Posts Tagged ‘Times Higher Education#8217;


7 January 2010        As published in Times Higher Education

By Matthew Reisz


Many in the humanities feel that their disciplines and relevance are under attack. Matthew Reisz asks if 'the best that has been thought and said' still has a place in today's universities

Lou Marinoff is talking about the philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bentham, and his mistake in "associating the good with the pleasurable".

But the topic of hedonism makes him digress. "You've got Las Vegas – Sin City," he says, "and I'm asking: where is Virtue City? What is the antipode to Las Vegas?

"If it's not in university humanities programmes, it's not anywhere.

"The academy as we know it today was invented by two philosophers, namely Plato and Aristotle – there's a message in there somewhere."

Marinoff is professor and chair of philosophy at the City College of New York, and the bestselling author of Plato Not Prozac! Applying Eternal Wisdom to Everyday Problems and Therapy for the Sane. Ten years ago, he founded the American Philosophical Practitioners Association (APPA). For two decades, he has been offering philosophical counselling to clients who are "rational and functional" but suffering from "a problem to do with meaning, value or purpose".

A recent two-year APPA project with the Spinalis Foundation and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden addressed the needs of those who had suffered spinal injuries or had been recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. While "state-of-the-art medicine brings them back to optimal physical condition", Marinoff says, "it can't help them 'reprogramme' themselves to live life to the full according to the new constraints". Philosophers were brought in to facilitate the process. Marinoff has also been employed to provide philosophical assistance to global organisations such as the World Economic Forum.

So he is far from being a reclusive gentleman scholar who simply wants to be left in peace to get on with his rarefied research. Yet he takes the traditionalist view that "every civilisation is the product and reflection of a set of canonical texts that form its philosophical, scientific, literary, artistic, social, economic and political foundations: what Matthew Arnold famously called 'the best that has been thought and said'. The main purpose of higher education is to develop familiarity with and appreciation of this canon, and to engender aspirations to enlarge it." It is because of this, he says, that the humanities can help "make us the best people we can possibly be".

But today, Marinoff argues, "classical liberal-arts education has been under assault for several decades, by a congeries of forces seeking to undermine and demonise 'the best that has been thought and said'. Regnant malignant forces in North American higher education have perpetrated a 30-year reign of terror on campuses across the West, and have poisoned the well of Western civilisation. Our universities have brainwashed a generation of culturally illiterate zombies."

Read more…

We use both our own and third-party cookies to enhance our services and to offer you the content that most suits your preferences by analysing your browsing habits. Your continued use of the site means that you accept these cookies. You may change your settings and obtain more information here. Accept