诸子新粱肉,群经旧井田。——读《人文学的历史》

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2018-04-01 15:59:05

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任博德的书出名很久了,去年终于有了汉译本。人文学的崛起,这个话题简直太吸睛了。因为近年来,人文学科的衰退已经被海内外学界关注。就连哈佛大学的人文学专业也被学霸们嫌弃了,哈佛去年的校报显示选择应用科学、技术、工程和数学(STEM)为主的人数近年逐年增长,人文专业则相对减少,社会科学和纯科学专业出现过波动,但基本趋于稳定。所以人文学在这个十字路口何去何从实在值得大家研究。任博德这个书2010年就出版了,13年被Lynn Richards翻译成了英文,在美亚上的评价也很高。任博德对于人文学复兴还是充满希望的,所以用满腔热情写了本书。本书的第一步就是放弃先前的学科分类定式,特别是自然科学和人文科学的楚河汉界。然后提出寻找人文学科中的原则与模式。作者在前言中说:

因此,作为一个整体,本书讨论已然在人文学科中被发展的方法原则、已然在对人文资料(文本、语言、文学、音乐、艺术、历史)的研究中被发现的模式的历史。

值得欣喜的是,作者在寻找的原则和模式,注意避开"欧洲中心主义"。作者的视野跨越了各个大洲,关注了如印度、中国等非欧洲文明的人文学原则和模式。我们会发现非洲、西亚、印

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关于阅读

任博德的书出名很久了,去年终于有了汉译本。人文学的崛起,这个话题简直太吸睛了。因为近年来,人文学科的衰退已经被海内外学界关注。就连哈佛大学的人文学专业也被学霸们嫌弃了,哈佛去年的校报显示选择应用科学、技术、工程和数学(STEM)为主的人数近年逐年增长,人文专业则相对减少,社会科学和纯科学专业出现过波动,但基本趋于稳定。所以人文学在这个十字路口何去何从实在值得大家研究。任博德这个书2010年就出版了,13年被Lynn Richards翻译成了英文,在美亚上的评价也很高。任博德对于人文学复兴还是充满希望的,所以用满腔热情写了本书。本书的第一步就是放弃先前的学科分类定式,特别是自然科学和人文科学的楚河汉界。然后提出寻找人文学科中的原则与模式。作者在前言中说:

因此,作为一个整体,本书讨论已然在人文学科中被发展的方法原则、已然在对人文资料(文本、语言、文学、音乐、艺术、历史)的研究中被发现的模式的历史。

值得欣喜的是,作者在寻找的原则和模式,注意避开"欧洲中心主义"。作者的视野跨越了各个大洲,关注了如印度、中国等非欧洲文明的人文学原则和模式。我们会发现非洲、西亚、印度的各自的人文学传统,这一部分的资料对于中国人来说还是很难得的。而且这种类似人类学的文化视角实在叫人喜欢,我们已经有了太多区分优劣文明的口水仗了。不过饶是任博德竭尽全力发掘世界各地的人文学历史,在本书的最后也不得不叹息在本书中未能写到日本以及前哥伦布时代的美洲的原则和模式(我想应该还有太平洋群岛上的人文学模式)。

任博德的方法论很理想,但是个人认为他的这本书其实很失败。我基本上可以猜测到读者读了前言和前面的部分篇章之后就开始快速地翻阅此书,然后到了最后总结的时候才停下脚步。为什么会发生这种事情?因为任博德并没有在书写历史,而是在整理他需要的历史材料。把一份份材料通过年代、文明排列起来。大量琐屑的材料使得本书变得非常枯燥。而且虽然可以看出任博德的广博,但是一个人进行"全球史"研究必然导致对细节的失真。作者在本书最后说道:

我参考的材料主要是第一手史料,如果它们是用德语、荷兰语、法语、意大利语或者英语撰写的(加之一些拉丁语残篇),我仅用它们的初始语言研究它们。我以翻译的形式阅读其他文献——比如用梵语、阿拉伯语、汉语、古兹语、拉丁语、土耳其语和西班牙语撰写的文献。

从文献学角度来说,通过翻译形式阅读其他文献来进行研究是不可取的。而且任博德关于非欧洲的人文学参考最多的还是各种学者的专著。很多西方学者对于非西方文明都有自己独特的见解,所以他们的著作有时会产生偏颇的观点。通过西方学者解读非西方文明,然后来解读非西方文明原则和模式,这个过程太容易信息失真。从任博德对中国文明的理解就可以看出信息的失真。

