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The Two Cultures (Canto) [Paperback]

C. P. Snow , Stefan Collini
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 30, 1993 0521457300 978-0521457309
The notion that our society, its education system and its intellectual life, is characterized by a split between two cultures--the arts or humanities on one hand, and the sciences on the other--has a long history. The reissue of The Two Cultures and its successor piece, A Second Look (in which Snow responded to the controversy four years later) has a new introduction by Stefan Collini, charting the history and context of the debate, its implications and its afterlife.

Editorial Reviews


"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.

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 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #888,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
83 of 89 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
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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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars historic document, with intro essay October 24, 2004
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Far better than I thought 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Only Essential Reading December 16, 2001
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Arguments about taking social responsibility December 29, 2004
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay
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 more
Published 3 months ago by craigr1971
3.0 out of 5 stars good
Only needed it for class, but gives a good perspective of how science and literary minds should work together in society
Published 10 months ago by rawr
5.0 out of 5 stars still valuable
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 more
Published 10 months ago by strangebird
1.0 out of 5 stars Origins of a meme
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 more
Published on June 26, 2012 by whiteelephant
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Can't We Just Get Along?
Why Can't We Just Get Along?

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... Read more
Published on May 3, 2011 by John T. Kuehn
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive then, definitive now
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 more
Published on June 24, 2010 by David A. Burack
3.0 out of 5 stars Must read for anyone interested in the culture wars
This is the classic essay that brought into focus the contrast between the "two cultures," i.e. the sciences and the humanities. Read more
Published on March 21, 2009 by Massimo Pigliucci
4.0 out of 5 stars The Two Cultures
I read the original as a convocation assignment when i went off to college in 1963. The history update in this volume is very useful and interseting to me. Read more
Published on July 13, 2006 by Red Reeds
4.0 out of 5 stars Always a Tradeoff - Integration Should Be The Goal
C.P. Snow argues about two cultures he was personally part of: the literary intellectuals and the science intellectuals. Read more
Published on September 23, 2004 by R. Schwartz
2.0 out of 5 stars A College Outlook on Snow's Lecture
I am a college student and was forced to read this book by my literature professor, who for some reason adores writers who seem to use big words and horribly complicated sentences... Read more
Published on September 15, 2002 by Kelli Taylor
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