting. I'll be curious to hear from this perspective. I always thought of the humanities as the subjects where I could sort of be like fuck their thinking, this is subjective. But then, maybe that's why I didn't end up majoring in graphic design. I thought my first instructor was self-absorbed and misled... he downgraded us when we put any recognizable symbols in our work, told me that curves were "too complex" for me to be dealing with yet. It was at the point where he was demanding our Sharpie drawings to be within a 16th of an inch accuracy that I dropped out. I felt like everything he was teaching and enforcing was arbitrary.

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    Whether or not you choose to study the humanities, what you describe is something I think should not be changed for any damn thing.
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    An ability to gain or hold trust for the subject is largely going to be dependent on what you require from an idea. You'll never find trust in the humanities if you expect certain, deducted truths. What the humanities can give are ideas based on sound reasoning, extensive research and intellectual/emotional honesty. It is up to the individual to discern the presence or lack of these traits and so decide if a product of the humanities is worthy. However, one has to be comfortable with pluralism (multiple approaches, perspectives, conclusions) and, indeed a lack of objectivity.

    I'm a literature and philosophy undergrad at university and I can't say if even I "trust" these subjects. Perhaps this is my own bias but it's pretty much a part of my soul to believe in a single truth, beyond interpretation. So I have problems. But I still very much respect the disciplines. Only so much objectivity can be gained as long as subjectivity is one's subject. The most that can be asked is that our practitioners take the process seriously, with intelligence and skepticism, which they largely do.
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    Senior Member lowtech redneck's Avatar
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    If you 'overcome' the type of distrust you are talking about, you are not studying the humanities correctly; you're supposed to 'distrust' all sources, as the subject matter is inherently open to interpretation, bias, and competing priorities and one must determine for oneself which available evidence and/or reasoning is the most compelling. You can determine where a relative consensus lies amongst scholars (for example, the overwhelming majority of economists, regardless of ideological inclination or school of thought, will say that free trade is a net positive), but such things are subject to challenges and pressures to conform.

    This does not mean you should dismiss the humanities; the relative uncertainty is the cost of trying to study and predict the outcome of the isolated brain chemistry of billions of humans interacting with each other and their environment, something that can't truly be controlled for testing purposes or even isolated into its component parts like the hard sciences (behaviorism and statistics not withstanding), but which is most vital for the advancement of humankind. Its understandable that you distrust a subject matter where 'truth' cannot be disproven and there are relatively low barriers to entry, but that's just the nature of the beast, and no other area of study is as important.....I'll get off my soapbox now.

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    So far, it seems like most people's experiences parallel mine. Seeing value in the humanities while still not trusting the claims made due to not being able to come to firm conclusions regarding the subject that jived with what was being taught.

    So perhaps, the more salient questions are :

    1) What does a "formal" education in the humanities (with degrees and such) give you that an informal one does not relatively easily? (Is the curation of material presented in a formal program enough to warrant paying extra money for? Is there a style of thinking learned that can be honed that is different from self-teaching the subjects? Something else?)

    2) What were/are some exemplary programs in the humanities that you believe were/are worth pursuing?

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
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    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

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    in philosophy, it's not too hard to defer to someone who has been on the stuff for his whole life...dedicated himself to it.
    why would i think that a man who has 10 books on the subject...and learned german just so he could read the original texts...isn't more of an authority on kant than i am?
    thinking otherwise is disrespectful to him and his life's work.
    in essence, i defer to his experience. it put him in a position of authority, after all.

    What does a "formal" education in the humanities (with degrees and such) give you that an informal one does not relatively easily?
    Perhaps it gives you knowledge as to where the literary canon is headed.
    And that's pretty valuable, imo

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    Humanities since the 1950's has become like most of television. Enamored of the antagonist/protagonist duality perspective. White hats/black hats is another way of putting it. We cannot just admire a sunset. We have to be remember that THEY want to destroy sunsets by polluting the environment and that WE have to stop THEM by FIGHTING back.

    The way Humanities has become basically a really boring Marvel Comics is disheartening. You're not going to find beauty in college level Humanities because the professors have ugly minds and ugly ways of teaching ideological viewpoints. Stick with something you can trust and seek out beauty on your own.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lowtech redneck View Post
    If you 'overcome' the type of distrust you are talking about, you are not studying the humanities correctly; you're supposed to 'distrust' all sources, as the subject matter is inherently open to interpretation, bias, and competing priorities and one must determine for oneself which available evidence and/or reasoning is the most compelling. You can determine where a relative consensus lies amongst scholars (for example, the overwhelming majority of economists, regardless of ideological inclination or school of thought, will say that free trade is a net positive), but such things are subject to challenges and pressures to conform.

    This does not mean you should dismiss the humanities; the relative uncertainty is the cost of trying to study and predict the outcome of the isolated brain chemistry of billions of humans interacting with each other and their environment, something that can't truly be controlled for testing purposes or even isolated into its component parts like the hard sciences (behaviorism and statistics not withstanding), but which is most vital for the advancement of humankind. Its understandable that you distrust a subject matter where 'truth' cannot be disproven and there are relatively low barriers to entry, but that's just the nature of the beast, and no other area of study is as important.....I'll get off my soapbox now.
    Au Contraire, mon ami. You simply may not question received knowledge in Humanities. Oh, they pretend to value diverse opinions, but they're as close minded as the most ideological Nazis and Communists ever were. You simply may not express any sort of thought that could possibly be construed as supporting a viewpoint contrary to received wisdom in Womyn's Studies, LBGTQ Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, English Lit-Crit, etc. You must toe the ideological line in the most slavering way. Avoid all humanities courses to the greatest extent possible unless you're into easy A's simply for parroting the party line. It's no place for any kind of independent thinking or thinkers. It's simply not tolerated. Doubt me? Don't take my word for it. Take the word of a disillusioned Humanities professor himself: The Outdated Business Model of Diversity, Inc. |

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