The Liberal Arts and Modernity

There’s a useful article, by Peter Kreeft, on the interrelationship of a liberal arts education and contemporary misculture linked at Inside Catholic, which also has interesting comments confirming the article’s argument.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the article:

. . .

If there is an unchangeable human essence, can we know it? “Know thyself” would seem to be a primary requirement for any wisdom. The traditional view of education that comes to us from both Greece and Israel (like two rivers feeding the same sea) says yes. The new view says no and, therefore, focuses on being up-to-date, culturally relevant, and sensitive to the latest purported movement of the Spirit, who is, of course, as fidgety and impatient and unhappy as His purported prophets.

Our culture has moved massively from the first philosophy to the second. That is why I have received more feedback from the few articles I have published in magazines than from the many books I’ve written. Ephemeral things — newspapers, magazines, movies, TV, music, fashion of thought as well as clothing — has displaced “the permanent things” in our consciousness and in our culture.

And the power that controls these airy ephemera is the airy media, which in turn are controlled by the Prince of the Power of the Air. The media are the most powerful educational force in our culture. They are also the most deeply antireligious, especially anti-Catholic, more especially regarding morality, and most especially regarding sexual morality. If you think this is an exaggeration, I think you must be either unforgivably ignorant of Catholicism or forgivably ignorant of our culture. I hope you have had a nice vacation on the moon.

The conservative emphasizes virtues that resist change, especially patience, self-control, and courage. The sudden disappearance of these three virtues from our culture in the Sixties was the catalyst for the sexual revolution. It was also the catalyst for the abandonment of liberal education, especially those old, dusty, irrelevant dead white European heterosexual males who wrote the so-called canon of so-called Great Books.

If you want to restore liberal education, restore sexual morality. And if you want to restore sexual morality, restore liberal education. The same virtues of honor, self-control, innocence, purity, respect, patience, courage, and honesty are cultivated in both places. They reinforce each other.

And so do their absences. Just as injustices provoke wars and wars provoke injustices, dishonesty with truth provokes dishonesty with sex and dishonesty with sex provokes dishonesty with truth. You can’t be a totally honest thinker if you are living a lie. Your lived sexual lie will make everything in your life a little lie-like. There will be a vague shuffling, a hiding, an escapist politeness that will come to settle on everything you say or do like a fog. You will not dare to speak out clearly lest you offend someone. You will begin to sound more like a bishop than a saint. You will be nice instead of being holy. And so you will miss the meaning of liberal education and of sex.

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