Knowing the World
In a brief review of Alasdair MacIntyre’s God, Philosophy, Universities: A Selective History of the Catholic Philosophical Tradition (try here without a subscription), Ryan Anderson makes a point that echoes in a Portsmouth Institute speech by Patrick Reilly that I’ll be posting tomorrow:
Scholars once sought unified knowledge of all being, in pursuit of which philosophy and theology played central roles, tying together findings from the various disciplines. But the modern university has largely eliminated theology, relegated philosophy to one technical discipline among many, and abandoned the quest for integrated wisdom about the cosmos.
I look back on my academic days bemused that I was both agnostic on matters of religion and impressed by the way underlying concepts seemed to stretch across all subjects that I studied, from physics, to music, to literature, to sociology, and so on. Students can’t possibly form a comprehensive understanding of reality — and the major questions that they must answer for themselves — without studying and understanding the thought about God and philosophy that has drawn Western Civilization toward its current position.
To be sure, one can learn all sorts of useful facts and processes simply studying discrete subjects without delving into the meaning of any of them, but then, college is merely a training facility, and frankly, it leaves most students only generally prepared for the work that they’ll be doing. If we’ve decided that young adults oughtn’t enter the workforce, into career-type gigs, until they’re in their mid-twenties, we’d do better, I think, to graduate them with a stronger concept of the world in which they’ll be acting.
Of course, that brings us back to the question of whether college is really necessary or helpful to all of those who incur debt to attend, and from a broad view of reality, I believe that it is not.