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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dear All,

Peyton has asked me to re-post my submission. Here it is:

I’ve been asked to comment on the central chapter of Not for Profit, which is entitled “Socratic Pedagogy: The Importance of Argument.” This chapter is the centerpiece of the book’s argument, I think, since Nussbaum persistently evokes the connections between Socratic critical thinking and flourishing democratic politics. Like previous contributors, I have reservations about the arguments Nussbaum offers. I would like to pose several challenges and questions, in the spirit of a friendly critique, and in the hope that they will stimulate further discussion about these important subjects.


I find a certain tension between humanistic education and the “values” or convictions, not to say dogmas, that underlie Nussbaum’s enterprise. (The scare quotes are meant to signal an irony that Nussbaum would find unwelcome. As my colleagues Edward Andrew and Ronald Beiner have argued, the term “value” in Nussbaum’s sense is originally drawn from the vocabulary of the marketplace. It fossilizes both the instrumental calculations characteristic of the marketplace and the subjective norms of evaluation that govern economic transactions – norms that are alarmingly ill-suited to the “not for profit” theme and, more deeply, to the universalizing, naturalistic arguments Nussbaum offers elsewhere in the “capabilities approach” and in the scientific and Freudian paradigms of human psychology found in Chapter 3 of the present volume.)


Lawrie Balfour alluded to the tension between humanistic education and Nussbaum’s democratic convictions, via her reference to Louis Menand’s recent essay on “why we have college.” With Balfour and Menand, we might explicitly raise as a paradox the “normalizing” tendencies of contemporary liberal education – the tendency of universities to extol intellectual autonomy while producing conformists. This paradox becomes especially acute in Nussbaum’s discussion of Socratic pedagogy. Nussbaum knows, and knows that she knows, perhaps as befits a manifesto, that democracy, equality, autonomy, participatory citizenship, and so on, are good things; she offers a clear and precise anatomy of the human soul based on modern social science and cognitive neuroscience; and she presents a progressive history of childhood educational philosophies that culminates in her own emphasis on “choice” (70-71), on “practical engagement” and “real life” (66), and on the close interconnections between philosophical work and pragmatic political activity. The students in Nussbaum’s university will presumably come to recognize and appreciate the same “values.”


But Socrates, along with whatever pedagogy benefits from association with him, knows that he does not know “the greatest things,” i.e. the precise character of human excellence (or “virtue”) and the human good. This knowledge of one’s own ignorance is called “human wisdom” in Plato’s Apology. (To see the importance of this point, we can, and probably should, leave aside the myriad questions surrounding the relationship between the historical Socrates and the Socrateses presented by Plato, Xenophon, Aristophanes, and Aristotle – not to mention the relationship between Plato’s Socrates as represented in Plato’s short, so-called “Socratic” dialogues, and Plato’s Socrates as represented in longer, more ambitious philosophical works such as the Republic or the Phaedrus.) Socrates’ awareness of his own epistemic limitations led him to believe that the only life worthy of a human being was one of continuous, rational self-examination, usually conducted in dialogue with others. Such self-scrutiny or self-auditing had, in principle, no limits: it extended, for example, even to the question, explored thoroughly in Plato’s Gorgias, of whether doing or receiving injustice provides greater benefits to an individual, or to the question, in the Republic, of whether philosophers should rule. Are these questions genuinely “up for grabs” within Nussbaum’s framework?


Socratic inquiry also questioned the goodness of democracy as a regime-type, and, of course, there is no reason in principle why philosophical questioning should feel itself constrained by Nussbaum’s liberal, progressive opinions about politics, ethics, and the human good. Hence, a humanistic education, and particularly Socratic pedagogy, is worthy of its name only if it invites students, along with their instructors and fellow-travelers, to “live the questions” surrounding what it means to live a good human life – including questions about the goodness and character of cherished ideals such as freedom, equality, and even democracy itself. There is not a seamless continuity, as Nussbaum suggests, between philosophical inquiry and the practices of democratic citizenship. And one of the questions a humanistic education might or must address is precisely the relation of philosophy to democracy, and vice-versa. (And perhaps philosophy has more important things to worry about, anyway – at least it’s worth raising the question.)


