Drakeman discusses humanities’ value

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Dr. Don Drakeman spoke about the role of the liberal arts in a business education. Photo by Kaity Chaikowsky

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, UD hosted business leader and academic Dr. Don Drakeman.

The event was sponsored by the American Public Philosophy Institute (APPI), whose president is UD Politics Professor Dr. Christopher Wolfe.

The mission of the APPI, according to their website, is to “promote a natural law public philosophy rooted in the principles of the American Founding — one that pursues freedom and prosperity, grounded on the moral integrity of the culture and of our social and political institutions.”

Drakeman is a Renaissance man, coupling his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth with a M.A. and Ph.D. in religion from Princeton as well as a J.D. from Columbia School of Law, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone scholar.

He is the author of two books: “Church, State, and Original Intent,” and “Why We Need the Humanities: Life Science, Law and the Common Good.”

Drakeman believes that evidence of the suppression of the liberal arts is already underway in places like Japan.

“Time Magazine reported that more than two dozen Japanese higher education facilities would reduce or altogether eliminate their programs in the humanities and social sciences following a dictum from Tokyo which asked universities to place emphasis on studies that ‘better met society’s needs,’ “ Drakeman said.

Drakeman distinguished the humanities as both useful and ornamental, not only orienting the mind toward beauty, but serving an intrinsic purpose toward benefitting the common good.

“Policy and decision makers alike need good scholarship in fields we call the humanities,” Drakeman said. “Economics, for example, is about value judgments. It should be easy to see then that humanities have a direct effect on the economy.”

Even more related, he claims, is that policy makers are making decisions about what constitutes both individually and collectively. This is one of the primary functions of the liberal arts.

Humanities being good in themselves then begs an important question, Drakeman said:

“How do you get someone to pay you?”

Realistically, the “real world” does reward the liberal arts, even if they don’t realize it.

“Ultimately, the real world needs the humanities more than the real world thinks,” Drakeman said.

Drakeman said that the more concentrated the power of law becomes, like in the case of the Supreme Court, the more important the humanities are to it.

Lawmakers often quote philosophers, historians and poets to make arguments or write decisions.

Law and science alike often turn to the humanities in times where they have reached the bounds of demonstrable, empirical truth.

Drakeman cited his background in running pharmaceutical ventures to explain that in many countries, questions of who gets life insurance or who gets funding for cancer research are left to those who study the humanities.

“In England, the medical board makes all cost effective decisions on national health funding,” Drakeman said. “They make decisions about whether treating a smoker for lung cancer is the moral equivalent of funding childhood cancer research. Should saving lives be more important than treating someone with a chronic illness?”

Such decisions inherently appeal to the nature of morality and must be answered by philosophers.

For that reason, many hospitals have ethicists on call who can determine the responsibility of the hospital and its doctors.

“These issues relate to society more than science,” Drakeman said. “These questions are not the focus of what people learn at medical schools.”

The realm of those value judgments belongs to those who study the humanities, and those scholars are sorely needed.

“Making additional room for diverse, thoughtful scholarship will deepen and enrich conversations and help us lead to better laws and even better medicines,” Drakeman said. “We need the humanities, they teach us what the common good is and how to live the best life. ”

 

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