In this morning’s newsletter, I speculated in response to Gilbert Sewall’s piece at National Review on the humanities that philosophical materialism was most likely one of the main causes of the current crisis.

A couple of readers responded. Here are two—both of them in academia and in the humanities:

Reader 1: “…the ‘post-human’ are being taught in humanities courses without very many tongues-in-cheeks. As it seems to me, philosophical materialism isn’t one of the causes of the ‘crisis’–it is the crisis (though I choke a bit on the word crisis). The reduction in humanities degrees as a percentage or declining financial support seems far less a problem.”

Reader 2: “I think you’re right.  Defenses of the humanities have made no advance since Matthew Arnold: we think only matter is real, but we are afraid of the consequences, since, among them, would surely be an absolute severance of what is true in nature from was is viewed as good by society (thank you, Gorgias).  Beauty is therefore invoked as a distraction, as a veil over the sheer ugliness of things.”

Other thoughts? Is it impossible for the humanities to thrive in a secular society?