On his page in the December 2020 PAW, President Eisgruber ’83 ascribes six “pressing” topics to a University community campaign called A Year of Forward Thinking. Most involve technology, such as cellular structures; another is the Delphic question, “What is truth and how do we seek and interrogate it?”
A sixth is the role of art and the humanities in “helping us understand … the benefits of humanity’s interconnectedness.” He asks, “How can their work provide solace and perspective in these trying times?” So — art, music, history, religion, language and literature, and philosophy: all provide comfort at day’s end as embers glow in the fireplace and the winds howl outside.
Stories about technology seem overrepresented in PAW. It is probably easier to generate stories about incidental tech projects than about, say, a breakthrough on the evolution of Roman law. Or PAW may just be reflecting the interests of Nassau Hall. Understanding humanity’s interconnectedness stands in the shadow of the technology projects Princeton forges within the military-industrial-educational complex.
Is our inner MIT breaking through? Princeton’s competitive strength has long been its emphasis on the humanities — enhanced by the proximity of the polymath Institute for Advanced Study. The fact that we have no medical, law, or business schools intensifies that concentration. Even our fabled engineering program is extraordinarily interlaced with the humanities.
Are the humanities really centered on helping us understand humankind’s interconnectedness? Surely not. Instead, they offer each of us broad and deep vision that actually constitutes that interconnectedness.