For if the European and North American traditions of philosophy have persistently raised questions about democracy as a regime-type, then democracy equally, as Tocqueville and Aristophanes recognized in their different ways, has always harboured questions about the benefits and trustworthiness of philosophical inquiry, not to mention the pursuit of a philosophical life. The Athenian democracy executed Socrates and thought that philosophers were buffoons. In 1835-1840, Tocqueville foreshadowed Nussbaum’s present lament, when he predicted that Americans would increasingly emphasize the profit-motive over the study of classical literature, theoretical science or mathematics, and speculative philosophy. Tocqueville, of course, offered a comparative analysis of democracy with aristocracy and pinpointed the features of democracy that tend to militate against the careful and time-consuming work required for philosophical inquiry. In his recent book Human Dignity, in fact, George Kateb picked up this line of thought and asked whether democracy as a regime type tends to undermine the development of the arts or corrode the supportive culture that enables philosophy to flourish. Is democracy as such, or only a corrupt democracy, hostile to the liberal arts and sciences?


It’s a good question, but an uncomfortable one – and not one well suited to the public speeches of President Obama, who, later in the book, draws fire from Nussbaum, despite the very real rhetorical and political constraints under which he operates. Imagine President Obama arguing forcefully, during his upcoming campaign, for the educational importance of questioning whether democracy is the best regime. But that’s what Socrates would have him do, and Socrates would then go on to ask whether politics altogether is an important, or rather an insignificant, sphere of human activity, by comparison with pursuing philosophical questions about the “greatest things.”


To put these points differently, Nussbaum doesn’t explore very deeply the categories of “democracy” and the “humanities” that are at the heart of her passionate manifesto. Yet, if the questions are to become vivid and our practical judgments are to make sense, then we need to find a more searching account of these categories and of their ambiguous interrelations. At all events, a sound humanistic education will not simply produce likeminded individuals, but rather non-conformists, sometimes at a very deep level of non-conformity. Even if democracy tends to corrupt humanistic study through emphasizing the profit-motive, perhaps equally its goodness lies, at least in part, and in its liberal manifestations, in granting us the freedom to pursue Socratic questions to the hilt, wherever they may lead.


I can’t resist pointing out that right in the opening sentence of Nussbaum’s chapter these ambiguities assert themselves with great intensity. Here is Nussbaum’s opening sentence: “Socrates proclaimed that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being’” (47). And here is Socrates’ own statement, from the Platonic Apology: “If on the other hand I say that the greatest good for man is to fashion arguments each day about virtue and the other things you hear me discussing when I examine myself and others, and that the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being, you will believe what I say still less” (38a, tr. Allen, adapted). Leave aside the subtle but significant point that, according to Socrates himself, the democratic jurors could not be persuaded that the best life was the life of rational self-examination. The real question is this: Is Socrates making a robustly demanding claim to the effect that only the philosophical life, only a life devoted to continuous questioning, every day, is worth living for a human being, and that a life devoted to democratic citizenship, not to mention productive economic activity, is not worth living for a human being? Or does his remark, which is not casual in any way, admit of degrees of self-examination and thus of a spectrum of lives ranging from less worthwhile to more worthwhile? And would a committed, progressive, cosmopolitan democrat, such as Nussbaum, even tolerate this line of questioning?


To some extent I hesitate to make these remarks, because I favour both democracy and a humanistic education; and I don’t want to weaken the cause of either by suggesting that the two are in conflict. But it would be less than honest to skim over the thorny tensions and paradoxes that characterize their relationship – paradoxes to which Socrates’ life and arguments draw attention. Hence, even more intolerable questions will necessarily follow. It’s true that Socrates represents himself as a gadfly rousing a sluggish democratic horse, as Nussbaum points out; but, as Nussbaum does not point out, Socrates also asks in the Apology whether horses are better trained by an inexpert multitude, such as the Athenian democratic citizenry, or by an expert horse-trainer – to which the answer is obvious. And then, in a characteristic move, Socrates proceeds to question the very idea of expertise in educating human beings about the greatest things. And so we are left, I think, not with a progressive narrative that confirms our pre-existing opinions, but rather with a host of new questions, now hopefully clearer and better defined questions, that raise genuinely serious, provocative, and uncomfortable issues about democracy, humanistic education, and human flourishing.