譬如他会特别关注《竹书纪年》,在没有提《资治通鉴》的情况下重点提了朱熹的《通鉴纲目》,他认为古代的时候"与印度和希腊相比,中国古代人文学在某些方面似乎是一直‘落后’的,尤其是在语言学和语文学方面。"刘向、刘歆等人的文献整理好像完全被他忽略了。他还说"然而,除这些翻译以外,印度语言学传统似乎几乎没有对中国语言学产生影响;中国语言学要么遵循孔子的实践,保持哲学本色,要么从事字典编纂。"我不知道守温三十六字母在任博德眼里算什么。最后在谈及中国近现代史学的时候,他认为中国的学者搞的是"欧洲史学观",然而实际上中国的很多史学家并不是热切拥抱西方学术,而且很注意方法的中国化。我一直认为只有对历史的细节有深入的探索之后,历史的形态和因果才会很好地被人所知。大部分通史是别人构建的历史,别人取舍过材料之后的"帝王将相家谱",是"传统的发明"。所以我对任博德单枪匹马完成探索的方法表示担忧。虽然,单人著述可以使整本书思想前后一贯,但是我们知道假的调研报告即使有一万份,得出的结论也是假的。在真实性和完整性方面,我更愿意选择真实性。任博德更适合出一套多卷本的众人合作的人文学历史丛书。虽然分卷会导致任博德强调的学科的楚河汉界很明显,但是任博德自己这本书里也只是提到了人文学合一的方法论,实际的书本还是很清晰地分门别类式的写作。

当然以上的观点都是一种苛求。如果阅读全书,我们还是可以看到任博德的视野已然非常广阔并且有一定深度了,所以我很愿意把本书当成一本人文学的小词典,备查。我在任博德的书里发现了新知。了解了伊斯兰文明、印度文明以及非洲文明人文学的大框架。然后标注了大量其他文明人文学入门的洋书。过强的资料性也导致了本书读起来不舒服。这其实会产生一种很尴尬的现象,譬如我了解语言学多一些,对书中语言学的部分读起来就不会很吃力,那么这部分任博德给的新知也就不多了。而对于我不熟悉的领域,读一段文字查阅一阵资料实在是一种痛苦的感受。

所以仔细读开头和结论,中间部分备查会是阅读本书比较好的一个模式。换一种说法,中间的四大章都是首尾两章的注脚。

译文小识

读者首先可以注意的是去掉封腰后,本书的汉译书名和荷兰语书名的标题与小标题是不相称的。

虽然本书版权页上写的是2010版和2017年汉译版的copyright,但是从上面荷兰语的错置和译者徐德林的简历来看,我猜测本书应该是从2013年的英译本译出的(当然,荷兰语可以作为参校本)。另外本书中括号里附的术语也都是英文,译者总不至于用荷兰语译各种英文术语名吧?

在本书中,philology一词大部分情况下译者都译为"语文学",而在介绍中国学者陈第和顾炎武时(译作p173-174),有两个词philologist、philological,译者选择了"文献学家""文献学"作为译文。文献学和语文学其实指的是同一门学科,但是如国内"古典文献学"这门学科,基本研究的是汉语文献;而涉及内亚以至世界语言文本的一些学术研究上,学者们更喜欢使用"语文学"。所以译者的翻译其实是挺符合语境的。但是我想学科分类还是应该做统一命名,使文献学(或者语文学)更为规范。

本书68页"构思"一词后漏拉丁文(inventio)

本书47页有一段:

这是音阶中的基音,它用七个基本乐音把八度音阶分为12个半音:Sa/沙Re/利Ga/加Ma/马Pa/帕Dha/达Ni/你Sa/沙,它们依次对应于Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do。

英译本为This is the tonic in a scale, which divides an octave into twelve semitones with seven basic tones: sa re ga ma pa dha ni, which in sequence correspond to do re mi fa sol la ti.

我觉得把中间部分翻译成“它将一个八度音分为十二个半音,音调为七个基本音调”会更好理解。

在第14页有关帕尼尼的部分中有那么一句话:

若两条规则相冲突,第二条规则有效。

英译本作If two rules conflict, the last rule prevails.

我阅读时产生了疑问:怎么判定哪个是第二条?是按使用先后顺序还是书本内容先后顺序呢?

