Prof Stefan Schreiner's lecture "The Role of Humanities in a Changing World"
On 5. December 2016 the Honorary Doctor of University of Tartu, professor Stefan Schreiner is giving a lecture "The Role of Humanities in a Changing World".
The lecture starts at 16.00 in the Assembly Hall.
Humanities, studia humanitatis or studia humaniora as they were called since the renaissance era, quite often are regarded, if not as an unproductive, so at least as an unprofitable and penniless activities, and as such they are just not needed. Particularly in times of the primacy of economics over politics and, even more so, over culture, in times of subordination of all aspects of life to so-called economic imperatives, in times universities are treated as enterprises, humanities find themselves in a difficult situation. Increasingly, they are under severe pressure to prove their legitimacy, i.e. their right not only to exist, but also to deserve recognition and promotion. Focusing on the study of human culture in its broadest sense, including the study of languages and linguistics, of history and geography, philosophy and religion, law and politics, performing and visual arts, humanities help to acquire and develop those primary competences, which are indispensable for living together in globalized, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious societies like ours. It is not the task of the humanities to offer a solution for each and every social problem or minor or major society concerns, but they provide the orientation that is needed to be able to cope with them.
A hundred years ago already, the Indian Nobel Prize winner in literature Rabindranath Tagore complained: "History has come to a stage when the moral man, the complete man, is more and more giving way, almost without knowing it, to make room for the . . . commercial man, the man of limited purpose. This process, aided by the wonderful progress in science, is assuming gigantic proportion and power, causing the upset of man’s moral balance, obscuring his human side under the shadow of soul-less organization." And his appeal to prevent the world from becoming that soul-less organization by not allowing the commercial man to get dominance over the moral man, is strongly reverberated by Martha C. Nussbaum in her passionate plea "Why Democracy Needs the Humanities", reminding us that, when "the arts and humanities are [...] downsized, as it is the case today everywhere, we are facing a serious erosion of the very qualities that are essential to the life in a democratic society and to democracy itself."