Inside the Liberal Arts accomplishes two ambitious goals at once, and shows why they are inseparable: It explains the nature and purpose of liberal learning – to produce critical thinkers and well-rounded democratic citizens – and offers a probing, accessible guided tour of critical thinking, emphasizing the analytic skills that form the intellectual core of all higher education. Becoming better critical thinkers doesn’t mean we have to become philosophers. As users of language, Scheuer explains, we’re already philosophers. Advanced critical thinking simply makes us better philosophers – and better learners and citizens. In lucid and often witty prose, Scheuer guides us through the moral and conceptual heart of the liberal education ideal. In an era when colleges and universities are struggling to convey the value of that ideal to students and parents, Inside the Liberal Arts will be a lasting aid to intellectual excellence, and a benchmark for understanding what it means to be an educated citizen.
Jeffrey S. Scheuer is the author of two previous books on media and politics, The Sound Bite Society: How Television Helps the Right and Hurts the Left (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1999; Routledge, 2001), a Choice “Outstanding Academic Title,” and The Big Picture: Why Democracies Need Journalistic Excellence (Routledge, 2007). He lives in New York City and West Tisbury, Mass.
Chapter 1: THE LIBERAL ARTS IDEA
Chapter 2: THE LIBERAL ARTS AND TRIANGULAR CITIZENSHIP
Chapter 3: THE LIBERAL ARTS AS CRITICAL INQUIRY
Chapter 4: LANGUAGE LESSONS
Chapter 5: THE RANGE OF RATIONALITY
Chapter 6: DEFINING CRITICAL THINKING
Chapter 7: THE SPECTRUM OF CRITICAL THINKING
Chapter 8: ANALYSIS 101
Chapter 9: ANALYSIS AND AMBIGUITY
Chapter 10: THE USES OF COMPLEXITY
Chapter 11: TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES
Chapter 12: THE RIDDLE OF CAUSALITY
Chapter 13: MORALITY AND THE LIBERAL ARTS
Chapter 14: DEMOCRACY AND THE LIBERAL ARTS
Remarking on the movement of populations within, and out of, urban America in the 1970s, Richard Sennett notes how it reflected our common urge to be with others “just like ourselves.” That, fifty years on, this is precisely how observers characterize our media preferences, social and otherwise, suggests how deeply rooted our determination is to, as Sennett puts it, “remain inviolable.” When civic life is reduced to a contest among competing solitudes, the possibility of broad consensus dims dramatically, leaving us with little more than rule by discord. To overcome this condition, we require, perhaps above all, the generously open and strenuously critical habits of mind encouraged by the liberal arts, which welcome opposition on the grounds that truth is most convincingly revealed, and falsehood most comprehensively exposed, through the give-and-take of spirited debate. “Iron,” Aquinas reminds us, “is sharpened by iron.” In his valuable and timely new book, Inside the Liberal Arts, Jeffrey Schueur brings to these pressing issues the concision of thought and expression we have come to expect from his earlier examinations of democracy and the media.
Jeffrey Scheuer's book on a familiar topic about which much ink has been spilled with pitifully little residue – the liberal arts – is welcome and remarkable on account of its wide-ranging and unusual effort to ground the ideas and practices of the liberal arts in the context of philosophy. The book is free of the familiar rhetoric surrounding educational polemics and makes provocative forays into the philosophy of science, the philosophy of language, epistemology, and moral theory. The point of this endeavor is to remind us that language is the essential instrument of inquiry. Therefore, the liberal arts are essential to democracy; they enable citizens to understand that the life of the mind and a free society go hand in hand.