于是查阅本句之参考文献Universals: Studies in Indian Logic and Linguistics 155页

按,paribhäsä即为metarule,sütras即为rule。

所以很显然,帕尼尼的语法在排列的时候就是有意的。在帕尼尼语法的排列顺序下,两条规则相冲突时,后一条的规则有效。译者翻译成“第二条”,就把这种前后关系给弱化了。清楚了这个之后,就可以理解此句后面一句“Panini organized his grammar so that this metarule is always valid.”了。译者把这句翻译成“帕尼尼系统化了他的语法,所以该元规则始终有效”。其实作者在使用organized时强调的含义应该是组织化、条理化(强调顺序),这样子整句话就没有纰漏了。

译作39页

已知最早的中文文本修复被孟子(前372—前289)认为是孔子所为,孔子被认为编纂了第一部中国古代文学概观——儒经。

英译本相应一句是The oldest known Chinese text reconstruction has been attributed by Mencius(372–289 bce) to Confucius, who was believed to have compiled the first overview of the Chinese classics—the so-called Confucian classics.

我们可以看到虽然英译本里有first一词,但是classics是复数,我猜测外国人想表达的是修复应该是"孔子自衛反魯,然後樂正,雅、頌各得其所,乃刪《詩》、定《書》系《周易》、作《春秋》"这些活动,译者用"一部"来翻译,使人很陌生。

70页

然而,正是在“辩”的元理论领域,墨家信徒做出了最重要的发现—推理原则,我们考察中国逻辑的时候会讨论它。“辩论”被定义为关于相互矛盾的断言的意见不同,第一条辩论原则是:两种相互矛盾的断言的意见不同,第一条辩论原则是:两种互相矛盾的断言之一必然是不真的。另外,第二条原则指出,两种这样的断言都不真是不可能的。目前,存在着一种一定程度上的一致意见,即墨家信徒属于最早制定逻辑学基本规则(不矛盾律和排中律)的人之列。

其实可以直接找到《墨子》里的文字:《经下》:辩,争彼也。辩胜当也。《经说下》:辩:或谓之牛,或谓之非牛,是争彼也。是不俱当,不俱当,必或不当。不当若犬。《经下》:彼,不可两也。《经说下》:彼:兕、牛.(豸区)非牛,两也,无以非也。

本书151页:

陈骙也详细研究了著名的《檀弓》的句子长度,于其间他认为发现了规律性,并得出结论说“《檀弓》文简而理周”。在文学理论中,它是已知的历史最悠久的文体定量分析。

很显然,“《檀弓》文简而理周”应当为《檀弓》“文简而理周”,可见《文则》书影

其他可以注意的是本书的注脚有不少删减。正文我也发现了几处删减,一处是118页,一处是291页,一处是365页(比较和谐)。

第二段比较和谐,对照汉译365页

按,杜尔哥甚至认为他发现了一种新的历史模式,它公平对待永恒循环和线性进步思想。他把历史过程描述为一条螺旋式道路,通往希翼的目标。

看来螺旋爆炸的那个专利权不应该送给列宁同志呐。

2018/5/2补此书好像也玩学科统一

附THE TWO CULTURES 1959

It is about three years since I made a sketch in print of a problem which had been on my mind for some time. It was a problem I could not avoid just because of the circumstances of my life. The only credentials I had to ruminate on the subject at all came through those circumstances, through nothing more than a set of chances. Anyone with similar experience would have seen much the same things and I think made very much the same comments about them. It just happened to be an unusual experience. By training I was a scientist: by vocation I was a writer. That was all. It was a piece of luck, if you like, that arose through coming from a poor home.

But my personal history isn’t the point now. All that I need say is that I came to Cambridge and did a bit of research here at a time of major scientific activity. I was privileged to have a ringside view of one of the most wonderful creative periods in all physics. And it happened through the flukes of war—including meeting W. L. Bragg in the buffet on Kettering station on a very cold morning in 1939, which had a determining influence on my practical life—that I was able, and indeed morally forced, to keep that ringside view ever since. So for thirty years I have had to be in touch with scientists not only out of curiosity, but as part of a working existence. During the same thirty years I was trying to shape the books I wanted to write, which in due course took me among writers.

