Sunday, June 11, 2006

Renaissance man vs. specialization

The problem with the ethic of specialization is that it creates minds that are good at one thing but are ignorant of other things. Thus, they make choices based upon the mentality of one area of human endeavor while having no knowledge of the others (and frequently having contempt therefor). This leads to errors; it also leads to bad citizenship. The people begin deciding that their specialization is the only one that matters, and develop disregard and contempt for all other human endeavors no matter how worthwhile they are. The people begin judging intelligence, character and all other qualities according to the standard of their profession and imposing upon the world that standard. Until we get to a situation in which programmers start attacking everyone else for supposedly being stupid because the professions they
practice demand a different way of thinking - and say such things as "Can artists program in Java?" - to which the correct response is "Can programmers fly F-15"?

The ethic of specialization leads to a rock mentality, in which people are ignorant of the world they inhabit and of all the richness of cross-fertilization and human endeavor and forms of intelligence that makes it possible. The ethic of specialization makes people unappreciative of all else that it takes to make the world work. Finally - and this is the most sinister of these situations - the ehtic
of specialization makes people intolerant of other qualities and talents besides ones used in their profession, resulting in a caste-like system in which people prevent their children from developing abilities no matter how much they stand to contribute through their development.

The ethic of specialization furthermore has a negative effect on the people themselves. They become rigid; intolerant; paranoid; adapted to only one niche and afraid to step out anywhere else. The fear of the unknown - unknown because they are specialized in only one thing and are not prepared to understand or accept anything else - leads them to cruelty and intolerance. Far from being bliss, their ignorance becomes a cause of nightmarish existence, both for others and for themselves.

The specialization ethic creates people who are incomplete; and being incomplete are not accepting of anyone else's completeness. It creates people who become mistrustful of anything other than themselves and of any gifts people have other than ones they choose in their professions. The infrastructure required to sustain this state of affairs becomes rigid, cruel, and turns easily toward malevolence and oppression. These aren't coincidental; these are direct and inevitable result of the
ethic of specialization.

When a person is versed in many things, on the other hand, he becomes more and more the completeness of what he can be. He also becomes a better citizen, capable of checking the wrong in any given pursuit and capable of assisting the right that is in it. He is not as ignorant of the world and therefore not as paranoid or intolerant. He understands the value of other ways of thinking and other professions and is more willing to let people around him find their way to pursuits for which
they are suited the most, while appreciating those engaged in other pursuits. From rigid narcissism that refuses to accept any other professions or modes of thought or abilities or forms of intellect than what one practices in one's specialization, one turns to greater wisdom and greater understanding and greater tolerance. The inner experience is enriched; disposition improves; likewise grows respect for, compassion for, and understanding of others. People improve; so does experience of life; so does the civilization.

Which means that moving from ethic of specialization to ethic of Renaissance will improve the lives of many and the condition of the civilization as such.

Ilya Shambat.


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