Letter: Unfair cultural caricatures of Leavis the 'Luddite'

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The Independent Online
Sir: It is a very sad thing that nearly 16 years after his death F. R. Leavis should still be subject to caricature and misrepresentation. I am referring to the pronounced lack of balance in the sketch of Leavis, compared with C. P. Snow, in the Independent (Section II; 'When the English don went nuclear', 24 March).

Frederic Raphael palters with the truth so successfully that it would take a long letter to correct his account in detail. But it is untrue to say, as Mr Raphael does, that Leavis held that 'the purpose of a humane education was to nurture the moral self-sufficiency necessary to resist, if not prevent, the very technological revolution that Snow advocated' (my emphases).

For Leavis the purpose of education was to foster a kind of intelligence which could diagnose the coarseness of Snow's criteria in setting up his 'two cultures' in the first place. Leavis was profoundly concerned (and, in the light of subsequent events, rightly so) about the moral damage that must result from simple-minded conceptions of what 'literature' and 'science' were 'about' and (I quote from his lecture 'There is only one culture', published in his Nor Shall My Sword) 'to point out these things is not to be a Luddite'.

Yours faithfully,


Emeritus Professor of

Social Anthropology

Lewes, East Sussex

24 March

(Photograph omitted)