There have been plenty of days when I have spent the working hours with scientists and then gone off at night with some literary colleagues. I mean that literally. I have had, of course, intimate friends among both scientists and writers. It was through living among these groups and much more, I think, through moving regularly from one to the other and back again that I got occupied with the problem of what, long before I put it on paper, I christened to myself as the ‘two cultures’. For constantly I felt I was moving among two groups—comparable in intelligence, identical in race, not grossly different in social origin, earning about the same incomes, who had almost ceased to communicate at all, who in intellectual, moral and psychological climate had so little in common that instead of going from Burlington House or South Kensington to Chelsea, one might have crossed an ocean.

In fact, one had travelled much further than across an ocean—because after a few thousand Atlantic miles, one found Greenwich Village talking precisely the same language as Chelsea, and both having about as much communication with M.I.T. as though the scientists spoke nothing but Tibetan. For this is not just our problem; owing to some of our educational and social idiosyncrasies, it is slightly exaggerated here, owing to another English social peculiarity it is slightly minimised; by and large this is a problem of the entire West.

By this I intend something serious. I am not thinking of the pleasant story of how one of the more convivial Oxford greats dons—I have heard the story attributed to A. L. Smith—came over to Cambridge to dine. The date is perhaps the 1890’s. I think it must have been at St John’s, or possibly Trinity. Anyway, Smith was sitting at the right hand of the President—or Vice-Master—and he was a man who liked to include all round him in the conversation, although he was not immediately encouraged by the expressions of his neighbours. He addressed some cheerful Oxonian chit-chat at the one opposite to him, and got a grunt. He then tried the man on his own right hand and got another grunt. Then, rather to his surprise, one looked at the other and said, ‘Do you know what he’s talking about?’ ‘I haven’t the least idea.’ At this, even Smith was getting out of his depth. But the President, acting as a social emollient, put him at his ease by saying, ‘Oh, those are mathematicians! We never talk to them.’

No, I intend something serious. I believe the intellectual life of the whole of western society is increasingly being split into two polar groups. When I say the intellectual life, I mean to include also a large part of our practical life, because I should be the last person to suggest the two can at the deepest level be distinguished. I shall come back to the practical life a little later. Two polar groups: at one pole we have the literary intellectuals, who incidentally while no one was looking took to referring to themselves as ‘intellectuals’ as though there were no others. I remember G. H. Hardy once remarking to me in mild puzzlement, some time in the 1930’s: ‘Have you noticed how the word “intellectual” is used nowadays? There seems to be a new definition which certainly doesn’t include Rutherford or Eddington or Dirac or Adrian or me. It does seem rather odd, don’t y’ know.’

Literary intellectuals at one pole—at the other scientists, and as the most representative, the physical scientists. Between the two a gulf of mutual incomprehension—sometimes (particularly among the young) hostility and dislike, but most of all lack of understanding. They have a curious distorted image of each other. Their attitudes are so different that, even on the level of emotion, they can’t find much common ground. Non-scientists tend to think of scientists as brash and boastful. They hear Mr T. S. Eliot, who just for these illustrations we can take as an archetypal figure, saying about his attempts to revive verse-drama that we can hope for very little, but that he would feel content if he and his co-workers could prepare the ground for a new Kyd or a new Greene. That is the tone, restricted and constrained, with which literary intellectuals are at home: it is the subdued voice of their culture. Then they hear a much louder voice, that of another archetypal figure, Rutherford, trumpeting: ‘This is the heroic age of science! This is the Elizabethan age!’ Many of us heard that, and a good many other statements beside which that was mild; and we weren’t left in any doubt whom Rutherford was casting for the role of Shakespeare. What is hard for the literary intellectuals to understand, imaginatively or intellectually, is that he was absolutely right.

And compare ‘this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper’—incidentally, one of the least likely scientific prophecies ever made—compare that with Rutherford’s famous repartee, ‘Lucky fellow, Rutherford, always on the crest of the wave.’ ‘Well, I made the wave, didn’t I?’

The non-scientists have a rooted impression that the scientists are shallowly optimistic, unaware of man’s condition. On the other hand, the scientists believe that the literary intellectuals are totally lacking in foresight, peculiarly unconcerned with their brother men, in a deep sense anti-intellectual, anxious to restrict both art and thought to the existential moment. And so on. Anyone with a mild talent for invective could produce plenty of this kind of subterranean back-chat. On each side there is some of it which is not entirely baseless. It is all destructive. Much of it rests on misinterpretations which are dangerous. I should like to deal with two of the most profound of these now, one on each side.

