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Anger and Forgiveness"Are You There Alone?"10 Good Questions about Life and DeathA Casebook of Ethical Challenges in NeuropsychologyA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to Muslim EthicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Critique of the Moral Defense of VegetarianismA Delicate BalanceA Life for a LifeA Life-Centered Approach to BioethicsA Matter of SecurityA Natural History of Human MoralityA Philosophical DiseaseA Practical Guide to Clinical Ethics ConsultingA Question of TrustA Sentimentalist Theory of the MindA Short Stay in SwitzerlandA Very Bad WizardA World Without ValuesAction and ResponsibilityAction Theory, Rationality and CompulsionActs of ConscienceAddiction and ResponsibilityAddiction NeuroethicsAdvance Directives in Mental HealthAfter HarmAftermathAgainst AutonomyAgainst BioethicsAgainst HealthAgainst Moral ResponsibilityAgency and AnswerabilityAgency and ResponsibilityAgency, Freedom, and Moral ResponsibilityAging, Biotechnology, and the FutureAlbert Schweitzer's Reverence for LifeAlphavilleAltruismAltruismAmerican EugenicsAmerican PsychosisAn Anthology of Psychiatric EthicsAn Introduction to EthicsAn Introduction to Evolutionary EthicsAn Introduction to Kant's Moral Philosophy And a Time to DieAnimal LessonsAnimal RightsAnimals Like UsApplied Ethics in Mental Health CareAre Women Human?Aristotle on Practical WisdomAristotle's Ethics and Moral ResponsibilityAssisted Suicide and the Right to DieAutonomyAutonomy and the Challenges to LiberalismAutonomy, Consent and the LawBabies by DesignBackslidingBad PharmaBad SoulsBasic Desert, Reactive Attitudes and Free WillBeauty JunkiesBefore ForgivingBeing AmoralBeing YourselfBending Over BackwardsBending ScienceBernard WilliamsBetter Humans?Better Than WellBeyond ChoiceBeyond GeneticsBeyond HatredBeyond Humanity?Beyond LossBeyond LossBeyond Moral JudgmentBeyond the DSM StoryBias in Psychiatric DiagnosisBioethicsBioethicsBioethics and the BrainBioethics at 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VirtueDesire, Practical Reason, and the GoodDestructive Trends in Mental HealthDeveloping the VirtuesDid My Neurons Make Me Do It?Difference and IdentityDigital HemlockDigital SoulDignityDisability BioethicsDisability, Difference, DiscriminationDisordered Personalities and CrimeDisorders of VolitionDisorientation and Moral LifeDivided Minds and Successive SelvesDoes Feminism Discriminate against Men?Does Torture Work?Double Standards in Medical Research in Developing CountriesDrugs and JusticeDworkin and His CriticsDying in the Twenty-First CenturyEarly WarningEconomics and Youth ViolenceEmbodied RhetoricsEmerging Conceptual, Ethical and Policy Issues in BionanotechnologyEmotional ReasonEmotions in the Moral LifeEmotions in the Moral LifeEmpathyEmpathy and Moral DevelopmentEmpathy and MoralityEmpirical Ethics in PsychiatryEncountering NatureEncountering the Sacred in PsychotherapyEngendering International HealthEnhancing EvolutionEnhancing Human CapacitiesEnoughEros and the GoodErotic 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Psychotherapy and CounselingEthics of PsychiatryEthics without OntologyEthics, Culture, and PsychiatryEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEvaluating the Science and Ethics of Research on HumansEvilEvil GenesEvil in Modern ThoughtEvil in Modern ThoughtEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolved MoralityExperiments in EthicsExploding the Gene MythExploiting ChildhoodFacing Human SufferingFact and ValueFaking ItFalse-Memory Creation in Children and AdultsFat ShameFatal FreedomFellow-Feeling and the Moral LifeFeminism and Its DiscontentsFeminist Ethics and Social and Political PhilosophyFeminist TheoryFinal ExamFirst Do No HarmFirst, Do No HarmFlashpointFlesh WoundsForced to CareForgivenessForgivenessForgiveness and LoveForgiveness and ReconciliationForgiveness and RetributionFoucault and the Government of DisabilityFoundational Issues in Human Brain MappingFoundations of Forensic Mental Health AssessmentFree WillFree Will And Moral ResponsibilityFree Will and Reactive AttitudesFree Will, Agency, and Meaning in LifeFree?Freedom and ValueFreedom vs. InterventionFriendshipFrom Darwin to HitlerFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Enlightenment to ReceptivityFrom Morality to Mental HealthFrom Silence to VoiceFrontiers of JusticeGender in the MirrorGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenocide's AftermathGetting RealGluttonyGood WorkGoodness & AdviceGreedGroups in ConflictGrowing Up GirlGut