Friday, August 27, 2010
At the consistently wonderful Books & Culture, check out Christopher Benson's review of Martha Nussbaum's Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. Benson was optimistic ("What's not to love about a title that promises to argue for a humanistic ideal of education . . .?"), but his hopes were soon dashed. An excerpt:
[E]ven if we accept Nussbaum's contestable telos of education, we should ask if her progressivism is well equipped to achieve it. And the answer, I submit, is "No" for one principal reason. Lacking Augustine's grammar of love and sin, which constrain each other, her vision overestimates the possibilities and underestimates the limitations of education. Nussbaum's case for the humanities perpetuates the modern divorce between faith and reason, relegating faith to the private domain of family and church while elevating reason to the public domain of school. It assumes exclusive participation in the City of Man, ignoring citizenry in the City of God . . . And finally, despite Nussbaum's welcome attention to the emotional life, it views the human being primarily as a thinking thing rather than a desiring animal. Education should produce lovers and not merely democrats. To achieve this, our schools—extending the work of families and churches—will need to rightly order the affections (Augustine) and increase the power of holy attention (Simone Weil).