David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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A striking difference between those fields we classify as humanities and those we regard as sciences is the attitude within each field toward its history. Learning about literature, music, or the visual arts requires becoming knowledgeable about a significant amount of the history of those areas. And education in these fields, at whatever level, invariably involves some study of great accomplishments in the past. By contrast, scientific work and standard scientific textbooks make little reference to the history of the science in question, and such reference is typically relegated to the appreciative mention in passing of important empirical discoveries or theoretical innovations. And professional training in the sciences, both graduate and undergraduate, involves no serious examination of the achievements or methodology of past scientific work, no matter how impressive and influential those achievements may have been. Progress dominates thinking in the sciences, and that emphasis may seem to explain such casual and occasionally condescending reference to the history of the sciences. But progress occurs in the humanities as well; even if some of the greatest artistic accomplishments are well in the past, there is remarkable innovation in style, technique, and methodology in the various arts. Some of the most monumental accomplishments in the sciences, moreover, are historical; nobody is likely to surpass the quality and importance of Newton's achievements, and few will ever equal those of Einstein. So it is unlikely that attitudes towards progress or past accomplishments can explain the divergent attitudes that fields in the sciences and humanities exhibit towards their own history. We can better understand this contrast by appeal to a characteristic feature of the arts. Nobody today writes in the manner of Milton, Racine, or Shakespeare, or composes in the manner of Bach or Beethoven, or paints in the style of Vermeer, Renoir, or Da Vinci. Even Picasso's early, somewhat ostentatious paintings in the styles of various past masters were more to show his prodigious abilities than they were original artistic endeavors..
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