Roger Scruton, "The Virtue of Irrelevance," Untimely Tracts
(New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1987), pp. 1-2 (at 1):
Traditionally a large part of learning
was devoted to subjects which are wilfully 'irrelevant' — like Latin, Greek,
ancient history, higher mathematics, philosophy and literary criticism.
The syllabus recommended by ancient thinkers consisted almost entirely
of such subjects. And the ancient instinct was wise. The more irrelevant a
subject, the more lasting is the benefit that it confers. Irrelevant subjects
bring understanding of the human condition, by forcing the student to
stand back from it. They also enhance the appetite for life, by providing
material for thought and conversation.
This is the secret which civilisation has guarded: that power and
influence come through the acquisition of useless knowledge.