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The final articles in the series, which the Crimson is printing on the larger fields of concentration are published below. These articles, written by undergraduates who are distinguished for the maturity of their Judgment and their high scholastic standing, are intended to present to the Freshmen, now faced with the problem of choosing a field of concentration, the possibilities various fields hold from a student point of view.
In all cases they represent purely personal opinion and as such can be used as no absolute criterion. Although some of the authors have praised and others criticised their fields, all have tried to throw light on as many different aspects of their subjects as possible.
All of the important fields, important, that is, from the point of view of previous enrollment have already been treated, except History and Philosophy, which are considered today.
HISTORY FOSTERS LIBERAL EDUCATION
If the purpose of a liberal education be the achievement of a balanced and unprejudiced view of the world then nothing more exactly adapted to this end can be imagined than the study of history, its benefits are at least two. The first of these rests upon the axiom that history repeats itself. Of course it never does, precisely, and yet in another sense it is always doing so, and the student of history discovers in the experience of the race data which alone can enable him to understand intelligently the environment of the present. The past in ninety-nine hundredths of the present anyway, and not to be interested in history a man must go into the seclusion of a hermit.
Related to this is the second reason for the study of history. It is a constant exercise in escape from the strait-jacked of a provincial mind. An uneducated person sees the world from the point of view of his own narrow social and economic corner of it. He lacks the knack of forgetting the prejudices of his own trade, his own class, and his own particular country; he is incapable of seeing things whole. The historian who has undertaken to project his imagination into other times, to comprehend other customs and motives, is the more likely to achieve a similar vantage point in surveying the modern world. It is only the educated man who can cock an historical eye at his own times and the man who can do this is surely educated.
History is both broadening and broad. There are in the Department no less than 17 separate fields varying from Ancient History and the History of the Renaissance and the Reformation, to History of International Relations since 1500, and the History of Intellectual and Religious liberty. In the range of these a wide variety of related courses is accepted for concentration so that the department is adapted to men of greatly differing tastes. In this connection it is pertinent to scotch the myth that is every man's inheritance from secondary school that American history is a sterile and desolate waste. The usual preparatory school graduate, no fault of his, has seen American history through glasses so darkly distorting that it is fair to say he has not seen it all.
But it would be a great mistake to start the study of history at Harvard with too rosy a conception of it That would be merely to court disillusion for history at Harvard is not systematically taught with any other object that to fill out an outline of events; at least a mastery of the outline is sufficient to attain high distinction in the department, and the greater virtues of the subject an imaginative reconstruction of the past, the reading of whatever moral lessons it has to suggest, the application of it to the civilization of today are generally left to the devices of the student himself. Indeed it is admittedly difficult to escape altogether from the old-fashioned school of episodically historiography and particularly in the more elementary courses the temptation is to give the student the outline, have him memorize it, and let it go at that. This is a pity for the student is more than likely to miss the fascination of the subject altogether.
Modern knowledge has placed at the historian's command a host of new tools, the sciences of psychology, economics, geography, sociology, and the employment of these tends always in the direction of adding importance and significance to a study which formerly was the concern mainly of the antiquarian and the propagandist of patriotism. It is a question whether the faculty at Harvard has made the fullest possible use of these tools. Certainly eminent although some of its individual names undoubtedly are, there is at the University no thriving school of modern investigators, and most of its great achievements have been the achievements of single men.
In entering the Department of History the student has the benefit of working in the division which has done most to perfect the tutorial system the general examination, and all the new paraphernalia of education that go therewith. This is no mean consideration. One may study at Harvard and study at Harvard. It makes a vast difference exactly where. The Department of History is a good place.
The breadth of the field which it is required to master is in some respects a handicap. It is necessary to take examinations in Government and Economics as well as the departmental examination in History itself and the more specialized one in a specific field thereof. The result is a burden on the Senior probably greater than in most other divisions. It is not impossible that eventually the Division will see fit to permit the examinations in the related fields to be passed off some time before the close of the Senior year which would bring substantial relief to those enrolled in it. H. M. H. Jr.
PHILOSOPHY DEPARTMENT HAS GREAT VARIETY OF COURSES
To the eyes of the infant and the primitive race Nature presents a chactic activity that at first glance is terrifying and bewilderingly disjointed. In both cases adolescence brings a certain sophistication in regard to this chaos and at the same time a desire to introduce order. A vague suspicion is born that perhaps after all a clearer perspective will make possible a deduction of true values that remain untouched by the whirling flux of events. The child has become a philosopher. And it may be said that the hall mark of civilization has always been its ability to contribute to the ever widening stream of philosophical thought.
It is one of the great beauties of the Department of Philosophy at Harvard that its personnel makes possible a comprehensive approach to the problems a comprehensive approach to the problems of philosophy. This is true in regard to the subject matter involved and the manner in which it is presented. One may study as intensively as he likes any particular branch of philosophy, or his interests may go far afield to India under the guidance of Prof. Woods, or to China with Dr. Mei. With so diverse a possibility of stimulus it would be remarkable if one's intellectual curiosity were not aroused.
Philosophy is studied systematically and historically. In the first case it is divided into metaphysics, ethics and logics. Metaphysics is devoted to an examination of the essential nature of reality. It has a history extending far back into Greece, and farther into ancient India, where people first began to wonder what the panorama of Nature with all its manifestations might mean, and what might be man's place in the cosmical scheme. The problem of orienting oneself in regard to the totality of Nature is an important one. Metaphysics by itself is dealt with by Prof. Hocking in Philosophy 9. Ethics is the philosophy of living. It is devoted to the problem of finding out what are the true values in life and what may be the best method of achieving them. Logic is the study of reason, what is its mechanism, and what are its possibilities. This subject is treated by Dr. Sheffer whose ability in this field is widely recognized.
It may be said that the great virtue of studying philosophy is that it arouses an inner creative force which becomes stronger through application. It adds a certain meaning and dignity to life, and by deriving the universal it makes the concrete experience more valuable. B. C.
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