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The Two Cultures: and a Second Look. an Expanded Version of the Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution
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The Two Cultures: and a Second Look. an Expanded Version of the Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  412 ratings  ·  46 reviews
This is a reissue of Snow's controversial Rede lecture of 1959 and its successor piece, with an introduction by Stefan Collini.
Hardcover, 107 pages
Published July 30th 1993 by Cambridge University Press (first published 1959)
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Nick Black
Another fine selection from Canto's outstanding line of Cambridge Publishing reprints, CP Snow's seminal essay is referenced widely enough -- and simply enough grokked -- that one might consider it, as Calvino wrote, with "Books Everyone Else Has Read and So It's As If You've Read Them, Too". It's short and absolutely worth your time, with an excellent critical essay introducing the polemic itself (noting especially the litotic third taxon of Snow's partitioning).
Ray Cavanaugh
I am surprised this work is not more a part of the liberal arts college curriculum; it’s clearly written, pretty short, and addresses a very interesting, relevant issue – the split between literary intellectuals and scientific intellectuals.

These two groups, each comprised of many very smart people, seem to exist largely in a state of mutual incomprehension (and sometimes mistrust, even scorn).

For so many scientists, their literary experience is limited to “a bit of Dickens.”

In the literary cu...more
Occasionally we reimagine particular, limited critiques as tools for broader cultural analysis. Keely, one of my favorite reviewers, claims that Said's Orientalism is a good example of this. In his reading, the work's principal focus is on the academy and a handful of Orientalist (in the neutral sense, I suppose) scholars, and less so the broad Orientalist discourse of which the academy plays some small role.

C.P. Snow's work inverts this: it aspires to create a general framework for analyzing th...more
Let's say 3.5 stars.

Snow's general argument, that science people and humanities people should just all get along already, is near and dear to my heart. I went to a nerdy science high school, so half my classmates were practically born with a slide rule in their hand, and the other half were the children of doctors and lawyers who wanted their kids to go to the good public high school but who were not exactly thrilled about all the math they were being subjected to. (It was an interesting early l...more
While Snow did refer to his family background and class, it wasn't until Collini's introduction that I understood just how much the 'two cultures' were wrapped up in class issues. After understanding the historical background of the lecture, it is obvious that Snow was coming from a deeply personal place and did indeed view literary elites as 'the enemy,' not just of scientists, but of innovation.

While Snow refers to big, sometimes emotive ideas, i.e. world peace through closing the gap between...more
dead letter office
the author (who was some sort of a scientist and also some sort of a literary figure) examines what he sees to be the growing divide between the scientific community and the humanities. it's not that it's dated, because the divide is still there, but his approach to the problem seems (fifty years on) a little naive and maybe a bit alarmist.

it would be kind of nice if educated people took some kind of interest in science and mathematics, though. and nothing frustrates me more than scientists and...more
The premise of Snow's lecture is probably well known - immersed in their respective intellectual domains, scientists and literary people regard each with incomprehension and even slight disdain. This is probably as true as ever, though Snow is specifically making an argument about the British educational system and what it needs to do to adapt to the late 20th century.

Cut directly to the current American debate on "preparing students for 21st century jobs" and Snow's statistics on the rate of pr...more
May 20, 2009 Eric_W marked it as to-read
Fascinating essay about the book by Peter Dizikes: who discusses whether a "third culture" (evolutionary biologists, psychologists and neurscientists) is "superseding literary artists in their ability to 'shape the thoughts of their generation.' "
Delightful quick autobiographical read details Snow's mutually exclusive circles of literary and scientific friends. I notice much the same in my own life. I don't meet many mathematicians, scientists or technicians who are into poetry or literature generally.
Snow's Rede Lecture "The two cultures" today looks still interesting and to a good part prophetic. As he himself recognized in "A second look", he had most probably only the merit of pointing out the matter at the right time and eventually place (Cambridge). The matter is the division among intellectuals between humanism and science. This gap causes bad uncommunicability between the parties, with the former essentially advocating the title itself of intellectuals only for themselves while being...more
John E. Branch Jr.
Though the details of this work tie it to rather specific issues and one particular country, C. P. Snow's 1959 Rede Lecture points to a broader concern: modern Westerners tend either to understand the sciences or to understand the humanities but not both. It's easy to ask whether that matters and not so easy to make the case that it does. In his lecture, Snow attempts it.