First, about the scientists’ optimism. This is an accusation which has been made so often that it has become a platitude. It has been made by some of the acutest non-scientific minds of the day. But it depends upon a confusion between the individual experience and the social experience, between the individual condition of man and his social condition. Most of the scientists I have known well have felt—just as deeply as the non-scientists I have known well—that the individual condition of each of us is tragic. Each of us is alone: sometimes we escape from solitariness, through love or affection or perhaps creative moments, but those triumphs of life are pools of light we make for ourselves while the edge of the road is black: each of us dies alone. Some scientists I have known have had faith in revealed religion. Perhaps with them the sense of the tragic condition is not so strong. I don’t know. With most people of deep feeling, however high-spirited and happy they are, sometimes most with those who are happiest and most high-spirited, it seems to be right in the fibres, part of the weight of life. That is as true of the scientists I have known best as of anyone at all.

But nearly all of them—and this is where the colour of hope genuinely comes in—would see no reason why, just because the individual condition is tragic, so must the social condition be. Each of us is solitary: each of us dies alone: all right, that’s a fate against which we can’t struggle—but there is plenty in our condition which is not fate, and against which we are less than human unless we do struggle.

Most of our fellow human beings, for instance, are underfed and die before their time. In the crudest terms, that is the social condition. There is a moral trap which comes through the insight into man’s loneliness: it tempts one to sit back, complacent in one’s unique tragedy, and let the others go without a meal.

As a group, the scientists fall into that trap less than others. They are inclined to be impatient to see if something can be done: and inclined to think that it can be done, until it’s proved otherwise. That is their real optimism, and it’s an optimism that the rest of us badly need.

In reverse, the same spirit, tough and good and determined to fight it out at the side of their brother men, has made scientists regard the other culture’s social attitudes as contemptible. That is too facile: some of them are, but they are a temporary phase and not to be taken as representative.

I remember being cross-examined by a scientist of distinction. ‘Why do most writers take on social opinions which would have been thought distinctly uncivilised and démodé at the time of the Plantagenets? Wasn’t that true of most of the famous twentieth-century writers? Yeats, Pound, Wyndham Lewis, nine out of ten of those who have dominated literary sensibility in our time—weren’t they not only politically silly, but politically wicked? Didn’t the influence of all they represent bring Auschwitz that much nearer?’

I thought at the time, and I still think, that the correct answer was not to defend the indefensible. It was no use saying that Yeats, according to friends whose judgment I trust, was a man of singular magnanimity of character, as well as a great poet. It was no use denying the facts, which are broadly true. The honest answer was that there is, in fact, a connection, which literary persons were culpably slow to see, between some kinds of early twentieth-century art and the most imbecile expressions of anti-social feeling. That was one reason, among many, why some of us turned our backs on the art and tried to hack out a new or different way for ourselves.

But though many of those writers dominated literary sensibility for a generation, that is no longer so, or at least to nothing like the same extent. Literature changes more slowly than science. It hasn’t the same automatic corrective, and so its misguided periods are longer. But it is ill-considered of scientists to judge writers on the evidence of the period 1914-50.

Those are two of the misunderstandings between the two cultures. I should say, since I began to talk about them—the two cultures, that is—I have had some criticism. Most of my scientific acquaintances think that there is something in it, and so do most of the practising artists I know. But I have been argued with by non-scientists of strong down-to-earth interests. Their view is that it is an over-simplification, and that if one is going to talk in these terms there ought to be at least three cultures. They argue that, though they are not scientists themselves, they would share a good deal of the scientific feeling. They would have as little use—perhaps, since they knew more about it, even less use—for the recent literary culture as the scientists themselves. J. H. Plumb, Alan Bullock and some of my American sociological friends have said that they vigorously refuse to be corralled in a cultural box with people they wouldn’t be seen dead with, or to be regarded as helping to produce a climate which would not permit of social hope.

I respect those arguments. The number 2 is a very dangerous number: that is why the dialectic is a dangerous process. Attempts to divide anything into two ought to be regarded with much suspicion. I have thought a long time about going in for further refinements: but in the end I have decided against. I was searching for something a little more than a dashing metaphor, a good deal less than a cultural map: and for those purposes the two cultures is about right, and subtilising any more would bring more disadvantages than it’s worth.

At one pole, the scientific culture really is a culture, not only in an intellectual but also in an anthropological sense. That is, its members need not, and of course often do not, always completely understand each other; biologists more often than not will have a pretty hazy idea of contemporary physics; but there are common attitudes, common standards and patterns of behaviour, common approaches and assumptions. This goes surprisingly wide and deep. It cuts across other mental patterns, such as those of religion or politics or class.

