Reading with Your Mind in Mind: The Cognitive and Social Benefits of Literary Fiction

I recently read this article and it both aggravated and encouraged me. Overall, it was a very encouraging article, touting the importance of a liberal arts education. But, several parts aggravated me, namely, the reported views of tech company founders/executives regarding the humanities—specifically, how some of these higher-ups think the humanities to be lesser disciplines than the STEM disciplines and, therefore, not worth a student’s while, such as this quoted view of Vinod Khosla: “If subjects like history and literature are focused on too early, it is easy for someone not to learn to think for themselves and not to question assumptions, conclusions, and expert philosophies.” While I respect Khosla’s innovativeness and success, I must wholeheartedly disagree with this assertion. It is in the humanities where we are uniquely taught to think for ourselves (at least in certain ways) and to tackle unique problems. No, the humanities don’t teach all types of thinking (e.g., research via the scientific method), but how often do the sciences educate us in asking and answering important existential, ethical, or metaphysical questions? And indeed, because of these unique mindsets that are developed in the humanities, as the author goes on to say, these individuals are able to solve otherwise seemingly intractable problems…even in a STEM discipline like computer programming. Continue reading