I won't give a recap; you can find a decent summary and critique here. I'll add only an interesting sidelight. Snow was himse...more
Scott Smith
For my science and lit class we started out with this text to illustrate the argument that science and the humanities exist on totally different planes from one another and are mutually incomprehensible and that society is suffering because of it. Snow says that as our society continues to educate people with increasing specialization the gap between the two cultures widens. Apparently in his time (1959) the literary or humanity culture is deemed the dominant one, and does not trust science or r...more
I grabbed this in the library thinking from the description that it would be about the cultural divide between scientists and non-scientists (Humanities) and the imperative need for better communication. As I read Snow's lecture and follow-up, however, I realized this isn't completely true.

That is one of his points, certainly, extending to a call for greater efforts in elementary science education. But his purpose and ultimate argument extends to basic class differences (in Britain of his day),...more
Top secret, I didn't actually read this edition; the version I have included 'A Second Look,' a re-examination of the original lectures in light of some outside criticism, the fast-paced changing world, and so on. I found this for three bucks in a used bookstore along with the Chomsky-Foucault slugfest on human nature.

Aside from the whole idea of introducing the split between humanities folks and hard scientists, this book really doesn't say a whole lot. I guess it was okay; I don't have any re...more
Procyon Lotor
Ultimo colpo di coda del problema prima della resa definitiva. Due sono almeno e lo rimarranno probabilmente per un bel po' perch� i fisici sono in grado di capire la letteratura ma non � vero l'inverso; in compenso ci� che oggi � scienza ai suoi apici, � inutile nel 99% dei casi nella vita di tutti i giorni, al contrario della letteratura. Prima di fare obiezioni, ricordate per favore che noi usiamo la tecnica, non la scienza e che un dilettante evoluto arriva con decenti nozioni scientifiche f...more
Anthony Faber
I'd heard about this for ages, but only got around to reading it now. The interesting thing is that what aI heard about it made is sound like it was just about academia, and didn't really (to my recollection) mention what I view is the important thing, which is his take on how to get the third world out of poverty. His view of industry as a cure is a bit rosy, but if we're going to get the poor parts of the world out of poverty, I don't see any other way. He actually suggested sending our scient...more
Eric Chevlen
The introduction to this book, by Stefan Collini, gives a useful perspective on British intellectual history, and helps frame the issues which Snow discussed. Snow's purpose in writing, it seems, was to urge a change in the education system so that humanists and scientists would communicate better. Toward what end? So that the material benefits of the scientific and industrial revolutions could be extended to the masses of humanity, the wretched of the earth. Snow's concern for hoi polloi is com...more
Stefano Finazzo
C.P. Snow está pensando principalmente na sociedade inglesa ao falar sobre "as duas culturas", e muitas das coisas a que ele se refere são realmente especificidades dessa sociedade em finais dos anos 50; mas a idéia de que o mundo acadêmico pode ser dividido, com boa aproximação, em duas culturas, uma literária e outra científica, que não se comunicam nem falam a mesma linguagem, se aplica ao Brasil. De forma muito mais perniciosa e intrusiva que na sociedade inglesa, na minha opinião.

Por fim, o...more
Although dated, I don't think the main underlying thesis, which is quite simple, is hurt.

In "A Second Look", Snow decries his own choice of title for his lecture: "Before I wrote the lecture I thought of calling it 'The Rich and the Poor', and I rather wish that I hadn't changed my mind" (79). Indeed, the lecture and critique/retrospective is more a lament of the guilt that has come to rest on applied scientists and industrial leaders. That there are still people starving to death in a world whe...more
The split and subsequent rancor between the humanities, on the one hand, and the sciences, on the other, was first made explicit by C.P. Snow in this Lede lecture delivered I believe in 1954. He generalizes a little too much in parts and could have delved deeper into just how the split is to be bridged. The afterword deals with the criticism that the lecture provoked which I could have done without.

