JOURNAL OF INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES
Vol. XXXI 2019
THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION:
REDISCOVERING FREE INQUIRY
JIS XXXI 2019: 1-10
THE PROMISE OF THE LIBERAL ARTS:
REDISCOVERING FREE INQUIRY (Editorial)
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research
This 31th volume in the interconnected thematic series of the Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies celebrates the promise of the liberal arts in renewing U.S. higher education. Its central concern is the status of free inquiry–the prerequisite of any education worthy of its name. This concern is not new, but appears especially germane in a postmodern era characterized by secularism, moral-ethical relativism, and cultural dissonance. The essays in this volume point the way to retrieving the university’s high calling. But to revitalize higher education and reinvent the university presupposes a re-dedication to essential American ideals–freedom of thought, speech, press, political, philosophical, and religious persuasion. Effective citizen participation in a democracy also presupposes a broad liberal arts education. By now, U.S. society is increasingly divided into contending factions, each pursuing its particular self-interest. One may trace the origin of debilitating factions of race/ethnicity to LBJ’s Executive Orders that turned JFK’s original conception of affirmative action on its head. The choice between the two conceptions of identity and affirmative action remains, and the stakes are high: Can this marvelous American experiment in self-government, conceived in liberty, find its soul as “One nation under God, with liberty and justice for all?”
JIS XXXI 2019: 11-32
THE RABBI AND THE GADFLY:
FINITUDE AND THE DIALECTIC OF
TRADITION AND CRITIQUE
Even when it embraces Socratic critique, education instills a particular tradition or way of life. But the postmodern shift invites suspicion of such efforts, and so engenders a crucial question: Given inevitable biases, how can educators do their work with a (justifiably) clear conscience? This essay approaches the question by way of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s “philosophical hermeneutics.” It introduces the title’s “rabbi” and “gadfly” images, then illuminates the argument’s context by considering two recent philosophies of education. Gadamer’s framework shows how his emphasis on conversation sheds light on the question of integrity in education. Finally, given the inevitable “tradition-assertion” that education involves, and in light of a seeming deficiency in Gadamer’s treatment of conversation, the essay explores an “ethics of affirmation.” The key claim is that the obligation to declare, or even to persuade, is as important as the obligation to listen.
JIS XXXI 2019: 33-54
THE ANGELIC DOCTOR IN
THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY:
THOMAS AQUINAS’ QUEST FOR TRUTH
William R. Clough
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research
In the United States, political, social, and philosophical polarization has led to intolerance and restrictions on free speech and the free exchange of ideas, most perniciously, in universities. St. Thomas Aquinas lived in an equally fractious time fraught with new discoveries, culture wars, and intellectual ferment. The thirteenth century witnessed the rediscovery of ancient sources and a renewed emphasis on observation and reason as tools for finding truth. Thus, Aristotle, a pagan; Averroes, a Muslim; and Maimonides, a Jew, were studied alongside the Bible and ancient Christian tradition. Thomas’ open, honest, thoughtful, kind, and confident spirit, framing his methodology of disputation–asking and answering difficult questions with full, honest attention to opposing viewpoints–could serve as a model for the best way to overcome the polarization, censorship, and stagnation that characterize much political and even intellectual discourse in the United States today.
JIS XXXI 2019: 55-72
FROM GROUPTHINK TO CIVIL DIALOGUE
William H. Jeynes
California State University-Long Beach
This essay proposes that many secular academics have lost much of their sense of objectivity and this is making civil intellectual discussion difficult. In order to have a civil dialogue, there must be a level of objective agreement that certain truths are indeed facts. This is apparent regarding debates about communism, abortion, U.S. history, and other topics. It is very difficult to have a sensible conversation with someone who will not acknowledge certain objective facts. Within the context of a self-imposed mental framework, the facts become secondary to the subjective perspective that a member of a politically-defined identity group is supposed to have. Focusing primarily on established facts unites people, whereas accentuating differences in perceptions divides people. Suggestions to resolve this problem include requiring students to interview those who disagree with them as well as more character education in the schools. Universities should endorse the 2015 Chicago Statement that students should be taught to effectively debate from all sides of an issue. Objectivity is a natural prerequisite if the United States is to become united once again.
JIS XXXI 2019: 73-92
OBJECTIVITY AND ETHICS
IN ECONOMIC METHODOLOGY:
DIALOGUE WITH THEOLOGIANS
Dialogue between economists and theologians has recently shifted to questions about economic relationships, virtue, and consumer lifestyles as theologians have become critics of economics as a discipline. Their concerns center on a suspicion of social-scientific methods. Theologians sometimes observe that economic logic and language have become dominant in public and private life, which they attribute to economists’ attempts to work within a value-free reductionist framework. This essay summarizes this critique, focusing on the fact-value dichotomy, self-interest, and the wide application of economic logic. The dominance of economic methods must be understood as a way of pursuing methodological consensus in an arena where many important ethical concerns are hotly contested. Moreover, they are important for understanding a complex social environment. The goal of objectivity, which is at the center of this dialogue, is one that economists can strive for in a limited sense, while still working within an explicitly normative framework.