As I have been suggesting, Nussbaum too readily instrumentalizes humanistic education – if not for business, then for citizenship. She fails to reflect seriously on the intrinsic worth of studying the liberal arts and sciences. Since others on the blog (and in the wider world) have previously levelled this criticism against Nussbaum, I limit myself to two additional, and equally uncomfortable, observations on this front. First, Nussbaum’s “humanities-for-democracy” view is paradoxical in that, if it is correct, then it may have anti-democratic implications. For if humanistic learning makes us better citizens, then the professoriate should be distinctively excellent citizens. Professors should be as far superior in citizenship to their fellow citizens, as they are superior in intellectual achievement to their undergraduates. Down this path lies the rule of philosopher-kings. I say this not so much to denigrate philosopher kings as to show that this familiar argument has more than a whiff of paradox about it. But, as Socrates will ask, is there such a thing as political wisdom, or are there thresholds of good citizenship beyond which further distinctions do not matter, or do not matter much for the successful practice of democracy? Nussbaum doesn’t raise the question – and in that way she proves to behave less Socratically than she recommends.


Second, by advancing instrumental arguments for the humanities’ significance, Nussbaum may unwittingly promote the cause of the humanities’ detractors. As Stanley Fish has often stressed, even the best humanistic education doesn’t necessarily produce good democratic citizens; and, conversely, good democratic citizens can arise in a variety of ways. The connections between humanistic education and democratic citizenship often fail to convince. As a result, Nussbaum’s rivals may come to believe that even leading academics have failed to produce a coherent account of humanistic education. Sadly, the most powerful justification remains unspoken: that humanistic study has intrinsic worth, as the effort to realize and perfect our highest human capacities. Nussbaum alludes to this point briefly on p.9.


Along the same lines, I worry about Nussbaum’s uses and abuses of history for the sake of democracy. After discussing Socrates and the Athenian democracy, Nussbaum offers a selective treatment of modern educational philosophers whose work embodies different strands of what she calls “Socratic pedagogy.” These include Rousseau, Johann Pestalozzi, Friedrich Froebel, Bronson Alcott, Horace Mann, John Dewey, Rabindranath Tagore, and Matthew Lipman, who has developed an extremely interesting “Philosophy for Children” curriculum at Montclair State University. I’m sympathetic with the educational ideals outlined in this section, including active learning; a rigorous focus on logic, critical reasoning, and the structure of arguments; cultivation of emotional intelligence and imagination; and an emphasis on self-government, self-reliance, and freedom. Others on the blog have said that they don’t know how to cultivate all of these qualities, and I don’t, either: but they are still worthwhile educational objectives, I think, which experienced teachers, in particular circumstances, might have the good sense and situational appreciation to embody in practice.


However, my worry is that, in discussing both democratic Athens and the history of educational philosophy, Nussbaum offers a highly selective and tendentious narrative – one that suits her case, in a way, but also one that smooths over the rough edges of history and unduly simplifies the unruly facts that come down to us. To her credit, Nussbaum explores in other chapters the necessity of teaching history as a set of arguments about highly imperfect evidence, rather than as a static narrative to be digested and regurgitated at appropriate moments. Elsewhere in the volume, moreover, she inspiringly denounces the BJP’s jingoistic and triumphal appropriations of India’s history (e.g., 21-22). Yet, in discussing the Athenian democrats, Nussbaum simplistically charges that, according to Thucydides, “Rarely if ever did they examine their major policy objectives, or systematically ask how the diverse things they valued could fit together” (49). Nussbaum enters this statement in order to explain why “this thriving democracy” needed to be “stung into greater wakefulness” by Socratic argument.


In this section, as before, Nussbaum fails to practice what she recommends and risks turning her historical analysis into a political morality tale. Like all other successful democracies, the Athenian democracy did indeed examine major policy objectives (how could it not?) and consider what a good life among democrats could or should be. One of the central texts illustrating this point comes from Thucydides himself: think of Pericles’ Funeral Oration in Book II of Thucydides’ History. As Clifford Orwin, Arlene Saxonhouse, and others have argued, moreover, the Mytilenian Debate with which Nussbaum indicts Athens actually shows the Athenian democracy virtuously revising ill-founded decisions in the light of further argument. The Athenian democrats examined and reconsidered their views – so that it is incorrect to say, with Nussbaum, that important policy matters and many human lives “were left to chance rather than reasoned debate” (50). As a great deal of recent work has illustrated, in fact, the Athenian democracy itself practiced a politics of virtue that could possibly stand as a model of reasoned discourse and cultural education for contemporary democracies that do not offer their citizens such direct experiences of political debate or action.


