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PHD-DESIGN  February 2007

PHD-DESIGN February 2007

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Subject:

Re: Liberal?

From:

Ken Friedman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Ken Friedman <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 27 Feb 2007 10:31:51 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (94 lines)

Dear Gunnar,
  
On the chance that Joe missed a comment on this specific point, I'm going
to repost part of an earlier note.
  
There is no connection between the two uses of the word "liberal."
  
The term liberal has several meanings in politics, ranging from what
involves minimal government engagement in private-sector affairs. It is in
this sense that Adam Smith's economic vision was "liberal," as was Hayek's
vision or Coase's. In other places, the term may mean quite the opposite,
referring to government intervention in economic policies. It is in this
sense that Keynes's vision was liberal, as was Franklin Delano
Roosevelt's. The term has several meanings, depending on the nation, era,
and context.
  
Liberal education is something else. It has nothing to do with economic
policy, nor with relativism. I'm posting this note again because I would
hate to see us go down a slippery road debating issues that require
careful, long notes for clarity and precise meaning.
  
The term "liberal education" involves education related to or based on the
liberal arts. The liberal arts are those fields of study that derive from
the medieval trivium and quadrivium. The trivium consisted of grammar,
rhetoric, and logic. The quadrivium was comprised of arithmetic, music,
geometry, and astronomy. The idea of the seven arts was a form of learning
that prepared the educated person for a life of public participation in
the community as an educated citizen. Liberal education led to a
bachelor's degree. Following the bachelor's degree in the liberal arts,
one might move on to professional studies in such fields as law, medicine
or theology. Or, these days, design or engineering.
  
Today, a liberal education involves studies in such liberal arts as
literature or language, philosophy, the sciences, history, or mathematics
in a college or research university. The purpose of liberal arts study is
developing the character and intellect.
  
The primary distinction here involves the distinction between the liberal
arts and professional training for vocational skills.
  
Joe's note on relativism demonstrates the fact that he has not been
reading much in the liberal arts. The foremost advocates of liberal
education have often been strong critics of moral or epistemological
relativism. A liberal education gives one the knowledge and skill to place
issues in context. To understand something, one must see it in a
contextual and relational framework. This does not mean that one adopts
a "relativist" position.
  
As far as I am concerned, Joe got off on the wrong foot conflating these
two meanings of the word "liberal." The word that looks and sounds the
same, but it has different meanings. There is no connection between these
two uses of the word.
  
The complaint that Joe echoed in an earlier post had to do with the
complaint that some faculty members at North American universities are
supposedly biased toward political liberalism. Whether this is true or
not -- and I'd argue that it may not be so in North America today -- has
nothing to do with the liberal arts. The supposed biases occur across all
faculties including the professional schools. And many traditional liberal
arts faculties are home to political conservatives as well as anti-
relativists (who may not be politically conservative).
  
This thread mixes apples, oranges, cheese, and chalk.
  
Stating the kinds of sweeping claims that Joe offers requires clarity and
substantiation. Not to mention a look at John Dewey, Isaiah Berlin, Robert
Hutchins, Allan Bloom, and a few others of different political persuasions
yet all dedicated to the importance of the liberal arts.
  
Ken Friedman


On Mon, 26 Feb 2007 21:53:44 -0500, Swanson, Gunnar < [log in to unmask] >
wrote:
>Dr. Joseph Chiodo wrote on Mon 2/26/2007 9:37 PM:
>> My point was that yes, there is a connection.
>>
>> Chris Rust < [log in to unmask] > wrote:
>>> Is there ANY
>>> relationship between the two concepts of "liberal
>>> politics" and "liberal education"?
>
>Joe,
>
>Will you be more specific? What exactly is the connection between the two
uses of the word "liberal"?
>
>Gunnar
  
   
 
 
 

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