PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2018, Vol. 37 ›› Issue (3): 317-326.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2018.03.002

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Defending letters: A pragmatic response to assaults on the humanities

HAY Iain()   

  1. School of the Environment, Flinders University, Adelaide 5001, SA, Australia
  • Received:2017-10-24 Revised:2018-03-25 Online:2018-03-28 Published:2018-03-28


This paper is a mainly pragmatic response to utilitarian criticisms of the humanities. It first outlines political, public and practical fronts on which the humanities are under assault, identifying critics and their conspirators. Then, as a part of its defence of the humanities it expounds some of their central strengths. These range from the philosophical to the practical: lending critical perspectives to knowledge production, enriching lives, developing skills for uncertain and increasingly connected futures, improving science and supporting institutional income and credibility. Finally, the paper suggests that humanists must not only continue valuable conceptual and empirical disciplinary work but must add the very defence of the humanities to professional activity.

Key words: arts, crisis, defending, humanities, liberal arts, utility