FeminismHabilitation, Health, and AgencyHandbook for Health Care Ethics CommitteesHandbook of BioethicsHandbook of PsychopathyHappinessHappiness and the Good LifeHappiness Is OverratedHard FeelingsHard LuckHardwired BehaviorHarmful ThoughtsHeal & ForgiveHealing PsychiatryHealth Care Ethics for PsychologistsHeterosyncraciesHistorical and Philosophical Perspectives on Biomedical EthicsHoly WarHookedHookedHow Can I Be Trusted?How Propaganda 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NowOur Bodies, Whose Property?Our Bodies, Whose Property?Our Daily MedsOur Faithfulness to the PastOur Posthuman FutureOut of EdenOut of Its MindOut of the ShadowsOverdosed AmericaOxford Handbook of Psychiatric EthicsOxford Textbook of Philosophy of PsychiatryPassionate DeliberationPatient Autonomy and the Ethics of ResponsibilityPC, M.D.Perfecting VirtuePersonal AutonomyPersonal Autonomy in SocietyPersonal Identity and EthicsPersonhood and Health CarePersons, Humanity, and the Definition of DeathPerspectives On Health And Human RightsPharmacracyPharmageddonPhilosophy and This Actual WorldPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of Technology: The Technological ConditionPhysician-Assisted DyingPicturing DisabilityPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying God?Playing God?Political EmotionsPornlandPowerful MedicinesPractical Autonomy and BioethicsPractical EthicsPractical Ethics for PsychologistsPractical RulesPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic NeuroethicsPraise and BlamePreferences and Well-BeingPrimates and PhilosophersPro-Life, Pro-ChoiceProcreation and ParenthoodProfits Before People?Progress in BioethicsProperty in the BodyProzac As a Way of LifeProzac on the CouchPsychiatric Aspects of Justification, Excuse and Mitigation in Anglo-American Criminal Law Psychiatric EthicsPsychiatry and EmpirePsychological Concepts and Biological PsychiatryPsychology and Consumer CulturePsychology and LawPsychotropic Drug Prescriber's Survival GuidePublic Health LawPublic Health Law and EthicsPublic PhilosophyPunishing the Mentally IllPunishmentPursuits of WisdomPutting Morality Back Into PoliticsPutting on VirtueQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRaceRadical HopeRadical VirtuesRape Is RapeRe-creating MedicineRe-Engineering Philosophy for Limited BeingsReason's GriefReasonably ViciousReckoning With HomelessnessReconceiving Medical EthicsRecovery from SchizophreniaRedefining RapeRedesigning HumansReducing the Stigma of Mental IllnessReflections On How We LiveReframing Disease ContextuallyRefusing CareRefuting Peter Singer's Ethical TheoryRelative JusticeRelativism and Human RightsReligion ExplainedReprogeneticsRescuing JeffreyResponsibilityResponsibility and PsychopathyResponsibility and PunishmentResponsibility and PunishmentResponsibility from the MarginsResponsible GeneticsRethinking CommodificationRethinking Informed Consent in BioethicsRethinking Mental Health and DisorderRethinking RapeReturn to ReasonRevolution in PsychologyRightsRights, Democracy, and Fulfillment in the Era of Identity PoliticsRisk and Luck in Medical EthicsRobert NozickRousseau and the Dilemmas of Modernity Rule of Law, Misrule of MenRun, Spot, RunRunning on RitalinSatisficing and MaximizingSchizophrenia, Culture, and SubjectivityScience and EthicsScience in the Private InterestScience, Policy, and the Value-Free IdealScience, Seeds and CyborgsScratching the Surface of BioethicsSecular Philosophy and the Religious TemperamentSeeing the LightSelf-ConstitutionSelf-Made MadnessSelf-Trust and Reproductive AutonomySentimental RulesSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex OffendersSex, Family, and the Culture WarsSexual DevianceSexual EthicsSexual PredatorsSexualized BrainsShaping Our SelvesShock TherapyShould I Medicate My Child?ShunnedSick to Death and Not Going to Take It AnymoreSickoSide EffectsSidewalk StoriesSister CitizenSkeptical FeminismSocial Inclusion of People with Mental IllnessSocial JusticeSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsSome We Love, Some We Hate, Some We EatSovereign VirtueSpeech MattersSpiral of EntrapmentSplit DecisionsSticks and StonesStories MatterSubjectivity and Being SomebodySuffering, Death, and IdentitySuicide ProhibitionSurgery JunkiesSurgically Shaping ChildrenTaking Morality SeriouslyTaming the Troublesome ChildTechnology and the Good Life?TestimonyText and Materials on International Human RightsThe Aims of Higher EducationThe Almost MoonThe Altruistic BrainThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Forensic 