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The Two Cultures (Canto Classics) Paperback – March 26, 2012
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Yvone Lysandrou, Morning Star
"Both the lecture itself and the controversy it spawned are complex phenomena, and in his editions of Snow's lecture and of the most famous response to it, by the literary critic F. R. Leavis, Stefan Collini has carefully and skillfully disentangled the many strands. The tale he tells is instructive in many respects - and perhaps more important now than it was when Leavis gave his response, fifty years ago."
Alan Jacobs, Books and Culture
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Top Customer Reviews
If anyone reads the second half of this essay, they see that it writes about the widening gap between rich countries and poor - the technologically trained and untrained. Yes, Snow writes about the schism and even mutual suspicion between the communities of liberal arts and hard sciences. That's just a fact, at least as true now as it was 45 years ago. That is not what's interesting.
The consequence is what matters. Overpopulation, mass starvation, and destruction by war or disease are political problems. The solutions must involve tools provided by technology. The tragedy of "the two cultures" is the breakdown between the politicians who must wield the tools and the technologists who must create them. This is not about technology controlling the world, it is about creating a generation of thinkers who can reason about both social and technical problems. It is about education that allows people to examine the physical facts of the physical world that underly so many curable causes of human misery. It is about understanding the technology of possible solutions well enough to weigh the costs and rewards in a rational way.
As I write this, the 2000-era Bush administration is busy firing science advisors who don't give the "right" answer, is cancelling the space research programs that have given the largest volume of new knowledge, and creating new scorched-earth policies for environmental management. It's a problem not just in the US, but worldwide. This is exactly the failure that Snow hoped so fervently that educated men and women would have the wisdom to prevent.
Let's call it a must read.
Rodney King's famous complaint could apply just as well to this compilation of CP Snow's classic, and updated, lecture and the dialogue it created. Just as useful, Snow actually offered a way ahead on answering the question. Part of the problem, as the lecture made clear, was the issue of overspecialization in education--an error of opposite and equal proportions to overgeneralization in education. As it turns out, the world needs both specialists and generalists--as well as though rare individuals who are polymaths (multitalented experts at whatever they choose to do--Da Vinci, Napoleon, T. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Lee Kuan Yew). He identifies the key problem, that in forging an identity for oneself, either in the humanities or the sciences, one often comes to disesteem "the other." Americans seem very prone to this. This argument applies to any two cultures sort of dynamic--military versus civilian, doctors versus lawyers, faithful versus agnostic or atheist, educated versus uneducated, blue collar versus white collar--and so is useful beyond the bounds of simply considering scientists versus the liberal arts. Highly recommended--I would direct readers directly to the lecture first, and then the commentaries.
John T. Kuehn. Ph.D. (History)
Master of Science in Systems Engineering
Commander US Navy
Fort Leavenworth, KS
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book. Definitely worth reading. I only leave four and five star reviews for products I would purchase again and recommend to friends and family. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Buyer
Older folks may remember it fondly as THE ABACUS AND THE ROSE, the title under which this Elder first bought it. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Jack Sember Lewis
A little bit dry but brings up the important idea of how literature and science fit in and which is more important to learnPublished 8 months ago by kmbjac
A dated novel which has little current relevance. I couldn't help escape the images of a take-off of Great Expectations, very derivative. Read morePublished 23 months ago by craigr1971
Only needed it for class, but gives a good perspective of how science and literary minds should work together in societyPublished on September 9, 2013 by rawr
Despite these lectures having been given decades ago, the central question is still relevant. It is a useful text for students of both cultures (for the divide remains) to read to... Read morePublished on September 4, 2013 by Chelle
C.P. Snow's 1959 Cambridge lecture 'The Two Cultures' is mainly remembered for the descriptor it gave to a growing academic polarization between science and humanities that many... Read morePublished on June 26, 2012 by whiteelephant
This was formative of my two cultures career. The updates to the 1959 lecture really only serve to emphasize how right Snow was in the first place. Read morePublished on June 24, 2010 by David A. Burack