- The Two Cultures
"The Two Cultures" is the title of an influential 1959
Rede Lectureby British scientist and novelist C.P. Snow. Its thesis was that the breakdown of communication between the "two cultures" of modern society — the sciences and the humanities— was a major hindrance to solving the world's problems. As a trained scientist who was also a successful novelist, Snow was well placed to pose the question. The talk was delivered 7 May in the Senate House, Cambridge, and subsequently published as "The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution". The lecture and book expanded upon an article Snow wrote for New Statesmanmagazine, published 6 October 1956, also entitled "The Two Cultures". Published in book form, Snow's lecture was widely read and discussed on both sides of the Atlantic, leading him to write a follow-up, "The Two Cultures: And a Second Look: An Expanded Version of The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution" (1964).
Snow's ideas were not without critics, however. For example, he was derided by literary critic
F. R. Leavisin " The Spectator", who dismissed Snow as a "public relations man" for the scientific establishment.
Implications and influence
The term "two cultures" has entered the general lexicon as a shorthand for differences between two attitudes. These are
#the increasingly constructivist world view suffusing the humanities, in which the
scientific methodis seen as embedded within language and culture; and
#the scientific viewpoint, in which the observer can still objectively make unbiased and non-culturally embedded observations about nature.
"The phrase has lived on as a vague popular shorthand for the rift—a matter of incomprehension tinged with hostility—that has grown up between scientists and literary intellectuals in the modern world."
This polarization of perspective certainly was a factor in latter 20th century academia. Snow's original argument relied on rhetorical devices.
Snow himself, in his reconsideration, backed off some way from his dichotomized declarations. In his 1963 book he talked more optimistically about the potential of a mediating 'third culture'. This concept was later picked up in the 1995 book "" by John Brockman. Introducing the reprinted "The Two Cultures" (1993),
Stefan Collini[On p. lv.] has argued that the passage of time has done much to reduce the cultural divide Snow noticed; but has not removed it entirely: Stephen Jay Gould's 2003 book " The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox" provides a different perspective. Assuming the dialecticalinterpretation, it argues that Snow's concept of "two cultures" is not only off the mark, it is a damaging and short-sighted viewpoint; and that it has perhaps led to decades of unnecessary fence-building.
As philosophical avatar
Simon Critchley, in "Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction" (2001) suggests that in the lecture, Snow
That is, Critchley argues that what Snow said represents a resurfacing of a discussion current in the mid-nineteenth century. Critchley describes the Leavis contribution to the making of a controversy as 'a vicious "ad hominem" attack'; going on to describe the debate as "a familiar clash in English cultural history" (ibid, p.51), citing also
T. H. Huxleyand Matthew Arnold. [Collini, p. xxxv of his introduction to the 1993 "The Two Cultures", uses very similar terms.]
C.P. Snow quotations
: "I remember
G. H. Hardyonce remarking to me in mild puzzlement, some time in the 1930s, "Have you noticed how the word "intellectual" is used nowadays? There seems to be a new definition which certainly doesn't include Rutherford or Eddington or Dirac or Adrian or me? It does seem rather odd, don't y'know."
: "A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the
Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of: "Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?"
: "I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question -- such as, What do you mean by
mass, or acceleration, which is the scientific equivalent of saying, "Can you read?" -- not more than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language. So the great edifice of modern physicsgoes up, and the majority of the cleverest people in the western worldhave about as much insight into it as their neolithicancestors would have had."
: "Technology is...a queer thing. It brings you gifts with one hand, and stabs you in the back with the other."
* "", a 1998 book written by biologist
Edward Osborne Wilson, as an attempt to bridge the gap between "the two cultures"
Lyman Briggs College, a college of Michigan State Universitywith a curriculum specifically designed to address the problem of "the two cultures"
The Third Culture
* John Brockman
* [http://academics.vmi.edu/gen_ed/Two_Cultures.html Web sites relating to the Snow-Leavis Controversy]
* [http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Extras/Griffiths_two_cultures.html 'Two Cultures' Today]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
(the) two cultures — the two cultures [the two cultures] a phrase made popular by the author C P Snow in 1959. He used it to describe the division between the arts and the sciences in Britain, and argued that people trained in the arts did not understand or… … Useful english dictionary
The Two Babylons — was an anti Catholic religious pamphlet produced initially by the Scottish theologian and Protestant Presbyterian Alexander Hislop in 1853. It was later expanded in 1858 and finally published as a book in 1919. Its central theme is its allegation … Wikipedia
two cultures — a phrase made popular by the author C P Snow in 1959. He used it to describe the division between the arts and the sciences in Britain, and argued that people trained in the arts did not understand or appreciate people trained in the sciences. *… … Universalium
The Sum of Our Discontent — is a nonfiction book by David Boyle. It was published by Texere in 2001. The tagline and theme of the book is Why numbers make us irrational . PremiseThe author s premise is that humans have been trying to improve the quality of life and… … Wikipedia
The Boys from Baghdad High — Infobox Television show name = The Boys from Baghdad High caption = Anmar Refat, one of the subjects The Boys from Baghdad High looks on at the mortar attack on a nearby petrol station in Baghdad, Iraq. show name 2 = Baghdad High genre =… … Wikipedia
The Butter Battle Book — Infobox Book | name = The Butter Battle Book title orig = translator = image caption = author = Dr. Seuss cover artist = country = United States language = English series = genre = Children s literature publisher = Random House pub date = 1984… … Wikipedia
The Third Culture — Infobox Book name = The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution title orig = translator = image caption = author = John Brockman cover artist = country = language = series = subject = genre = publisher = Simon Schuster release date = 1995 … Wikipedia
The Tunes of Two Cities — Infobox Album Name = The Tunes of Two Cities Type = studio Artist = The Residents Released = 1982 Recorded = Genre = Avant garde Length = Label = Producer = Reviews = *Allmusic Rating|3|5 [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg… … Wikipedia
The Land of the Settlers — Infobox Film name = The Land of the Settlers image size = caption = director = Chaim Yavin producer = Chaim Yavin writer = narrator = starring = music = cinematography = editing = distributor = released = 30 May, 2005 runtime = 120 min. several… … Wikipedia
The Clash of Civilizations — and the Remaking of World Order … Wikipedia