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Corporations take to heart the appeal to save humanism

Humanism is to be defended against the “growing technicalisation of teaching” and the “corporate visions” of universities. “The appeal for human sciences”, signed by Alberto Asor Rosa, Roberto Esposito and Ernesto Galli della Loggia, is published in the latest edition of the prestigious magazine Il Mulino, directed by Michele Salvati and which has just come out on sale. It poses the question of the “classical” roots of national culture, also leveraging on the strength of the signature of three great intellectuals, very different in terms of disciplines (a man of letters, a philosopher and a historian) and of political and cultural orientation yet fully on the same wavelength as regards the values of national identity and therefore of the future of Italy. It is a fundamental appeal which upholds the importance of the long sharing of historical, literary and philosophical culture, from Dante to Manzoni, Machiavelli to Vico, as the actual basis of national cohesion and as a resource on which the relationship between culture and society, population and political commitment and between present and future is founded, without which “a country is condemned to regression”. The three scholars fear “the disintegration of human knowledge as processed during centuries of Italian history and more”, the technicisms in which the only gauge for judging merit is “useful”, the weakening “of the critical look at reality” and the slavish adherence to social models founded on the “standardisation according to globalised parameters of the current ideological worship of markets”.

The appeal by the three scholars should be taken into serious consideration also by those who deal with corporate culture and the conviction is that science and technology should be ideally included in the context of cultural activities (see the thoughts on “technicism and ethics” according to the lesson by Karl Popper, in last week’s blog), manufacturing and craft skills, free research and applied research. A “polytechnic” culture in other words. According in fact to the lesson of humanism which did not separate cultures but which was able to keep alive in full harmony the beauty of the painting by Piero della Francesca with his sophisticated knowledge as mathematician.

Humanism as synthesis. A typically Italian attitude, one of our “classics”, to be valued and upheld.

The argument of the three scholars seems to target, if anything, a technicist drifting which has nothing to do with the essential nature of science and further study, at the various levels of education in Italy, of a solid, robust and documented scientific culture. The drifting, that is, of those who shallowly thought that the values of education in Italy should have been summed up as English, computer science and business without understanding either the values of the originality of the language or the importance of an education which, with humanistic and science subjects, teaches all the adoption of deep, critical, free and responsible thought.

So we come back to humanism. Also as regards the specific features of the interest by corporations and market values. The financial crisis has taught us not to trust the so-called “marketism” (the ideological supremacy of the market) and instead to assign importance to values and rules (and therefore to controls and sanctions) without which the market is reduced to the far west. The fabric of the market is in fact good relations, as a place for exchanges not only of goods and services but also cultures, views from and on the world, of products which embody, as a distinctive and original and therefore competitive factor, the characteristics and values of those who have imagined, designed, produced and marketed them.

In Italy’s “politecnici” and France’s “écoles polytechniques”, with their high level of education, alongside subjects related to science and technology teach the mastery of philosophy, drama and writing. A good engineer needed by a company has to take account of techniques and also the more sophisticated cultural tools for describing all the complexities which a mobile and ever-changing world makes headline news.

Welcome therefore to the debate on the risks run by humanism and on the answers to be provided. Not only by those responsible for human sciences but by anyone keen on questions of civilisation, freedom and well-balanced development. In other words a human development.