The Human Sciences in STEM Worlds
Humanist studies focus primarily on phenomena that are singular, idiosyncratic, and — in a word — personal. As such, they can appear to lack the procedural rigor that we rightly associate with science, technology, engineering and mathematical disciplines. But the rigor of humanist studies is not STEM-deficient, it is just STEM-different. We can see the difference best if we take a philological rather than a philosophical view of the humanities. The truth of the humanities is not an idea but a practice, not a theory but a method. And the state of our social and cultural life today underscores our ongoing and very practical need for a rigorous humanist ethics.
Jerome McGann is university professor at the University of Virginia and a spring semester visiting professor in the Department of English at Berkeley. Well-known for his work on nineteenth-century literature and digital humanities, he is currently working on the history of colonial American treaties with Indian nations of the eastern seaboard and its discursive afterhistory in antebellum "Classic American Literature".