Great Books Podcast Episode

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Roosevelt Montás on Rescuing Socrates - Econlib
How do books change our lives? Educator and author Roosevelt Montás of Columbia University talks about his book Rescuing Socrates with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Drawing on his own educational and life journey, Montás shows how great books don’t just teach us stuff–they get inside us and make us wh…

This is a great episode of Econtalk, if you care to learn why you should, you know, learn. In order to graduate from the Ivy League Columbia University, you must complete its "Core Curriculum," which is essentially a great books curriculum, along the lines discussed here. Anyway, if you're interested in the great books and why you should read them, I recommend this Econtalk episode.

Excerpt from transcript:

I think that liberal education today exists in an intellectually hostile environment. The humanities, the dominant paradigm in the humanistic disciplines in the university makes liberal education impossible.

For example, you can't have liberal education absent some commitment to truth, and absent the possibility of rational investigation into truth, into the human good, into virtue. If these notions are emptied of content--as much postmodernist theory and deconstruction as a kind of philosophical movement does--if you empty those categories of meaning, the only thing you have left is power. And, again, that is the reigning intellectual orientation in universities today. And, that makes liberal education actually impossible. Which is why, today, even in humanities departments, or even in the traditional disciplines that are called and associated with liberal education, liberal education is actually not happening.

What you end up with is, on the one hand, with narrow disciplinary, specialized pursuits. In the other, this posture of deconstructing all value systems and ending up with what?

And, once you deconstruct all the value systems, all you end up with is a vying for power and dominance.

So, yes, I think that the reigning intellectual climate in the university has been utterly catastrophic for the practice of liberal education, which is why programs like Columbia's, programs like Shalem's--and, there are a handful, and I'm happy to say growing handful, after a many decades of decimation--a growing number of programs that are reconnecting with this older, non-disciplinary tradition of liberal education. But it's an uphill struggle that we're facing.

Eric Scheske

Eric Scheske