‘Two 文化s’ turns 50

01 May 2009 罗伯特·P·折痕

罗伯特·P·折痕 asks why the idea of the “two 文化s”, coined by C P 雪 50 years ago, still feels so current —尽管提倡这一想法的书既过时又有缺陷


Half a century ago this month, the physicist and author Charles Percy 雪 (1905—1980) delivered the annual Rede Lecture in the Senate House of the University of Cambridge. (Usually referred to as C P 雪, he was later made a life peer and enjoyed appearing in the House of Lords as Baron 雪, despite being a self-professed socialist.) Its title — “The Two Cultures” — referred to a gulf 雪 diagnosed between “文学知识分子” and “natural scientists”,并阐述了他在 新政治家 三年前。演讲发表于 遭遇 1959年6月和7月,然后作为书。

Soon after the book appeared, critics attacked 雪’作家的能力,科学家的成就,概念的严谨性,特征的合法性以及主张的有效性。然而,这本书仍在印刷中,其著名的用语继续描述仍然被认为存在于艺术与科学之间的鸿沟。

雪’这本书确实有缺陷。他的风格是非正式的:他的观念“culture”含糊不清,他诉诸轶事,个人回忆和他所说的“地下聊天室”. His most famous piece of evidence is his tale of parties he attended at which 文学知识分子 not only could not describe the second law of thermodynamics, but bristled at his suggestion that a 文化d person ought to be able to do so.

A second flaw is stereotyping and naivety. 雪 characterized scientists as predominantly lower class, progressive, optimistic and forward-looking; and 文学知识分子 as largely upper class, conservative, pessimistic and content with the status quo. He naively asserted that education could overcome the divide between the 两种文化, that “技术相当容易”,贫富差距到2000年将消失。

雪’s tone, too, is occasionally disturbing. Resentment is detectable in his descriptions of literary 文化, and in the 新政治家 文章中,他表现出了一些偶然的恐同症,当时他形容科学家为“稳定的异性恋”, lacking the “feline and oblique”他暗示,这个角色是在文学界发现的。


But few of 雪’s detractors —包括美国评论家莱昂内尔·特里林(Lionel Trilling)和英国评论家F R Leavis— seem to have read him carefully. 雪 freely acknowledged that he was using “culture”松散地此外,公共演讲需要洞察和反思—甚至挑衅和娱乐— rather than scholasticism, and here 雪 triumphed. The second-law anecdote was brilliant: the law is not a mere bit of information, but the expression of a key structure of our world, knowledge of which checks humanity’s deeply ingrained but dangerous fantasies. 雪 used this example to expose a scandalous synecdoche in the literary world, in which its 文化 is equated with the whole of 文化.

Few critics, too, appreciate that 雪 used language differently from literary critics. He was neither advancing claims nor outlining a theory; he was using the anecdotes to call something to our attention for us to see ourselves. Philosophers call such use of language “formal indication”。它是指示性的,因为它仅是指向某样东西,而不是详细描述它,因为我们知道会有所不同。它是正式的,因为它提供了足够的线索,因此我们仍然可以识别它。

雪’的迹象使我们能够在半个世纪后的另一个世界中认识到两种文化的鸿沟。最近在一次晚宴上,我与一位数学家对面,他断言他的专业工作位于一个特殊,理想的数学世界中,这需要花费数年的时间才能掌握,因此我被排除在外,感到非常舒服–但是谁期望我作为哲学家的专业工作应该用几句话就可以完全向他解释,而谁却嘲笑了我,而我却说不行。我也认识到历史学家,小说家和哲学家在态度上存在两种文化鸿沟,他们嘲笑认为通过人类思考时需要纳入科学的想法’s “important questions”;我命名的条件— with less flair than 雪 — “anosognosia” (物理世界 2005年9月第19页和2006年2月第18页)。

Finally, most critics fail to notice that 雪’s ultimate concern was moral. It was not with the 两种文化 as such, but with the Venetian shadow. In its last half-century, the Venetian Republic was powerful, lucky and wealthy; its leaders patriotic, tough and pragmatic. Yet they could not stop the republic from sliding into decline, due to entrenched habits that prevented them from mobilizing their vast resources. The Venetian shadow still haunts us, 雪 thought. To banish it, we must overhaul our overspecialized educational system — and that’s why the 两种文化 matters.


The flood of responses inspired by the book led 雪 to compare himself to the sorcerer’s apprentice. Its continuing popularity is indeed surprising, given that 雪’s expectations were unrealistic, his description of 文化 simplistic and his characterizations stereotyped.

知道第二定律的文学知识分子的数量可能略多于斯诺’的时间,这要感谢托马斯·品钦(Thomas Pynchon)和汤姆·斯托帕德(Tom Stoppard)这样的作家,他们已经将其纳入了自己的作品。某些新的学术领域,例如科学技术研究,跨越了两种文化。然而,这些很小的事态发展使两个方面基本上保持不变。短语的相关性“two 文化s”继续科学孩子和人文科学孩子仍然坐在午餐室的不同桌子旁。厌食症仍然困扰着他们,以及无耻的不对称“culture”主要与人文教育有关。然而,最令人不安的是,斯诺的the息仍在继续’这个短语应该迫使我们重新思考我们今天想要的解决方案’的道德问题,包括能源政策,全球变暖和基因工程。


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