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Mizzou, Yale Show Why We Need More Philosophy Majors

Mizzou, Yale Show Why We Need More Philosophy Majors

At Yale, during a debate over the role of administrators in discouraging offensive Halloween costumes, a professor argued that students should be treated as adults and allowed to make their own costume decisions. Her point was considered so offensive that students are trying to get her removed from campus. Her call for tolerance was deemed intolerable.

These episodes are not new. In this year's The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech, Kirsten Powers documents a host of episodes, mostly on college campuses, in which liberals ("so-called liberals," tolerant liberals might say) try to silence dissenting views. Many other opinion writers, of various ideological leanings, have also warned of the dangers of the trend. "The Coddling of the American Mind" by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt and published in The Atlantic is one of the most cited articles on the topic.

The Week's Damon Linker has written much on the subject. Responding Wednesday to Mizzou and Yale, he wrote,

"Striking and maintaining the right balance between absolutism and relativism, confident self-advocacy and intellectual humility can be a tricky business. Achieving it is indeed a mark of civilized life.

"But it is also a precondition for liberal citizenship, which demands that people stand up for what they believe in while simultaneously remaining alive to the inevitable partiality of their perspective on the truth — and therefore to the possibility that someone else just might end up being right.

"Toleration is the name we give to this moral and epistemological balancing act. It is the preeminently liberal virtue.

"Which is why the rejection of it by so many on our college campuses — and our response to that rejection — is so important."

The way liberal virtues are taught, for the most part, is through a liberal arts education. Philosophy is not only one of the liberal arts, it is foundational to all the liberal arts. And, the liberal arts are not just for liberal art majors. They are a core component to all K-12 education and compose the bulk of required courses for all college majors.

Oh the irony. As campus liberals (or "liberals") demonstrate their lack of classical liberal virtues, a leading Republican presidential candidate demonstrates a disdain for the instillment of classical liberal virtues. This encapsulates a problem I've written about before: the liberal arts are under bipartisan attack. See, "Why Are Republicans (and Obama) Attacking the Liberal Arts? (Part 1)," and "3 Reasons Republicans (and Obama) Should Stop Attacking the Liberal Arts (Part 2)."

As I wrote in part 2:

"Democracies need the liberal arts. A free society depends upon a well-educated public. Alternatively, a less educated public is more susceptible to various forms of authoritarianism. A public with the broad education provided by the liberal arts is better equipped to hold their political leaders accountable and to manage the diverse interests of democratic societies."

"But philosophy departments are just a bunch of liberals," my conservative readers are probably saying right now. The response to bad philosophy, though, should be better philosophy, not no philosophy.

If liberal arts departments lack diverse viewpoints because they are dominated by liberals, an abandonment of the liberal arts by conservatives will only exacerbate the problem. The solution to too few conservatives in philosophy departments is for more conservatives to major in philosophy.

So, if you're a young conservative reading this now, consider majoring in the liberal arts (contrary to what Rubio said, it can pay quite well). Unless, of course, your gifts lie in welding, which is fine too.

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Contact:, @NappNazworth (Twitter)


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