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The Different Sides to the Literate Arts

Powerful Essays
In “The Dark Night of the Soul,” Richard Miller attempts to find the purpose of the humanities. Miller argues that the humanities give access to the best ideas of human beings. He discusses the positives and negatives of literature, from the common idea that reading is a sure way to improving one’s quality of life, to the unintended consequences of taking the ideas of others to the extreme. If the written word can be used for both good and bad, then what is the purpose of the humanities?
The humanities are made up of disciplines that make up human culture, from law, history, philosophy, literature, and the fine arts. Through these fields, important knowledge from the past can be passed through the generations, adding to the wealth of human knowledge. Students spend countless hours in libraries, trying to acquire knowledge through the writings of others. This has happened for generations, as Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “Meek young men grow up in libraries, believe it is their duty to accept the views, which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote these books.” (Emerson, 2) This is the side of humanities that is most conducive to creating a better tomorrow. Liberal arts are not to be taken as fact, or the only view on such a complicated and multi-viewed world, but the liberal arts are there as a food for thought, a way to spark new minds with the same vigor as those before, to create their own knowledge and to understand and discover the world around them. But what are students exposed to in these libraries? An example of typical readings found by students in university libraries may be Jean-Jaques Rousseau’s A Social Contract. In his famo...

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...vid. “Introduction: Ways of Reading." Ways Of Reading: An Anthology for Writers. Bartholomae, David. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin, 2011. 1-15. Print.

Emerson, Ralph W. "The American Scholar." The World's Famous Orations. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.

Freire, Paulo. “The Banking Concept of Education” Ways Of Reading: An Anthology for Writers. Bartholomae, David. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin, 2011. 318-332. Print.

Miller, Richard E. "The Dark Night of the Soul." Ways Of Reading: An Anthology for Writers. Bartholomae, David. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin, 2011. 420-443. Print.

Plato. The Republic. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.

Rand, Ayn. Anthem. Expanded 50th anniversary ed. New York: Signet, 1995. Print.

Rousseau, Jean Jacques. "Rousseau: Social Contract: Book 1." Rousseau: Social Contract. Constitution Society, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.
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