Statistically, I suppose slightly more scientists are in religious terms unbelievers, compared with the rest of the intellectual world—though there are plenty who are religious, and that seems to be increasingly so among the young. Statistically also, slightly more scientists are on the Left in open politics—though again, plenty always have called themselves conservatives, and that also seems to be more common among the young. Compared with the rest of the intellectual world, considerably more scientists in this country and probably in the U.S. come from poor families. Yet over a whole range of thought and behaviour, none of that matters very much. In their working, and in much of their emotional life, their attitudes are closer to other scientists than to non-scientists who in religion or politics or class have the same labels as themselves. If I were to risk a piece of shorthand, I should say that naturally they had the future in their bones.

They may or may not like it, but they have it. That was as true of the conservatives J. J. Thomson and Lindemann as of the radicals Einstein or Blackett: as true of the Christian A. H. Compton as of the materialist Bernal: of the aristocrats de Broglie or Russell as of the proletarian Faraday: of those born rich, like Thomas Merton or Victor Rothschild, as of Rutherford, who was the son of an odd-job handyman. Without thinking about it, they respond alike. That is what a culture means.

At the other pole, the spread of attitudes is wider. It is obvious that between the two, as one moves through intellectual society from the physicists to the literary intellectuals, there are all kinds of tones of feeling on the way. But I believe the pole of total incomprehension of science radiates its influence on all the rest. That total incomprehension gives, much more pervasively than we realise, living in it, an unscientific flavour to the whole ‘traditional’ culture, and that unscientific flavour is often, much more than we admit, on the point of turning anti-scientific. The feelings of one pole become the anti-feelings of the other. If the scientists have the future in their bones, then the traditional culture responds by wishing the future did not exist. It is the traditional culture, to an extent remarkably little diminished by the emergence of the scientific one, which manages the western world.

This polarisation is sheer loss to us all. To us as people, and to our society. It is at the same time practical and intellectual and creative loss, and I repeat that it is false to imagine that those three considerations are clearly separable. But for a moment I want to concentrate on the intellectual loss.

The degree of incomprehension on both sides is the kind of joke which has gone sour. There are about fifty thousand working scientists in the country and about eighty thousand professional engineers or applied scientists. During the war and in the years since, my colleagues and I have had to interview somewhere between thirty to forty thousand of these—that is, about 25 per cent. The number is large enough to give us a fair sample, though of the men we talked to most would still be under forty. We were able to find out a certain amount of what they read and thought about. I confess that even I, who am fond of them and respect them, was a bit shaken. We hadn’t quite expected that the links with the traditional culture should be so tenuous, nothing more than a formal touch of the cap.

As one would expect, some of the very best scientists had and have plenty of energy and interest to spare, and we came across several who had read everything that literary people talk about. But that’s very rare. Most of the rest, when one tried to probe for what books they had read, would modestly confess, ‘Well, I’ve tried a bit of Dickens’, rather as though Dickens were an extraordinarily esoteric, tangled and dubiously rewarding writer, something like Rainer Maria Rilke. In fact that is exactly how they do regard him: we thought that discovery, that Dickens had been transformed into the type-specimen of literary incomprehensibility, was one of the oddest results of the whole exercise.

But of course, in reading him, in reading almost any writer whom we should value, they are just touching their caps to the traditional culture. They have their own culture, intensive, rigorous, and constantly in action. This culture contains a great deal of argument, usually much more rigorous, and almost always at a higher conceptual level, than literary persons’ arguments—even though the scientists do cheerfully use words in senses which literary persons don’t recognise, the senses are exact ones, and when they talk about ‘subjective’, ‘objective’, ‘philosophy’ or ‘progressive’, they know what they mean, even though it isn’t what one is accustomed to expect.

Remember, these are very intelligent men. Their culture is in many ways an exacting and admirable one. It doesn’t contain much art, with the exception, an important exception, of music. Verbal exchange, insistent argument. Long-playing records. Colour-photography. The ear, to some extent the eye. Books, very little, though perhaps not many would go so far as one hero, who perhaps I should admit was further down the scientific ladder than the people I’ve been talking about—who, when asked what books he read, replied firmly and confidently: ‘Books? I prefer to use my books as tools.’ It was very hard not to let the mind wander—what sort of tool would a book make? Perhaps a hammer? A primitive digging instrument?