The main point, in the end, is that Nussbaum’s analysis lacks the richness and complexity that we have come to expect from her work and that these all-important subjects demand. The greatest American statesmen (not to mention thinkers) have always understood that democratic citizens are capable of grasping complex arguments that adequately address the problems and opportunities of democratic politics. On the other hand, as Tocqueville pointed out, “The habit of inattention ought to be considered the greatest vice of the democratic mind” (DA II 3.15, tr. Mansfield/Winthrop). I worry that Nussbaum’s manifesto both expresses and promotes the prevailing characteristics of our time, instead of helping to counteract them.

11 comments:

Amit Ron said...

Ryan, thanks for the post. Two comments:

1. If I understand Nussbaum correctly, her main question is not what is the value of the humanities or what should be the priorities of philosophy. Rather, her question is what kind of education is needed to create and maintain a thriving democracy. Ryan, can we put this question to your Socrates? I know that it is not a good idea to ask Socrates to give specific answers and I know that Socrates would have us question what we mean by democracy and by the humanities (as we have been doing in this blog conversation). Still, Socrates-ly speaking, is there anything wrong in posing the question of education for democracy as a point of departure? If the question itself is legitimate, would we not want to argue that humanities education should be an integral part of it? I understand the fear about the possible tensions between the demands of democratic life and the search for philosophical truths. What I am not sure is what to make of this fear in the context of the question of education for democracy.

2. You say, “ for if humanistic learning makes us better citizens, then the professoriate should be distinctively excellent citizens.” I don’t know if this is the only logical conclusion. The skills that are acquired through humanistic learning can be a necessary but not sufficient condition for excellence in citizenship. Professors (at least the ideal type) have the skills necessary for “searching, active thinking,” attention to formal logical structures,” and an ability to communicate their ideas to different audiences, and so forth (p. 55). Professors are good in these skills but might fail at other skills that are necessary for excellence in citizenship. Still, the skills that professor have (but not only professors) are learned skills and they are essential for a meaningful conversation about the shared norms that regulate social life. No?

abahachi said...

Ermm... Should we cut and paste our comments from under the previous version, or just start again?

Neville

Lisa Ellis said...

Let's start again here, directing everyone to check out the comments under the first post.

One thing we should begin to distinguish: just what connection(s) between democracy and the humanities are we interested in? Where Nussbaum focuses on the (putative) production of democratic citizens via the humanities, I am interested in something else entirely: the democratization of the study of humanities itself. Not only are old exclusions less and less possible within the humanities (as Nussbaum rightly says), but more people have access to humanistic learning than ever before. To me the American experiment in providing a liberal arts education to (in principle) anyone able and interested is profoundly democratic in itself. It is also profoundly endangered (by both of Amit's well-distinguished groups of critics, though by the technocrats even more than by the conservatives). Future historians (an optimistic assumption, to be sure) looking at the retreat of egalitarianism in our times might include reduced access to humanities education in a long list of things that mark a return to default oligarchic societal norms...

Amit Ron said...

Ryan, thanks for the post. I too want to look again at the question we are discussing. If I understand Nussbaum correctly, her main question is not what is the value of the humanities or what should be the priorities of philosophy. Rather, her question is what kind of education is needed to create and maintain a thriving democracy. Ryan, can we put this question to your Socrates? I know that it is not a good idea to ask Socrates to give specific answers and I know that Socrates would have us question what we mean by democracy and by the humanities (as we have been doing in this blog conversation). Still, Socrates-ly speaking, is there anything wrong in posing the question of education for democracy as a point of departure? If the question itself is legitimate, would we not want to argue that humanities education should be an integral part of it? I understand the fear about the possible tensions between the demands of democratic life and the search for philosophical truths. What I am not sure is what to make of this fear in the context of the question of education for democracy.

Amit Ron said...

One more point. Ryan says, “ for if humanistic learning makes us better citizens, then the professoriate should be distinctively excellent citizens.” I am not sure that this is the only logical conclusion. The skills that are acquired through humanistic learning can be a necessary but not sufficient condition for excellence in citizenship. Professors (at least the ideal type) have the skills necessary for “searching, active thinking,” attention to formal logical structures,” and an ability to communicate their ideas to different audiences, and so forth (p. 55). Professors are good in these skills but might fail at other skills that are necessary for excellence in citizenship. Still, the skills that professor have (but not only professors) are learned skills and they are essential for a meaningful conversation about the shared norms that regulate social life. No?

abahachi said...

