As a BA student, I get this kind of mocking question all the time. This particular one has been bothering me for months. As per usual, it is impossible to come up with a witty/intellectual response when something like that gets thrown at you like a hot potato. Today, however, I found a perfect response that could be pitched to this type of ignorant question while simultaneously asserting the importance of the social sciences/humanities as a field of study.
Q: “How many BA Students does it take to pour a drink?” (This question was posed by an Engineering Student if anyone was wondering)
A: Well, even though it might take a considerable amount of us to do this simple task, it is not a reflection of our stupidity – on the contrary, we have passionately internalised many of the ideals of well-loved philosophers who are unfortunately not well-known to the general sphere of the population.
From their rational classics, we understand the importance of pooling together the social forces in a community in order not only to get things done more efficiently, but also to benefit our humanity by doing so. If we are all pouring drinks together, do we not then simplify the task considerably for each individual? Are we not then less likely to spill? Do we not then gain more of a sense of camaraderie and happiness out of such a seemingly mundane, everyday activity?
Those of you who trust solely in Science, Accounting and Technology, fail at harnessing the vast and meaningful possibilities contained within humanity and the human psyche. Yes, you might build a machine to pour numerous drinks; yes, building one shows that you are very clever; yes, it is very impressive. But do you gain a sense of your own humanity out of it? Do you feel better having all these already-poured drinks ready with no one to help you drink them?
Point is, even if you do have all these drinks to yourself, you’ll merely end up putting yourself into a severely depressed, comatose stupor. And this is precisely what we in the humanities department are trying to avoid you from doing.
Where the Natural Sciences assume happiness can only be achieved by making our lives more effective (and hence, more technological), the Social Sciences challenge this assumption and come up with a great many creative responses. Most of the general public would, unfortunately, just dismiss these (actually) very rational theories as “hocus pocus” – doesn’t this remind you a bit of those “silly” people who dismissed Galileo Galilei’s theory without giving it a second thought?
Don’t misunderstand me – the Natural Sciences as well as Technological Advancements definitely serve their own benefits in our society (just imagine if you could have a great big machine pouring drinks while all of us could talk about the essence of life and stuff!). And then as soon as we realise that the machine is becoming too much of a focus and that social interaction is wavering and that consequently ideas on happiness and life are stagnating, the Social Sciences can step in again in order to retain our sense of meaningfulness!
A last idea that I will leave you with:
“Q: What went wrong in our society that undermined freedom and fulfilment and instead served enslavement and unfulfilment?
A: A Technological-Rational approach has been extended from the (rightful) domination of nature to the (wrongful) domination of people and society. It is not Science and Technology per se that are enslaving, but how we choose to use Science and Technology”
– Idea attributed to Jürgen Habermas