Interesting essay here. Jacoby claims that academics over the last generation have become increasingly isolated, and blogs are nothing more than private journals broadcast with a megaphone. (Also a bit shaming, as here I am blogging about it!)
UPDATE: Here is a related essay by Stanley Fish, on the topic of “what’s the use of the humanities?” His surprising answer is that the Humanities are not of any use — their value is not instrumental toward other things, but they are valuable in and of themselves. That’s neat, but I am wary of insulating the Humanities from all practical activities. The Humanities, properly studied, change lives, and complicate them.
An anecdote: last term I taught a big Humanities class, and one of the assigned readings was by Heidegger. The principal claim we discussed is that today we have forgotten the question of Being, and no other question is as important. One student, in his response, wrote that he thought Heidegger was right that the question of Being is fundamentally important. But the student thought we shouldn’t spend much time thinking about it, because such thinking can only get in the way of progress and advancement. (!!!!!) It would seem that a more thorough education in the Humanities might get folks to recognize that some things are more important than ‘progress.’