Socratic arguments do tend to lead to Socratic conclusions, such as the necessity of Philosopher Kings, unless we can question some of their premises. Should we think of citizenship in terms of a spectrum of excellence or in terms of a qualification threshold? Or, since probably both are valid conceptions, should a democratic society concentrate its efforts on the former or the latter? To take a suitably Athenian analogy, does the army of a democratic state require a system of education that seeks to cultivate heroes, although in practice only a small number of truly excellent heroes are likely to be produced, or does it require one that ensures that as many citizens as possible are capable of taking their place in the battle line or the triremes and playing an adequate role in the collective effort? Like all Socratic analogies, this is of course a loaded question...

Assuming, then, that what democracy needs is the largest possible number of 'adequate citizens', what should distinguish professors of humanities is not their supposed excellence in citizenship (which, even if it's true, is irrelevant to society's needs) but their ability to help as many fellow-citizens and proto-citizens as possible to reach that threshold of adequacy, by promoting and teaching debate, self-awareness etc., by thinking about what needs to be taught and how best to do it - which isn't to say that adequate citizenship cannot be achieved except through such education, but surely it makes the process quicker and easier.

This doesn't for a moment answer Stefan's question about the value of humanities research; for that, I think we need a combination of the argument that it's necessary for the health of democracy to explore, evaluate and criticise its foundations (which then returns us to the potential tensions between humanities and society) and the argument that teachers will be better able to nurture and cultivate the qualities of adequate citizenship if they regularly exercise those same skills of analysis, debate etc. at a higher level.

Lisa Ellis said...

Among the many important things Ryan said, I want to highlight these two for further discussion:
1. "Sadly, the most powerful justification remains unspoken: that humanistic study has intrinsic worth, as the effort to realize and perfect our highest human capacities." and
2. "I’m sympathetic with the educational ideals outlined in this section, including active learning; a rigorous focus on logic, critical reasoning, and the structure of arguments; cultivation of emotional intelligence and imagination; and an emphasis on self-government, self-reliance, and freedom. Others on the blog have said that they don’t know how to cultivate all of these qualities, and I don’t, either: but they are still worthwhile educational objectives, I think, which experienced teachers, in particular circumstances, might have the good sense and situational appreciation to embody in practice."

Here is what Nussbaum is missing and what we may be able to supply. Most of us struggle to bring the experience of humanistic inquiry to our students under various but always imperfect conditions. As Ryan suggests when he gives us the full quotation from Socrates on the unexamined life, there are many ways to pursue these goals. Small groups reading classic texts together are likely to do well, but other modes can also work. For example, Mika LaVaque-Manty at the University of Michigan leads his students to these same kinds of intense humanistic experiences by interactive electronic means. We know how to encourage good thinking (and, Ryan reminds us, this will frequently be non-conformist or uncomfortable thinking). What we don't know is how to defend it in the current climate.

In the spirit of Ryan's Socrates, I ask the uncomfortable question: could standardized testing be an ally in this quest to defend the democratic availability of humanities education? We know that we teach logic, critical thinking, fallibilistic reasoning able to deal with uncertainty: maybe we should become adept at demonstrating that we can do so?

Ryan Balot said...

Thanks to you all for these interesting questions and responses.

Amit asks these two questions: “…is there anything wrong in posing the question of education for democracy as a point of departure? If the question itself is legitimate, would we not want to argue that humanities education should be an integral part of it?”

This is how I would think about the first question:

I have no objection to asking what an education for democracy might involve. This question makes sense, though, only if we first investigate which attributes of democratic citizens are desirable – or, altogether, what a good democratic citizen looks like. What, precisely, is the goal of the proposed education? I would argue that this is a question not of “skills,” as Amit says, but rather of “virtues” or excellences of character and intellect.

It’s a good (and longstanding) question whether these excellences (including sound judgment, a sense of justice, respect for others and the law, courage, moderation, honesty, and so on) can be taught, and how. In imagining a good democratic citizen and his or her virtues, we will also want to know whether these are distinctively democratic virtues (or simply human virtues or political virtues altogether) and how these democratic virtues are related to liberal virtues. We should distinguish between democracy and liberalism and ask which one is “doing the work” in our normative conceptions of citizenship. We will want to know, finally, whether these virtues are to be understood as merely instrumentally useful for maintaining the regime or as intrinsically worthwhile constituents of a good human life.