Of books, though, very little. And of the books which to most literary persons are bread and butter, novels, history, poetry, plays, almost nothing at all. It isn’t that they’re not interested in the psychological or moral or social life. In the social life, they certainly are, more than most of us. In the moral, they are by and large the soundest group of intellectuals we have; there is a moral component right in the grain of science itself, and almost all scientists form their own judgments of the moral life. In the psychological they have as much interest as most of us, though occasionally I fancy they come to it rather late. It isn’t that they lack the interests. It is much more that the whole literature of the traditional culture doesn’t seem to them relevant to those interests. They are, of course, dead wrong. As a result, their imaginative understanding is less than it could be. They are self-impoverished.

But what about the other side? They are impoverished too—perhaps more seriously, because they are vainer about it. They still like to pretend that the traditional culture is the whole of ‘culture’, as though the natural order didn’t exist. As though the exploration of the natural order was of no interest either in its own value or its consequences. As though the scientific edifice of the physical world was not, in its intellectual depth, complexity and articulation, the most beautiful and wonderful collective work of the mind of man. Yet most non-scientists have no conception of that edifice at all. Even if they want to have it, they can’t. It is rather as though, over an immense range of intellectual experience, a whole group was tone-deaf. Except that this tone-deafness doesn’t come by nature, but by training, or rather the absence of training.

As with the tone-deaf, they don’t know what they miss. They give a pitying chuckle at the news of scientists who have never read a major work of English literature. They dismiss them as ignorant specialists. Yet their own ignorance and their own specialisation is just as startling. A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?

I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question—such as, What do you mean by mass, or acceleration, which is the scientific equivalent of saying, Can you read?—not more than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language. So the great edifice of modern physics goes up, and the majority of the cleverest people in the western world have about as much insight into it as their neolithic ancestors would have had.

Just one more of those questions, that my nonscientific friends regard as being in the worst of taste. Cambridge is a university where scientists and nonscientists meet every night at dinner.About two years ago, one of the most astonishing discoveries in the whole history of science was brought off. I don’t mean the sputnik—that was admirable for quite different reasons, as a feat of organisation and a triumphant use of existing knowledge. No, I mean the discovery at Columbia by Yang and Lee. It is a piece of work of the greatest beauty and originality, but the result is so startling that one forgets how beautiful the thinking is. It makes us think again about some of the fundamentals of the physical world. Intuition, common sense—they are neatly stood on their heads. The result is usually known as the non-conservation of parity. If there were any serious communication between the two cultures, this experiment would have been talked about at every High Table in Cambridge. Was it? I wasn’t here: but I should like to ask the question.

There seems then to be no place where the cultures meet. I am not going to waste time saying that this is a pity. It is much worse than that. Soon I shall come to some practical consequences. But at the heart of thought and creation we are letting some of our best chances go by default. The clashing point of two subjects, two disciplines, two cultures—of two galaxies, so far as that goes—ought to produce creative chances. In the history of mental activity that has been where some of the break-throughs came. The chances are there now. But they are there, as it were, in a vacuum, because those in the two cultures can’t talk to each other. It is bizarre how very little of twentieth-century science has been assimilated into twentieth-century art. Now and then one used to find poets conscientiously using scientific expressions, and getting them wrong—there was a time when ‘refraction’ kept cropping up in verse in a mystifying fashion, and when ‘polarised light’ was used as though writers were under the illusion that it was a specially admirable kind of light.

Of course, that isn’t the way that science could be any good to art. It has got to be assimilated along with, and as part and parcel of, the whole of our mental experience, and used as naturally as the rest.

I said earlier that this cultural divide is not just an English phenomenon: it exists all over the western world. But it probably seems at its sharpest in England, for two reasons. One is our fanatical belief in educational specialisation, which is much more deeply ingrained in us than in any country in the world, west or east. The other is our tendency to let our social forms crystallise. This tendency appears to get stronger, not weaker, the more we iron out economic inequalities: and this is specially true in education. It means that once anything like a cultural divide gets established, all the social forces operate to make it not less rigid, but more so.

The two cultures were already dangerously separate sixty years ago; but a prime minister like Lord Salisbury could have his own laboratory at Hatfield, and Arthur Balfour had a somewhat more than amateur interest in natural science. John Anderson did some research in inorganic chemistry in Leipzig before passing first into the Civil Service, and incidentally took a spread of subjects which is now impossible.None of that degree of interchange at the top of the Establishment is likely, or indeed thinkable, now.

