Are the “two cultures” really that far apart. When C.P. Snow first made the reference between the gap between science and the humanities, he thought little about psychology, Gregory Currie writes in The Sunday Times about what reading literature claims on the mind.
“But things have been happening in cognitive psychology, and they may cause trouble for some who think the two-cultures attack has been seen off. What has been happening has no overarching theory or grand narrative to claim our allegiance, and much of its detail may not survive the next decade of theoretical reconfiguration. Still, there are hints of something radically at odds with how we ordinarily think about the mind,” Currie writes. “To the extent that literature is that ordinary picture writ large, embellished, deepened and refined, this research deserves the attention of those who produce, theorize or merely read what we uncomfortably call serious fiction.”
Should literature be required to give insight into the workings of the mind? Is this a proper function of literature? Currie writes: “If you accept this minimal commitment to the idea of learning from fiction, you ought, I reckon, to have some interest in the following questions: Is the practice of fiction one we can reasonably expect to give us the insight we hope for? Are serious fiction writers well equipped to give us that insight? Finally and most radically, is what Iâ€™m supposed to be learning consistent with or supported by the best science? These are hard questions, and my answers will be little more than provocations. But they ought to be asked by anyone who feels indebted to literature for any of their beliefs, skills or sensitivities.”
Currie brings some interesting points to his view of literature. I urge you to read the entire story. He concludes: “At most, I am urging a clarification, a recognition that when we engage seriously with great literature we do not come away with more knowledge, better abilities, clarified emotions or deeper human sympathies. We do exercise capacities that let us explore a fascinating, demanding conception of what human beings are like â€“ probably a wrong one.”