The book would've gotten three stars had it not been for Colinni's Introduction in which he talks...more
This is well written (both the original Two Cultures, which was a lecture, and the Second Look a few years later). Both parts are composed of two pieces, one on scientific v. literary culture, and the other on industrial v. developing nations. Snow doesn't adequately explain why these two topics have anything to do with each other. He also holds an attitude toward developing nations that was probably quite progressive in 1959, but seems problematic now. He thinks industrial nations shouldn't be...more
Ioannis Savvas
Το να μην γνωρίζεις τον Δεύτερο Νόμο της Θερμοδυναμικής είναι σαν να μην γνωρίζεις τρία έργα του Σαίξπηρ. Με αυτή τη δήλωση ο συγγραφέας θέλει να τονίσει το χάσμα, την ασυνεννοησία και την τεράστια απόσταση που χωρίζει τους δύο πολιτισμούς: τους ανθρώπους της "κλασικής" παιδείας και τους επιστήμονες, ιδιαίτερα των εφαρμοσμένων επιστημών. Η διάλεξη αυτή δόθηκε στο Πανεπιστήμιο του Cambridge το 1959 και θεωρείται κλασική. Ο συγγραφέας αναλύει τις αιτίες αυτού του φαινομένου και προτείνει λύσεις: β...more
This book will be useful for those who study education or scientific philosophy because it describes higher education systems of the U.K., the U.S., and some of European countries of that time (1950s). C.P. Snow argues that a cultural gap exists between literary intellectuals and natural scientists and the U.K's education system is one of factors that have accelerated broadening the gap. He emphasizes the importance of balancing knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities with being inclined to a n...more
Snow criticized the intellectuals (by this he means people from social sciences I think) very much about their attitude against society and politics. For example he says many intellectuals such as Ezra Pound were Nazi admirer and those sorts of things less frequent in scientific world. Also he criticized intellectuals because almost all of them have no idea about science. He says he was shocked when he heard intellectual he talked had no idea about the second law of thermodynamics. In the same w...more
Oct 05, 2008 Gloria rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: historians of science, cultural studies, etc.
Introduction to this edition is extremely worthwhile.

Otherwise, for me, a fascinating read in that most of my post-HS life, I had heard of this lecture, and of course of "the two cultures." To read it, and especially this edition's very long introduction which places the lecture in context and carries on from there), was enlightening. Snow's observations are perhaps, I think, less relevant to the specific divide (between literature and science) but still holds true due to the "silos" that exist...more
The most remarkable aspect of reading this book is how remarkable it once was. I don't really get it. I also happened to pick up Joseph Schumpeter's "Science and Ideology," a speech he gave to the American Economic Association in 1948, and that tells me a lot more about cultures, biases, and the progress of science and social science than I gained from reading Snow. Snow's predictions about communist countries overtaking the West and the developing world developing are almost caricatures of scie...more
Un saggio che avevo intenzione di leggere già nel 2000, ma che poi è finito nel dimenticatoio. Fino a due mesi fa, quando, su questo stesso sito, si è parlato di David Foster Wallace come di «una specie di letterato rinascimentale che si interessa di un mucchio di cose», e lo si è fatto in occasione della recensione di Tutto e di più. Storia compatta dell’∞. Ebbene, la lettura di quella recensione è stata decisiva a spingermi all’acquisto e allo studio del presente saggio.

Continua a leggere: htt...more
James R. C.  Baker
I read the copy my step-dad gave me to explore the two cultures of our family and culture.
Christopher Intagliata
Oct 10, 2007 Christopher Intagliata rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: scientists, journalists and their offspring
Interesting discourse on the invisible walls that divide scientists from journalists. At one point he asks his friends in humanities professorships if they know the second law of thermodynamics, and rates this a question of similar difficulty to "Have you read Shakespeare" when posed to scientists.

I disagree with Snow here as I think the second law of thermodynamics is much more esoteric taking into account the common knowledge obtained in an American high school education. Nonetheless a thought...more
A touchstone, clearly laying out ideas that help in thinking.
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