Assistant Professor of Philosophy Russell Marcus and alumnus Sam McNerney ’13 were included in a recent article in The Hedgehog Review that lauded the kind of intellectual inquiry frequently pursued on a liberal arts campus while questioning the viability of those very institutions. Appearing in the summer 2015 issue, “On the Value of Not Knowing Everything,” summarized McNerney’s quest, under Marcus’ direction, “to understand the enigma of the gap between mind and body” and to write a paper on the topic for an independent project.

The article described McNerney as “the kind of young scholar adored by the humanities. He’s inquisitive, open-minded, thrilled by the world of ideas, and touched with a tinge of old-school transcendentalism. … Ever mindful, ever curious, he is a poster boy for the humanities.”

Despite the praise for McNerney’s work, the article went on to question how many McNerneys still pursued complex philosophical questions on college campuses. “… it’s unclear how much longer the humanities can nurture the Sam McNerneys of the world. Even at Hamilton—a solid liberal arts college—McNerney was, by his own assessment, something of a black sheep. As he indulged the life of the mind, grappling earnestly with timeless philosophical problems, his friends prepared themselves for lucrative careers in law, medicine, and finance. They never criticized his choice—“They never said, ‘You’re going to live a shitty life, Sam,’” he told me—but they didn’t rush to join him in the mosh pit of thought, either.”

The article highlighted the facts that “economics has skyrocketed as a preferred major, with the number of economics majors growing almost threefold at traditionally humanities-inclined institutions such as Brown University. The acronym STEM—science, technology, engineering, mathematics—is now part of every university’s lingua franca.”

The Hedgehog Review is published three times a year by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, an interdisciplinary research center at the University of Virginia.

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