JIS XXXI 2019: 93-107
INTELLECTUAL CENSORSHIP IN LIBERALISM:
Rivers State University, Nigeria
In recent times, scholars have utilized their expertise in developing modules for social engineering, producing goods and services befitting the needs of a hyper-technologically savvy generation, and creating the atmosphere for civic participation in shaping the course of their everyday lives. This essay explores the seeming irony that at a time of such advancement in science and technology, and in liberal democracy–when there seems to be a boundless horizon to the scope of human ingenuity–the prospect of censorship by left-liberalism appears to threaten the very foundation of liberal democracies. The essay identifies the recent upsurge in left-liberal thinking, especially in college managements, and the ethical scars the increasing suppression of views deemed controversial creates in the lives of millions of people. This ideological quest for homogenization of thoughts and actions can only succeed at a great cost to liberty, responsibility, and human flourishing.
JIS XXXI 2019: 108-122
BIOETHICS IN THE VISION OF
State Secretariat for Culture, Romania
This essay explores the spiritual crisis of postmodern man contrasting a Christian anthropology with a materialistic, mechanistic conception of human nature and being reflected in bioethics. Bioethics seeks to control general evolution via advances in biology and medical technology, but functions almost exclusively at an impersonal level. It objectifies procedures, numbers people, and addresses general states, and not persons or interpersonal relationships. Bioethics thus takes a global approach to ultra-generalized principles. When bioethics does not express itself in a religious confession or a cosmological theory, it ignores religious conceptions, and tries to rely merely on utilitarian principles and values. Such a mechanistic, one-dimensional anthropology is in essence alien to Christianity. In Orthodox vision, man’s natural state is a state of grace actualized in communion with God and fellow human beings.
JIS XXXI 2019: 123-142
THE PRESIDENTIAL SELF-PARDON PARADOX
The clemency power of the U.S. President is limited to pardoning federal offences and expressly excludes federal impeachment from the pardon power. There is no explicit prohibition upon who might be the recipient of a presidential pardon. The U.S. Constitution does not expressly prohibit the President from issuing a self-pardon. If the American Framers placed only the one exception for impeachment, then arguably they meant to exclude all other conceivable exceptions. Yet, the very notion of such presidential self-forgiveness raises arguments criticizing the possibility. Would not a self-pardon place the President above the law? In the process of investigating the various arguments denying and supporting the possibility, the parameters and the goals of issuing and accepting or rejecting a presidential pardon are developed along with alternative methods of achieving the same result as a self-pardon without actually issuing a self-pardon. Hence, the puzzle. The essay’s narrow and guarded conclusions are arrived at defeasibly. That is, the essay is driven by the force of the arguments over this paradoxical constitutional dilemma. The essay is intended as the beginning rather than a completion of the inquiry.
JIS XXXI 2019: 143-160
RESTORING U.S. HIGHER EDUCATION
Peter W. Wood
National Association of Scholars
To restore intellectual freedom, the search for truth, and promotion of virtuous citizenship to American higher education, reformers will have to overcome deeply entrenched intellectual and institutional opposition. The prospects for persuading existing colleges and universities to attempt such a thing are dim. Supporters of the traditional ideals of liberal education have on their side powerful arguments rooted in human nature and civilizational dynamics, but these supporters are marginalized in the academy and contemporary America as a whole. Hope for restoration of the traditional liberal arts, however, may be found in the growing public disenchantment with the price and quality of college education in America. Colleges are closing at an accelerating pace; new technologies and alternative social arrangements are gaining ground; and the higher education establishment is proving unskillful in responding to these challenges. As the turmoil expands, opportunities will open for new approaches. Advocates for a curriculum better rooted in human nature and in the achievements of Western civilization will have a fighting chance to restore perennial ideals and reinvent the undergraduate college.
JIS XXXI 2019: 161-177
THE LIBERAL ARTS PARADIGM FOR
Jeffry C. Davis
The conceptual framework of an Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) program shapes the quality, variety, and results of intellectual inquiry. While there are many viable paradigms for IDS programs, a liberal arts framework particularly enhances interdisciplinary inquiry. Specifically, a liberal arts approach emphasizes integrative thinking, conceptual synthesis, character formation, and coherence across bodies of knowledge. In harmony with the liberal arts, an IDS program equips students to productively wrestle with the inevitable dysfunction and complexity of this world. By situating the task of inquiry among multiple disciplines, interdisciplinarians cultivate ethical-moral discernment alongside fluency in differing modes of academic analysis. Additionally, when oriented towards the liberal arts, an IDS program counters the false pragmatism of careerism and specialization by producing creative critical thinkers who can thrive in a variety of fields. Contextualizing interdisciplinary studies within a liberal arts schema provides students with rich opportunities to unite the mind, the passions, and the will for greater flourishing.
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