Short Takes: Against Specialization

I wrote a few months ago about the problems with the over-specialization that plagues the Academy. This morning I’m reading Aristotle’s Parts of Animals, which begins thusly:

Every study and investigation, the humblest and the noblest alike, seems to admit of two kinds of proficiency; one of which may be properly called educated knowledge of the subject, while the other is a kind of acquaintance with it. For an educated man should be able to form a fair judgement as to the goodness or badness of an exposition. To be educated is in fact to be able to do this; and the man of general education we take to be such. It will, however, of course, be understood that we only ascribe universal education to one who in his own individual person is thus able to judge nearly all branches of knowledge, and not one who has a like ability merely in some special subject. For it is possible for a man to have this competence in some one branch of knowledge.

It’s a sign of how far we’ve fallen that the polymath is now considered a “jack of all trades and master of none.” Now to go educate myself…

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