The following comes from Wieseltier's May 19th commencement speech at Brandeis University. Read the whole speech in The New Republic.
"There is no task more urgent in American intellectual life at this
hour than to offer some resistance to the twin imperialisms of science
and technology, and to recover the old distinction — once bitterly
contested, then generally accepted, now almost completely forgotten –
between the study of nature and the study of man. As Bernard Williams
once remarked, “’humanity’ is a name not merely for a species but also
for a quality." You who have elected to devote yourselves to the study
of literature and languages and art and music and philosophy and
religion and history — you are the stewards of that quality. You are the
resistance. You have had the effrontery to choose interpretation over
calculation, and to recognize that calculation cannot provide an
accurate picture, or a profound picture, or a whole picture, of
self-interpreting beings such as ourselves; and I commend you for it.
not believe the rumors of the obsolescence of your path. If Proust was a
neuroscientist, then you have no urgent need of neuroscience, because
you have Proust. If Jane Austen was a game theorist, then you have no
reason to defect to game theory, because you have Austen. There is no
greater bulwark against the twittering acceleration of American
consciousness than the encounter with a work of art, and the experience
of a text or an image. You are the representatives, the saving remnants,
of that encounter and that experience, and of the serious study of that
encounter and that experience – which is to say, you are the
counterculture. Perhaps culture is now the counterculture.
"So keep your heads. Do not waver. Be very proud. Use
the new technologies for the old purposes. Do not be rattled by
numbers, which will never be the springs of wisdom. In upholding the
humanities, you uphold the honor of a civilization that was founded upon
the quest for the true and the good and the beautiful. For as long as
we are thinking and feeling creatures, creatures who love and imagine
and suffer and die, the humanities will never be dispensable. From this
day forward, then, act as if you are indispensable to your society,
because – whether it knows it or not – you are."