In response to philosopher Simon Blackburn’s portrayal of complacency as a vice that impairs university study at its core, John T. Hamilton examines the history of complacency in classics and its implications for our contemporary moment.
The subjects, philosophies, and literatures of ancient Greece and Rome were once treated as the foundation of learning, with everything else devolving from them. Hamilton investigates what this model of superiority, derived from the golden age of the classical tradition, shares with the current hegemony of mathematics and the natural sciences. He considers how the qualitative methods of classics relate to the quantitative positivism of big data, statistical reasoning, and presumably neutral abstraction, which often dismiss humanist subjectivity, legitimize self-sufficiency, and promote a fresh brand of academic complacency. In acknowledging the reduced status of classics in higher education today, he questions how scholarly striation and stagnation continue to bolster personal, ethical, and political complacency in our present era.