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Varieties of Religious ExperienceThe Virtue of Defiance and Psychiatric EngagementThe Virtues of FreedomThe Virtues of HappinessThe Virtuous Life in Greek EthicsThe Virtuous PsychiatristThe Voice of Breast Cancer in Medicine and BioethicsThe War Against BoysThe War for Children's MindsThe Whole ChildThe Woman RacketThe Worldwide Practice of TortureTherapy with ChildrenThieves of VirtueThree Generations, No ImbecilesTimes of Triumph, Times of DoubtTolerance Among The VirtuesTolerance and the Ethical LifeTolerationToxic PsychiatryTrauma, Truth and ReconciliationTreatment Kind and FairTrusting on the EdgeTry to RememberUltimate JudgementUnborn in the USA: Inside the War on AbortionUndermining ScienceUnderstanding AbortionUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding EmotionsUnderstanding EvilUnderstanding Kant's EthicsUnderstanding Moral ObligationUnderstanding Physician-Pharmaceutical Industry InteractionsUnderstanding TerrorismUnderstanding the GenomeUnderstanding the Stigma of Mental IllnessUnderstanding Treatment Without ConsentUnhingedUnprincipled VirtueUnsanctifying Human Life: Essays on EthicsUnspeakable Acts, Ordinary PeopleUp in FlamesUpheavals of ThoughtUsers and Abusers of PsychiatryValue-Free Science?Values and Psychiatric DiagnosisValues in ConflictVegetarianismViolence and Mental DisorderVirtue EthicsVirtue, Rules, and JusticeVirtue, Vice, and PersonalityVirtues and Their VicesWar Against the WeakWar, Torture and TerrorismWarrior's DishonourWeaknessWelfare and Rational CareWhat Genes Can't DoWhat Have We DoneWhat Is a Human?What Is Good and WhyWhat Is Good and WhyWhat Is the Good Life?What Price Better Health?What Should I Do?What We Owe to Each OtherWhat Would Aristotle Do?What's Good on TVWhat's Normal?What's Wrong with Children's RightsWhat's Wrong with Homosexuality?What's Wrong With Morality?When Is Discrimination Wrong?Who Holds the Moral High Ground?Who Owns YouWho Qualifies for Rights?Whose America?Whose View of Life?Why Animals MatterWhy Animals MatterWhy I Burned My Book and Other Essays on DisabilityWhy Not Kill Them All?Why Punish? How Much?Why Some Things Should Not Be for SaleWisdom, Intuition and EthicsWithout ConscienceWomen and Borderline Personality DisorderWomen and MadnessWondergenesWould You Kill the Fat Man?Wrestling with Behavioral GeneticsWriting About PatientsYou Must Be DreamingYour Genetic DestinyYour Inner FishYouth Offending and Youth Justice Yuck!
It is telling that in the current partisan political climate in the United States, there is at least one issue that seems to have garnered bipartisan support. Our Democratic president, several Republican governors, and candidates from both political parties currently running for high political office, have all suggested that a university education should be more about preparing students for careers than anything else. Moreover, those careers ought to be in the STEM areas (science, technology, engineering, and math). This view, of course, is in tension with the traditional view of higher education as a place and time for emotional and moral development as much as it is for intellectual development. What are we to make of the traditional liberal arts education that universities and colleges have for so long incorporated into their curricula to one degree or another? Simply put, what is the proper aim of higher education? This is the question at issue in this book.
The 174-page The Aims of Higher Education: Problems of Morality and Justice consists of seven chapters, each written by a philosopher, as well as an introduction and conclusion written by the editors, one a philosopher, one an economist. Several of the contributors, including one of the editors, have substantial administrative experience in academia. In chapter one, "Introduction: Problems of Morality and Justice in Higher Education," the editors, Harry Brighouse and Michael McPherson, point out that the debates in higher education about which this book is concerned "are fundamentally about values," debates to which they "believe that moral and political philosophers can contribute in useful ways" (2). The editors charged the contributors to address one or more of such moral issues that seem to fall into three overlapping categories: what students should learn, who should attend college, and the relationship between universities and the wider world, "in ways that would be interesting and accessible to other philosophers, scholars, policy makers, administrators, students, and members of the general public who are engaged in the debates" (3).
