The 'Two Cultures' Debate — What now?

Date: Monday 13 December 2010, 6:30—8:30pm

Venue: Old Broadcasting House, 148 Woodhouse Lane, Leeds

Speaker: Raymond Tallis

In a famous lecture given over half a century ago, C.P. Snow raised concerns about the increasing alienation of humanist intellectuals from science. Professor Ray Tallis will argue that this problem is more complex than Snow thought, and addressing it may be even more challenging than he imagined.

The Snow/Leavis Controversy

In 1959, C.P. Snow delivered the annual Rede Lecture in Cambridge under the title of 'The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution'. Snow warned of a gap that had opened up between scientists and the 'literary intellectuals' that made it almost impossible for the two groups to communicate. Snow complained that literary intellectuals were not only ignorant of science but contemptuous of it, as if scientific knowledge were unnecessary for a good education. Snow believed that improvements in the teaching of science were required in order to address the world's greatest problems, and to compete with the USA and USSR. Snow spoke with the authority of a man with a foot in both camps, as a trained research scientist and a successful novelist, and his lecture provoked worldwide coverage. However, in 1962 it received an extraordinary response from the influential literary critic F.R. Leavis, who delivered an attack on Snow of unprecedented ferocity. The Snow/Leavis controversy has provoked debate ever since between supporters of both men's positions as to the real purpose of education.

 

Readings

The Infinite Monkey Cage, Physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince are joined by special guests Alexei Sayle and philosopher Julian Baggini to discuss Stephen Hawking's recent comment that "philosophy is dead", BBC Radio 4, 6th December 2010.

Is Hawking right to attack philosophy?, Philosophers Baroness Greenfield and A C Grayling discuss whether Stephen Hawking is right to say philosophy is "increasingly outdated and irrelevant", BBC Radio 4, 8th September 2010.

"The Two Cultures" today, by Roger Kimball, The New Criterion, February 1994 (This is reproduced as a chapter in  From Two Cultures to No Culture: C.P. Snow's Two Cultures Lecture Fifty Years On (Civitas, 2009), for which Ray Tallis also conributed a chapter).

"Two Cultures" Today, by Phillip Griffiths, address given at Rice University, 13 September 1995.

The Third Culture, by John Brockman, Edge, 1991.


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