The Problematic Promise of the Liberal Arts
Liberal arts originate from ancient times when human civilization did not have well-defined ethical and behavioral rules in society. With the development of philosophical thought and the evolution of human perception of the world, these arts became increasingly difficult to understand and deepen into. Nowadays, a younger generation is not interested much in the studying of the humanities, which in large part is conditioned by the demand for technical specialties and the inability to apply humanities knowledge in professional life. However, at the same time, many secondary factors dictate the trends of the current ignorance and unwillingness to know other sides of the issue.
Humanity began to forget the importance of any kind of knowledge. It does not matter what the student is learning thermodynamics or philosophy, microbiology or ethics any type of knowledge has its value and application. However, the focus of the interests of an average person in the 21st century has shifted from the point “Who am I in this world?” to the point “How do I survive in this world?” Therefore, all layers of society must redefine the role of liberal arts in their lives, as they do shape (along with other factors) a personality out of a human, who is a full-fledged social unit.
In the 17th century, Ren? Descartes expressed his ingenious philosophical assertion: “I think, therefore I am.” (Descartes, Haldane, & Ross, 2003). The problem of our time is that those who have the opportunity to study do not see the benefits of this process, looking at it through the prism of the duty and the full absence of critical thinking. Only a few can understand the importance of humanitarian knowledge. Throughout our lives, different personas are dictating certain theories and truths that guide us in social life. They can relate to religious, school, parenting aspects, and so on. Every child has the opportunity to explore the world with given means. But the problem is with the tools of this knowledge. Children of wealthy parents do not have those problems, which are inherent in the children of poor parents. This is the dilemma of “desire” and “learning opportunities”. Rich children do not want to study while having the opportunity, and the poor want to study, but they do not have such an opportunity.
For the most part, this trend is due to the over-saturation with wealth in wealthy families (they have everything for the full-fledged existence); the children from poor families are not familiar with such a feeling. Therefore, when the latter gain an opportunity, which at least in some way allows them to improve their personality, they try to participate in it (Shorris, 1997). Earl Shorris mentioned this phenomenon in his study, based on the study program that was focused on the poor. People who could not even speak English fluently came to his class and wanted to study. Spoiled rich children in most cases do not think about the potential of the information provided by the professors (Edmundson, 1997). Therefore, one can observe a correlation: the more opportunities for knowledge one has, the less is the desire of the one to learn. This state of things has a negative impact on the development of society as a whole since it leads to degradation, which is observed in the 21st century. Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates said, “There is only one good, knowledge and one evil, ignorance.” (Pangle, 2014). Indeed, the ability of knowledge to influence human evolution cannot be overestimated. Only through the constant development of thinking skills, humans were able to become the ones they are now.
As already mentioned, moral principles are incorporated into a persons mind since childhood. Parents who understand the human nature and can analyze the environment of their child’s development will be able to teach the child to do the same. This also applies to the opposite case. People who cannot clearly assess the state of things and social phenomena cannot pass on the right traditions of behavior and self-examination to their children. For this purpose, it is necessary to introduce the principles of the humanities beyond the limits of family communication and family experience. Speaking metaphorically, it is necessary to fill this moral vacuum with the fresh air of knowledge and reasoning. In many cases, this will be practically impossible, as children are not able to qualitatively assess the importance of particular knowledge. They often consider the knowledge only in terms of receiving good marks. However, with age, with the correct presentation of these humanities at school, children will increasingly reflect on a particular issue, referring to what they have heard or read. This is the main goal of the humanities to make a person analyze ones present life through the knowledge of other people. This stage of personal development can permanently change ones self-affirmation and self-realization. When a person becomes able to assess the situation through the eyes of another person, he or she gets more opportunities, as well as the ability to make specific and adequate decisions. This notion may be exemplified by the situation with David Hovel, which is described in the work of Earl Shorris.
The introduction of the humanities does not guarantee the mass appearance of “good citizens,” as every person perceives information differently. Each person perceives every particular statement from his/her point of view, or cannot perceive it at all. It must be taken into account that there are many more critical factors that create the face of a particular nation. These factors, as already mentioned, include the economic status of the state, the social values ??of the family, the childrens desire for self-development, and the availability of knowledge for a wide range of individuals. In order for the humanities to operate, it is necessary to create an atmosphere of stability and priority of self-education. It is impossible to teach a person who does not want to obtain the knowledge. One can repeat the same postulates to the young people as many times as one wants, but they will never find room in the students’ minds. Therefore, in order to effectively use such effects of the humanities as self-criticism, self-analysis, anti-conflict features, the ability to follow social rules, and so on, it is necessary first to reform the public opinion around the perception of reality. And this can only be done in a society that is not focused exclusively on the eternal pursuit of financial security. People need to change their priorities in order to understand the importance of a critical thinking and objective assessment of themselves and others.
The impact of humanities on human life is an obvious fact. Only the student’s desire dictates his or her ability to use the benefits of this knowledge. Erudition outside of the specialty provides an individual with a professional and personal benefit, turning him or her into a thinker who can consider all changes and social factors in his own environment. Only the applicable experience has a value. The spiritual and aesthetic development of the individual is gained through the humanities. Therefore, the knowledge of history, philosophy, ethics and other humanities creates the image of a cultured, tolerant, and experienced person, who seeks to achieve some harmony while trying to reach ones own ideal. Such people are the foundation for the development of the society of the future, which will be deprived of wars, conflicts, poverty, and hatred.