Chapter two "What Makes a University Education Worthwhile?" by philosopher and president of the University of Pennsylvania, Amy Gutman, argues that the traditional liberal arts education is essential for developing the creative understanding needed for graduates to make effective social contributions. Gutman doesn't so much confront the apparently inevitable turn toward careerism among institutions of higher learning. Instead she suggests that graduates and society could benefit from the integration into their curricula the study of "the broad area of professional ethics" (15).
In chapter three, "Defending the Humanities in a Liberal Society," Cristopher Bertram argues that students need the humanities because they are a vital source of knowledge that cannot be obtained without the methods that the humanities have developed. Along the way, Bertram musters an impressive series of considerations showing weaknesses in the careerist point of view (my phrase). He claims that arguments that the demand that academic areas of study legitimate themselves by showing how they contribute to economic growth are far "too narrow," that they miss the extent to which "we are not just entrepreneurs and workers" but citizens that require certain virtues of mind taught in the humanities, that "the humanities can keep alive a genuine diversity of views on ways to live and conceptions of the good," that the humanities are not contrary to the sciences, but "complementary to them" (28).
Chapters four, "Academic Friendship" by Paul Weithman and five, "Autonomy as Intellectual Virtue" by Kyla Ebels-Duggan both explore, and add interesting nuances to, the claim that higher education should aim at making students autonomous. Weithman claims that higher education should contribute to students' development of qualities of mind that amount to an overall "intellectual maturity" (66) that a focus on autonomy might miss. What is intriguing about Weithman's analysis is his use of a concept he calls "academic friendship." This is a discussion that both students and professors would be well served to consider. Ebels-Duggan questions what she calls the standard view "that students' primary problem is unreflective or inflexible commitment to some particular conception of the good" (86). She believes students generally lack a willingness to defend any normative position at all. Thus, traditional "solutions" to the "problem of autonomy" have been misplaced. Instructors would do better, she claims, were they to model "good attitudes about both the power and the limits of rational arguments" and that "one of the best things we can do is to display the ideas that we love and try to communicate to students why we love them (87).
Allen Buchanan's chapter six, "Education and Social Moral Epistemology," is quite specific in identifying certain false beliefs that are particularly dangerous and the role that higher education (not focused on career preparation) can play in making it difficult for those sorts of beliefs to find an audience. Buchanan frames his discussion within the familiar observation that we are living in an increasingly complex world with increasingly, and seemingly endless, commentary on that world such that it becomes a challenge to sort out the true, the false, the helpful, or the unhelpful. He claims that what he calls "morally crucial factual beliefs" that are false beliefs, "seem to play a central role in initiating, or at least sustaining, wrongful mass violence" (98). There are four types of these false beliefs: (1) "beliefs about supposed natural or essential differences between different classes of human beings," (2) "beliefs about the history of one's nation or ethnic group," (3) "beliefs about the current vulnerability of one's nation or ethnic group," (4) "beliefs about (a) the etiology of major social ills…and about (b) changes in the human gene pool" which lead "to the false prediction that there would be a catastrophic decline in the quality of human life and a disintegration of civilization" (99). If one ever wondered how higher education could help make the world a better place, there may be no better place to start than by reading this essay.
Chapters seven, "Righting Historical Injustice in Higher Education," by Lionel K. McPherson and eight, "Modeling Justice in Higher Education" by Erin I. Kelly focus less on the curricular content of higher education institutions and more on the greater social impact of those institutions. Both chapters address the issue of distributive justice, specifically where it concerns the diversity of the institutional community (students, faculty, administration). For McPherson a diverse academic community creates a positive environment that will enhance graduates' potential, while Kelly suggests that all the talk about the proper aim of higher education is useless to the extent that portions of our population are systematically denied meaningful access to such an education as justice would demand.
In the final chapter, "Conclusion: Future Research on Values in Higher Education," Brighouse and McPherson provide a list of issues, not broached in the current volume, wherein "decision making would be improved if informed by careful normative thinking supported by philosophical concepts" (156). This chapter, indeed the entirety of The Aims of Higher Education, is an example of the sort of thinking that a narrow focus on STEM education does not engender. The book is a sort of self-evident testimony to the importance of the liberal arts to our world. I share the editors' hope that "readers of this volume who are engaged substantively with problems in higher education, whether as professors or administrators or in other ways, will find their own thinking and actions helpfully influenced by what they have read" (6).
© 2016 Ben Mulvey
Ben Mulvey, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the College of Arts and Sciences of Nova Southeastern University. He received his doctorate in philosophy from Michigan State University specializing in political theory and applied ethics. He teaches philosophy at NSU and is a member of the board of advisors of the Florida Bioethics Network.