Priceless: The Value of the Humanities

Ian Mitroff
3 min readMay 24, 2024

I’m publishing this series of articles to share and discuss my ruminations on coping with a troubled and messy world. You can “follow” me to never miss an article.

In Op-Ed in The New York Times, Agnes Callard, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago, raises a disturbing issue. Namely, as a Teacher of the Humanities, she doesn’t know what their value is[i]. However, in questioning their value, she ends up boxing herself in a corner.

If the Humanities are purely for their own sake — say discussions of Plato and Descartes irrespective of any applications to the problems of today’s World — then no wonder why they are losing student enrollments, leading to the closure of many Departments in Colleges and Universities.

If on the other hand, they seek not only to illuminate, but to make headway against important problems such as Racism and the Rights of LGBTQ’s, then they are subject to succumbing to the ever-present Dangers of Politization.

The Philosophical School of Pragmatism has a very different perspective. The value of anything is measured in terms of what it contributes to our dealing with the problems with which we are struggling. As I’ve written many times before, Pragmatism Pithy Definition of Truth says it all: “Truth is that which Makes a fundamental Ethical and…