In fact, the separation between the scientists and nonscientists is much less bridgeable among the young than it was even thirty years ago. Thirty years ago the cultures had long ceased to speak to each other: but at least they managed a kind of frozen smile across the gulf. Now the politeness has gone, and they just make faces. It is not only that the young scientists now feel that they are part of a culture on the rise while the other is in retreat. It is also, to be brutal, that the young scientists know that with an indifferent degree they’ll get a comfortable job, while their contemporaries and counterparts in English or History will be lucky to earn 60 per cent as much. No young scientist of any talent would feel that he isn’t wanted or that his work is ridiculous, as did the hero of Lucky Jim, and in fact, some of the disgruntlement of Amis and his associates is the disgruntlement of the under-employed arts graduate.

There is only one way out of all this: it is, of course, by rethinking our education. In this country, for the two reasons I have given, that is more difficult than in any other. Nearly everyone will agree that our school education is too specialised. But nearly everyone feels that it is outside the will of man to alter it. Other countries are as dissatisfied with their education as we are, but are not so resigned.

The U.S. teach out of proportion more children up to eighteen than we do: they teach them far more widely, but nothing like so rigorously. They know that: they are hoping to take the problem in hand within ten years, though they may not have all that time to spare. The U.S.S.R. also teach out of proportion more children than we do: they also teach far more widely than we do (it is an absurd western myth that their school education is specialised) but much too rigorously.They know that—and they are beating about to get it right. The Scandinavians, in particular the Swedes, who would make a more sensible job of it than any of us, are handicapped by their practical need to devote an inordinate amount of time to foreign languages. But they too are seized of the problem.

Are we? Have we crystallised so far that we are no longer flexible at all?

Talk to schoolmasters, and they say that our intense specialisation, like nothing else on earth, is dictated by the Oxford and Cambridge scholarship examinations. If that is so, one would have thought it not utterly impracticable to change the Oxford and Cambridge scholarship examinations. Yet one would underestimate the national capacity for the intricate defensive to believe that that was easy. All the lessons of our educational history suggest we are only capable of increasing specialisation, not decreasing it.

Somehow we have set ourselves the task of producing a tiny élite—far smaller proportionately than in any comparable country—educated in one academic skill. For a hundred and fifty years in Cambridge it was mathematics: then it was mathematics or classics: then natural science was allowed in. But still the choice had to be a single one.

It may well be that this process has gone too far to be reversible. I have given reasons why I think it is a disastrous process, for the purpose of a living culture. I am going on to give reasons why I think it is fatal, if we’re to perform our practical tasks in the world. But I can think of only one example, in the whole of English educational history, where our pursuit of specialised mental exercises was resisted with success.

It was done here in Cambridge, fifty years ago, when the old order-of-merit in the Mathematical Tripos was abolished. For over a hundred years, the nature of the Tripos had been crystallising. The competition for the top places had got fiercer, and careers hung on them. In most colleges, certainly in my own, if one managed to come out as Senior or Second Wrangler, one was elected a Fellow out of hand. A whole apparatus of coaching had grown up. Men of the quality of Hardy, Littlewood, Russell, Eddington, Jeans, Keynes, went in for two or three years’ training for an examination which was intensely competitive and intensely difficult. Most people in Cambridge were very proud of it, with a similar pride to that which almost anyone in England always has for our existing educational institutions, whatever they happen to be. If you study the fly-sheets of the time, you will find the passionate arguments for keeping the examination precisely as it was to all eternity: it was the only way to keep up standards, it was the only fair test of merit, indeed, the only seriously objective test in the world. The arguments, in fact, were almost exactly those which are used today with precisely the same passionate sincerity if anyone suggests that the scholarship examinations might conceivably not be immune from change.

In every respect but one, in fact, the old Mathematical Tripos seemed perfect. The one exception, however, appeared to some to be rather important. It was simply—so the young creative mathematicians, such as Hardy and Littlewood, kept saying—that the training had no intellectual merit at all. They went a little further, and said that the Tripos had killed serious mathematics in England stone dead for a hundred years. Well, even in academic controversy, that took some skirting round, and they got their way. But I have an impression that Cambridge was a good deal more flexible between 1850 and 1914 than it has been in our time. If we had had the old Mathematical Tripos firmly planted among us, should we have ever managed to abolish it?

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