Black, Max, editor. The Morality of Scholarship. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press,

 

Black, Max, editor. The Morality of Scholarship. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press,
1967.

There are three authors to the pieces in this slim volume: Northrop Frye, "The Knowledge of
Good and Evil," (pp. 1-28); Stuart Hamshire, "Commitment and Imagination," (pp. 29-56); and
Conor Cruise O'Brien, "Politics and the Morality of Scholarship," (pp. 57-74). There is also a
summary Foreword by the editor. The three authors were brought together to read these papers at
the 1966 meeting of the Society for the Humanities at Cornell.

As the title and the auspices of the papers suggest, these authors are concerned with "morality in
the humanities" rather than morality in science. Yet, there are some interesting points of
comparison between their suggestions for humanists. For one thing, the intellectual virtue of
detachment is indistinguishable from the moral commitment to disinterestedness, if
disinterestedness has any meaning at all. They are both values, or as Merton calls them, norms of
science; but both must be understood vis-a-vis the consequences they pose for science. There are
warnings to be issued to those who claim, falsely in fact, that the scientist is disinterested in the
things he studies or the consequences of the things being studied. Such a virtue as detachment
cannot overcome the need for the individual to commit himself imaginatively to the human
condition.

Scholarship is not necessarily "logical" but it is essentially creative. We must come to understand
the creative. Scholarship may, in fact, betray the very heart and soul of the human condition.
Critics who employ only the intellectual norms fail to appreciate the art form employed in
coming to understand that condition. The scientist cannot always be expected to appreciate, for
example, the unconscious wellsprings of his own creativity.

The final paper warns both science and scholarship to beware of the tendency to idealize the
norms of science and to pretend to scholarship when suborning counterrevolution in the name of
capitalism/science. That's an interesting point. For the science that is practiced and the
humanities which are touted as "ours" are those which may derive from the status quo of this
country. Science an a disguised ideology. Incidentally, where are the scientists who are making
our people aware of the plight of the developing nations?