Leadership and the Humanities

Which hero, which story? René Descartes and Giambattista Vico on the humanities and leadership education

A.J. Grant *

Keywords: Descartes, Vico, humanities, leadership, management, narrative


This essay explores the debate currently taking place about the role of the humanities in higher education in general and management and leadership education in particular. This debate is not new, but begins with the writings of René Descartes and Giambattista Vico who have very different views of the value of the humanities. Descartes attempts to reduce education to a narrow rational method while Vico, who certainly valued math and science, also included the humanities, and provides a far richer model for higher education in general and leadership education in particular. The essay also reviews the renewed interest in narrative in a number of disciplines, which harks back to Vico's understanding of the importance of history and narrative and has enjoyed a revival of interest among psychologists, sociologists, and philosophers as well as among management and leadership educators. Finally, the essay argues for the importance of a contemporary commitment to the arts and humanities as critical for the development of curricula for management and leadership programs.

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