What Is a Scholar?
Read Part 1.
The idea of scholarship has narrowed over the centuries. During the later Middle Ages and the Renaissance, an ideal scholar would attempt to comprehend the entire body of human knowledge. As the corpus of knowledge expanded, however, the sciences and the humanities were gradually disengaged from one or the other, resulting in two sets of scholars. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, European universities (beginning with Berlin) were transformed into research institutions, and scholarship was increasingly viewed as advancement with a narrow specialization. This model was transplanted to North America, first at Johns Hopkins University and then in the schools connected with the American Association of Universities.
These shifts have resulted in two tensions surrounding the term “scholar.” First, some favor an older vision of scholarship that emphasizes broad learning, while others favor a definition focused more narrowly on advancing the frontiers of knowledge through specialized research and publishing. Second, the two halves of the academy tend to be suspicious of each other’s scholarship. Humanists sometimes dismiss scientists as mere technicians, while scientists sometimes write off the humanities as less than rigorous.
Read more about Fundamentalists and Scholarship, Part 2