Washington Post essay:
"But the humanities are not about success. They’re about questioning success - and every important social value. Socrates taught us this, and we shouldn’t forget it. Sure, someone who studies literature or philosophy is learning to think clearly and write well. But those skills are means to an end. That end, as Plato said, is learning how to live one’s life. “This discussion is not about any chance question,” Plato’s Socrates says in The Republic, “but about the way one should live.”
"That’s what’s at the heart of the humanities - informed, thoughtful dialogue about the way we ought to conduct life."
People so often work, live and act by rote. They follow orders, routines and social convention - and can handily recite dogma. Yet their actions take demonstrate the opposite stance - and without reflection, few in society may take notice. It's the renegades among us who step off these paths and suggest more deliberate choices are available.
Edmundson questions a movement emerging within the humanities that such studies are ideal for the writing skills, analysis, the ability to argue and careers in law, business or medicine. While that may be true, the humanities, schools and parents must encourage individuals to continue using these skills to test rather than reinforce tradition and convention. Relentless testing is the best hope for enduring traditions and values.
And in Fear of Beauty, that's what Sofi can't help do - question her community and its values - after the death of her oldest son.
Photo of Socrates sculpture in the Louvre, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and CherryX.