We can approach the democratic virtues in a variety of ways, but one useful method is to study historical practices and discourses, such as those of democratic Athens or colonial America. The reason history is so helpful for this project is twofold: first, that those past cultures had a richly developed language of virtuous citizenship that we now lack; second, that those societies were direct democracies and thus exemplified democratic practices and institutions in a revealingly unmediated way.

This may be a controversial way to think of and about democratic citizens. But, if we think of democratic citizens in roughly these ways, then we are at least in a position to ask what an appropriate education to democratic citizenship would be. Then we might raise the following questions:

What, hypothetically, would a university look like if it were designed from scratch specifically in order to produce good democratic citizens? How does our hypothetical Citizenship U. differ from the universities and colleges that we now know? Would anyone on the blog want to gain tenure at Citizenship U.?

Would our discourse change if we asked about the role of liberal arts education in a “free” society, a “just” society, or an “open” society, as opposed to a democratic society?

Ryan Balot said...

This is how I would approach Amit’s second question:

Is a liberal arts education integral to or (as Amit says elsewhere) necessary for excellent citizenship? My earlier post drew attention to the tensions between liberal education and democratic citizenship. But we should also consider that not everyone wants a liberal arts education. My worry is that the idea that humanistic education is necessary for excellent citizenship will create a rank-ordering of citizens according to their levels of education.

Democracies have always prized the opinions of citizens who were not educated in universities. Plato’s Protagoras, along with many Athenian democratic leaders, argued that citizens were educated in the democratic virtues through civic life itself – through participating in Athens’ political institutions and civic rituals, not through studying with professors, or sophists. Tocqueville argued that citizens became good citizens through the arts of association and political activism, which helped to counteract democracy’s prevailing materialism. Aren’t they right? Or do we now live in corporate-sponsored oligarchies where democratic activism is defunct, so that their arguments no longer apply?

Ryan Balot said...

I was also interested in, and agree with, Lisa’s idea that democracies should provide broader access to higher education – broad enough access, at least, to make the good of a liberal arts education available to all who desire it and are capable of its rigors. But too often, I believe, an undergraduate education has become nothing more than a credential worth money in the marketplace. Even as we advocate for broader access, therefore, I think we should also keep trying to explain why liberal arts education is intrinsically worthwhile.

On the other hand, having worked with several foundations interested in educational assessment, I have doubts about the assessment movement. It does make a certain amount of sense for university faculty to develop their own assessment “tools,” instead of leaving assessment up to legislators and technocrats. But this kind of political pressure (far worse in the UK) to produce metrics and quantifiable results is something we should lament and protest against, because it’s not what humanistic education is about.

Peyton Wofford said...

To answer one of Ryan's questions, I would love a job (and tenure, of course) at Citizenship U.!

Now on to more serious matters. Income inequality (and other oligarchic tendencies) certainly hinder democratic activism. The equality necessary for democracy is impossible, as Aristotle noted, when one portion of the population is three or more times wealthier than another portion. It is worth noting that during freshmen year on a traditional, residential liberal arts college, students enjoy a sense of equality unparalleled outside of a university. They live in similar facilities, are often prohibited from bringing cars to campus, eat in the same dining hall, and are typically ineligible to join/pledge organizations that create social inequality on campus. This equality, in my view, is essential to the process of liberal arts education and it certainly helps students develop democratic virtues (including civility and patience), but is short-lived. Citizen U., then, would need to be a place where this kind of equality lasted beyond students' first year. Despite the income inequality our society faces, Protagoras' argument about the formative experience of civic life still holds water. Thus, civic and community service would also need to be requirements at Citizen U. (e.g., volunteering at polling facilities, shadowing elected representatives, serving meals at Salvation Army, walking dogs at the local animal shelter, etc.).

Now on to a different issue. Demonstrating and/or assessing the value of a liberal arts education is tricky business. The humanities are uniquely qualified to prepare students for the uncertainty and ambiguity of the human experience precisely because they do not lend themselves to quantifiable results. While the humanities do certainly help students develop certain skills (e.g., critical thinking), these do not represent the intrinsic value of a liberal arts education (as Amit mentioned). Could the situation be helped by thinking about the humanities as a tradition of inquiry (in comparison with the physical sciences, for example)? If the humanities could be considered a tradition, we would need to defend liberal arts education on its own terms, no? As opposed to those outside of the tradition, which is where quantifiable results would land, in my view.