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The Two Cultures (Canto)

3.5 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521457309
ISBN-10: 0521457300
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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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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: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #745,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
…that I missed the first time around, and have finally read. Admittedly, in the 60’s, I felt there was only one culture, the scientific one, which was reflected in my environment as a student at what was somewhat pejoratively, and perhaps all too accurately called “the North Ave. Trade School.” Our English department was definitely of “step-child” status, and courses in English and the social science area were only required for the first two years. Realistically, if I had read this book back then, I would have missed much of its significance.

C. P. Snow was a British scientist and novelist. His life straddled “the two cultures,” the scientific and the “classical” one, and thus he was in an ideal position to expound on the subject, which he did in 1959, in the “Rede Lecture” series. This series of lectures dates back to the 16th century, named after a British Chief Justice, and is given at Cambridge. They still exist, though they seem to be held on a more intermediate basis in the 21st century. The current Kindle edition is composed of 10 introductory essays, which is almost half of the work. The other half is Snow’s actual Rede lecture presented in 1959, and then a “second look” by Snow at the original lecture, which he presented four years later. The latter lecture addressed the impact and response to the original.

Naturally the 10 introductory essays are of variable quality. For me though, they provided much background on Snow himself, as well as the issues of the day which his central thesis addressed.
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