[lit-ideas] Re: Sounds right to me

  • From: wokshevs@xxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 12 Dec 2008 17:24:43 -0330

"Liberal" - whatever could it possibly mean?

I'm wondering whether "liberal" education has much to do with the "liberal" in
"Liberalism" as in political conceptions of it. If the two are connected, I
would think that the moral imperatives of "Liberalism" are somehow operative in
"Liberal Education." If that is the case, are we not saying that the
appropriation of moral and intellectual dispositions is somehow facilitated by
the study of the aims and methodologies of the disciplines of knowledge we have
constructed up to this point? Here, I'm thinking of M. Oakeshott, A. Bloom and
Paul H. Hirst in the contemporary era. They all side with Socrates over against
the Sophists who privileged rhetoric, the techniques of oratory and persuasion,
over the disciplinary pursuit of truth and knowledge. (I'm being a tad
allegorical here, of course.)

I can't sign-off without sharing a recollection of Prof. Mario Bunge. In the
Winter of '75, I had to choose between Taylor's course on Hegel and Bunge's
course on the Philosophy of Science. I alternated my attendance between the two
courses for 2 weeks, thereby missing out on any logical coherence and
continuity offered by the respective course curriculums. But the 70s were just
like that. 

I was mesmerized by Taylor's lectures.  His reading of
the *Phenomenology* was so imbued with clarity and passion that regardless of
what I thought of Hegel's actual arguments, which wasn't much in many cases, I
knew I wanted alot more of Taylor. He knew what it is to give a lecture: to
allow the audience to actively participate in the development of a theme or
argument through the simple act of listening. "Action research" take note.

Mario, on the other hand, was at his best with disciples, not students. It was
a small seminar, maybe 8 or 12 students in all. I can't recall a word he said,
though I remember vividly how the students hung on every word he uttered.
During one of the classes, I asked Professor Bunge a question. He looked at me
in a tone of surprise, laced with a touch of irritation, as if nobody in his
seminars should or ever would ask a question like THAT. 

A lovely woman sitting next to me in this very small room in McTavish Hall,
passed me a slip of paper with the title of a book written by Bunge - sorry,
Herr Doktor Professor Bunge. I smiled thankfully at her generosity and concern
for my future education. After the class was over, I invited her for a drink at
a very nice pub in the McGill ghetto. 

Academia is not for everyone. If you think you can professionally contribute to
knowledge in your field, you shold bring along your suit of armour. 

My roast is burning,

Walter O. 

Quoting Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxx>:

> John McCreery wrote:
> "If nothing else, this fragmentation makes it increasingly difficult
> to reconstitute the common ground for rational discourse once provided
> by liberal education."
> But, according to liberalism, isn't the common ground for rational
> discourse found, not in a grand unifying theory, but in the commitment
> to the moral worth of human beings and the belief that it is possible
> to agree on particular public projects despite disagreeing on a great
> many private ones?  If this is the case, then the attempt to construct
> a 'common ground for rational discourse' beyond the above moral and
> pragmatic 'propositions' would be anti-liberal.
> I am also curious what the anthropologist in John thinks of the
> propositions.  The culture I currently swim in is built on ambiguity
> and the rejection of economy.  A good speech is one that is lengthy
> with many rhetorical flourishes.  Content, as I/we think of it, is
> largely irrelevant since truth is not the product of propositions and
> assertions.  I just don't think many Javanese would be impressed with
> the propositions.  I wonder what John, with his anthropologists hat
> on, thinks of them.
> Sincerely,
> Phil Enns
> Lost in Java
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