So I've recently became engaged in a course through my Master's study, that has a great deal of philosophy and arts. Since this blog has actually the exact same focus, I though I would put any writings I do as part of assignments here as well. All such will go with a title "TNDY Meta #N:"


There's an interesting lecture (that I suppose is much more widely known in the western cultures, then it is where I come from; or, more specifically, it is known) on the subject of disparity between the humanities and sciences, by C.P. Snow, 'The two cultures'. Now it is important to note, that in post-USSR countries (i.e. Belarus, at least) this lecture is unknown — but the culture of both science, arts and humanities has been almost completely equalized with that of the more western world. Now, Belarusians will not completely agree with that, but the culture and the political situation and priorities must not be regarded as one. Let's consider here scientific culture as the actual culture people are brought up with, the culture they use as basis for their interests, views, etc, not the political situation in which they have almost no pay and even the best scientists prefer to ultimately do nothing. And yes, even though I had little contact with artists of our country, I'm still inclined to think their situation is not much different. Seriously, how many of anything has come out of Belarus nowadays?.. But the culture hasn't shifted yet to the oblivion — it hasn't been that long of a time to disappear…

The perspective

OK, I come not from a strictly scientific world — Software Engineering is (unlike most other sciences and engineering specialities) highly paid in Belarus. But that turns out not so important: I'm still just the same person as C.P. Snow is describing (I hope you have read the lecture, right?) as one from a culture of science. I have never read Shakespeare, and as a matter of fact, my literary knowledge is limited by books from Terry Pratchett, Larry Niven, one book by Bulgakov, and a few novellas here and there. Most others I just consider too… clumsy?.. cumbersome?.. opaque? Yeah, opaque I think is the best description. And I'm still confident that in the modern world to someone who has been an artist (in a common sense) for a decade or more, even Newton's "Principia" will come just as opaque.

That may be considered surprising (or just plainly wrong): all of the Newtonian mechanics we study in school, as basic physics. But I have studied Pushkin and Dostoyevsky, Mark Twain and yeah, Shakespeare, and so what? I still remember nothing of them (except names, and maybe, some common references).

The Now

The result of the long confrontation is almost obvious, though it is, as may be said, 'hidden in plain sight': we have successfully blurred the problem.

The problem is blurred (and deeply integrated into the society itself and general culture), but the cliffs are still sharp. And I intend to say, that the problem is not because of the different areas, — STEM and Arts and Humanities are very, very much alike, — the difference is the culture itself. And like any culture, it is not an attribute, it is about what people encounter, what are they exposed to, what (and who) do they listen to, what they read,.. and so many more things. So the eventuality of that is the reason why I think C.P. Snow had missed the most important point. In all of the lecture it actually seemed like he is just an inch away from the same conclusion I drew, and then he goes again to denounce some personal traits of the 'literary intellectuals' and 'industrialized society'. But that is not the reason, that is just a side-effect.

A move sideways

Now, you may have certainly noticed that I may be overly assertive here and there. And I want to ask you a question. The question will be: Which of the following statements do you think describes your view on my assertiveness best?


First think of it, then go on to actually look for a choice :)

  1. There is nothing wrong with it. I may have my own opinion on the matter at hand and I would've shared it just as assertively.
  2. You have little evidence to support it. Such assertiveness is bad and unproductive.
  3. You have never had any related experience to have such strong opinions, unlike, for example, C.P. Snow, who was both a scientist and a novelist.
  4. I just don't like it.
  5. Or maybe you have some other answer. Actually, there is a comments section below this post. No one ever uses it for some reason. I wonder.

Even though I understand you may have decided to skip thinking part and went straight to the answers anyway, let me explain what is the meaning of this, and why I found this important to the discussion.

Those are different views on my assertiveness I have encountered through my life in academia and elsewhere. For example, the third one comes from my own mother, and sometimes other relatives as well. They were mostly ever exposed to Soviet academia, in which the only thing that mattered was reputation. And the first one comes from my peers and even professors in BSUIR (which is a heavily science and engineering-focused university). And the second one comes from my friends and other people from Belarusian State University, which is mostly a humanities university and only partially sciences.

The fourth opinion comes mainly from people who had little-to-no exposure to academia.

But even those descriptions are certainly not exhaustive: I am absolutely confident that those are just broad, in-specific and mostly wrong labels for people, that simply were exposed to different cultures. And the culture is tangible. The only prerequisite for that is that you know exactly how it came to be.

Digging right inside one's culture, finding the exact actual difference (i.e. understanding that Alice has always written her opinion on the internet, and no one has ever been challenging it just because she has no verifiable reputation, and Bob is an old Soviet professor, who had been completely disregarded by other professors until he became one — and thus they have completely different "languages"), is the key to understanding each other, removing any potential hostilities. Not blurring the problem.

The Then

If we soon recognize this cultural difference, understand and accept it — we may still be able to finally completely open the communications channel between different fields, like Arts and Sciences. The current state of things doesn't look as promising though…

Yet once again, we have an open dialogue between each field of 'knowledgeable arts' (as I would call it). But with each side mostly pretending to understand the ideas and motives of the other, we will not move far, and may soon just open another direct confrontation (which already seems almost inevitable, by the looks of worldwide political and societal questions).