Professor Nicholas Stern – Celebrating The Humanities And Being Human

No comments yet Jun 2014. We live in a time when the world faces problems of trust in institutions and a weakening of confidence in existing ideas and models. The geo-political landscape is shifting fundamentally. Politicians in many countries, including the UK, are failing to inspire younger generations. The UK is seeing a decline in membership of political parties, a lack of public engagement in political issues, and it is especially true of the young. These processes are magnified and intensified by the revolution in communications and social media. The public political arena – the quality and quantity of questioning and serious discussion of evidence – is shrinking before our eyes. We will all be the losers if this continues.

The wealth of research and expertise from those studying the humanities is vital to providing a serious response to these problems. Understanding who we are, how we live and why we make the decisions we do has never before been such a global priority. It is important that we celebrate the humanities and share an understanding of what research in these areas can provide. For example, Reading War and Peace gives not only great fulfilment but also a deep understanding of human behaviour and suffering. One could argue that if more people read it, and engaged with it, the world could be a richer and safer place.

The humanities can help us learn from the past. They also provide crucial insights into the behaviour detailing the future. The implications of new scientific and technological developments, the effect a new cancer treatment might have on individuals, predicting how increases in digital communication will alter human interaction, informing our understanding of what climate change might mean for where and how we live; for all of these, an understanding of behaviour, community and morality are vital.

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