Matthew Burns

PROFESSOR A C GRAYLING ADDRESSES SIXTH FORM ON VALUE OF STUDYING HUMANITIES

Professor A C Grayling, Master of New College of the Humanities and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford, delivered a lecture to sixth formers on ’The Value of Studying the Humanities’ on Thursday 14 March. Professor AC Grayling spoke for 45minutes, inviting pupils to consider how inspiring the humanities can be. He then took questions from the floor.

Professor A C Grayling said: “I enjoyed sharing and exchanging ideas with the students of Sedbergh. This is one of a number of schools my academic colleagues from NCH visited visit over the next two weeks and I enjoyed hearing the thoughts of students and staff alike.”  

Until 2011 Professor Grayling was Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has written and edited more than books on philosophy and other subjects. Visit http://www.nchum.org for all enquiries and applications, accepted in addition to the UCAS choices and timetable.

PHOEBE HOLLINGS, YEAR 13, ROBERTSTON HOUSE, RECALLS THE CONTENT OF PROFESSOR GRAYLING’S LECTURE.

What is it to be human? How does society effect an individual? AC Grayling began his exploration and insight into the human condition by imagining a world that silenced the humanities. He explained how history is effectively a budget of experience, allowing us to navigate our way into the future. Without it we deprive ourselves of the dynamics of time and a vast amount of invaluable data.

To shut out literature would have an equally degrading effect on our society. Through attentive reading, humans learn through the experiences of others and nurture their ability to empathise. Grayling showed us how, through reading, we can understand why people make decisions we can’t always get our heads round. He used the examples of Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice and their initial misjudgement of one another.

Finally, he explained how a society ignorant to philosophy would forbid us from challenging our assumptions, or taking off our own ‘spectacles’ and seeing life through another lens. 

AC Grayling then applied this analogy of a society silenced to the arts, to an individual. It provides us with the very best that has been written and thought, we would be mad to turn a blind eye. Perhaps the most powerful point he made was that the brevity of human life spans less than 1000 months. 300 of these are spent sleeping, and 300 standing in queues, sitting at desks, wasting time.

He encouraged us to stretch and expand these remaining 300 months, by filling them with rich ideas and experience. This final thought of Grayling’s remained the most powerful for all of us following the lecture, instilling a real reason and belief behind our study of the humanities. 

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