The Liberal Arts: One Thing We Can Do in the War on Drugs

Having tried many things that do not work in our attempts to fix people, it may be time that we are able to consider the liberal arts. The Liberal arts have of course suffered gravely in recent years. We recall a definite line, about 1982, when suddenly there were not enough students to continue philosophy seminars. Now whole careers of effort come to nothing, scattered in manual labor and cat shepherding, while student loans go unpaid, and those who would be students starve. Hillsdale college is a welcome exception. But what is being offered at most schools is not much better than the fare at their cafeterias. Whenever the subject of education arises, our politicians always assume that the goal of education is only jobs and technology. The souls of Americans are empty, because money making does not bring fulfillment. Other peoples seem to earn money for the sake of the family. We do it more for its own sake, from the ideal promoted, as by the success preachers. Then we try to fill our leisure time with television and idle vulgarities that feed the lowest parts of the soul. If we had a psychology that studied the soul, we would be able to see this, that the soul has higher parts that seek fulfillment by nature. This truth explains a great deal about psychology, and would be useful in psychiatry: often what is there is there because some higher thing is unfulfilled or not yet awakened.

Concern with the war on drugs usually leads only to resolution to get tough on crime- but never to step back and think out the problem. The soul is empty, longing to be filled by knowledge.This is so by nature, and true for everyone, though most are not capable of directly desiring to study. The emptiness filled by knowledge takes many secondary forms, such as our love of beauty. We cannot reach even a majority through the liberal arts directly, but we can reach the top ten percent, and the effects of this can filter down. Reading and performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream or the Tempest, for example, would be a good start. For these ten percent, the drug experience cannot compete. And let the neurologists, with their receptors and inhibitors, hit upon this way to address the problem! How long would that take? As for a monkey at the typewriter trying by accident to produce a olay of Shakespeare, this might take a while! The truth is that there is knowledge in the soul, and the health of the soul involves its unfolding. If we do not do this, a thousand things go wrong and attempts to correct them are like cutting the heads off the hydra, they keep growing back.

But whenever government tries to do a certain kind of thing, the result is so artificial as to be useless, or worse. Lets have congress deliberate at hundreds of dollars per hour to improve education, then come up with the activity of teaching to the test as the measure of merit in education. That’s the kind of thing we get, and why liberal arts colleges must be small.

There is another problem too, though, that the liberal arts themselves have been in some measure corrupted. Nazi Germany may have been the best educated nation in all of human history, according to one standard. But they did not study Aristotle and Plato, and bequeathed to us the cultural relativism and the theoretical concern with wealth and power which are a corruption more serious than our own at the present time. How this occurred is a long story, but let it suffice to say that we recommend Shakespeare and Plato, and not much else, to guide education at its pinnacle.

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