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The Two Cultures (Canto) Paperback – July 30, 1993

ISBN-13: 978-0521457309 ISBN-10: 0521457300

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Product Details

  • Series: Canto
  • Paperback: 107 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (July 30, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521457300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521457309
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,239,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Probably the most important statement on the role of science in society yet available." Discovery

Book Description

This reissue of Snow's controversial Rede lecture of 1959 and it successor piece A Second Look has a new introduction that charts the history and context of the famous debate on the cultural split between the humanities and the sciences.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

85 of 91 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 24, 1997
Format: Paperback
In today's society, Liberal Arts people call scientists "nerds." Scientists call liberal arts people "fuzzies" or "bohemians." Both hold misconceptions about each other that are sometimes true and sometimes not. This classic book talks about and tries to promote cooperation between these "two cultures." Writing about his experience as a person trained in science but pursuing a writing career, Snow precisely identifies the problems of the two cultures miscommunicating with each other. It was written in the late 1950s, in Britain, so the American reader might not understand all the references. Still, Snow's work has influenced a wide range of contemporary thinkers, and has been in no small part an influence on the "writing across the curriculum" movement in American universities. Whether you are interested in the humanities or the sciences, this book clearly will show you the tensions you will face dealing with the "other culture," and the problems such stereotypes pose for mod
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Sam Torrisi on October 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
The Two Cultures is probably more famous as an idea which ignited discussion than as the lecture it is. This edition of C.P. Snow's classic includes a brilliant introduction by Stefan Collini. I'm surprised that none of the other reviewers mention this portion of the edition, a substantial 64 pages, because for me it was the most interesting read. That is, only after having read The Two Cultures and a follow-up essay by Snow and pondered what may still apply today in his argument I went back and read the Collini. His introduction put Snow's work in its proper historical contexts (those of post-war Britain as well as Snow's own life) and updates us with some of the major points of the historical discourse that followed. I recommend that Collini's essay is read after Snow's, and together they make a very fine read.
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46 of 56 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 12, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Every representation I've seen of this work was wrong, or so incomplete as to be gravely misleading. As usual, the glib sound-biters omit not only the interesting parts of the points they quote, they omit the real point of the essay.
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.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Robert Carrington on December 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book defines the irrational and dangerous gulf that divides our artistic-intellectual community from our scientific. Its first publication was explosive, its effect historic. Written with the grace of a major novelist and the elegance of pure scientist, it was, and is, an original. A true original. Of how many books can one say, "It changed the way we think?" This single, short book did exactly that. It does that still.
Let's call it a must read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In this book, Sir Charles P. Snow examines what he sees as a splitting of the intelligentsia into two subcultures, the literary and the scientific. He cites anecdotal evidence of how ignorant literary figures are concerning fundamental scientific principles and how few works of literature have been read by the typical scientist. Snow is certainly qualified to see both sides of this issue. During World War II, he was in charge of the British program of scientific recruitment and is a first-class novelist. He also notes conservative/liberal tendencies among various groups within the scientific community.

He is of course correct, but the splitting is an inevitable consequence of the advance of science. As the amount of knowledge about a field of science grows, it takes more time and effort to succeed in the field. With the increase in commitment, there is less time for the individual to pursue other interests. However, that is not a wholly satisfactory excuse. Scientists are also part of the human condition and are almost always members of the advantaged class. Snow argues that they should be cognizant of the plight of the poor around the world and understand their moral obligation to try to alleviate poverty.

Scientists are often and justifiably considered to possess an intellectually narrow focus. Snow is very articulate in pointing out that society is damaged when some of the best and brightest remove themselves from the search for solutions to the current problems. Even though great advances have taken place in science in the forty years since Snow put forward these observations, they are just as valid as they were then. There is a lot of common ground between the literary and scientific communities, and Snow explains why it is critical that both sides occupy as much of it as possible. All people who are concerned with the problems of modern society should read this book.
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