Fifth lecture in the Value of Humanities series in which Professor Helen Small discusses the idea that a flourishing democracy needs the Humanities.
This is the most ambitious argument now regularly heard for the humanities in Britain and more widely-close to a piety for many of their advocates. It has a proximate source in the American liberal arts tradition and prominent recent exponents in Martha Nussbaum, Geoffrey Harpham, and (in the UK) Francis Mulhern. Its longer roots lie in Socrates' claim to be 'a sort of gadfly, given to the polis'. This lecture puts the argument to the test, examining the strengths but also the weaknesses of the claim, and making a case for adapting and modernizing what was, in its origins, a description of the philosopher as isolated agitant (not, as it now needs to be, a description befitting institutionally-based professionals).