The Liberal Arts

As discussed in my last post, education is a valuable enterprise. I would also like to argue that an education is incomplete without the liberal arts. I am thinking particularly of history, literature, philosophy, theology, and the social sciences, although the liberal arts are certainly not limited to these disciplines. I expect that some engineering students will roll their eyes at this; however, I believe that a familiarity with the liberal arts is in fact most crucial for those who enter technical fields.

The fields I have named are often referred to collectively as the humanities because they are concerned with the nature of human beings. The sciences deal with peripheral questions about the world we experience, but the humanities deal with the difficult questions, regarding who we are. This should be the starting point for all academic inquiry.

Why? Because none of the theories learned in chemistry or biology took shape in a vacuum. It is foolish to accept the facts learned in any discipline without first understanding the institutions and philosophies responsible for discovering them. The liberal arts provide context for all other disciplines. To feed on such powerful knowledge which is available today without such context would be both foolish and dangerous.  To start with the liberal arts, however, liberates the mind for other purposes.  In other words, the best engineers are well-rounded engineers, the best physicians are well-rounded physicians, and the best mathematicians are well-rounded mathematicians.

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