"If I could structure the "ideal" liberal education for undergraduates at our colleges and universities, I'd divide all studies into four broad areas of general focus, and require all students to apportion their coursework equally among each of the four (e.g., 30 semester units in each group):
"Creative Philosophy (Arts, Literature, Music, Theater, Film, etc.)
Practical Philosophy (Ethics, Politics, Sociology, History, Economics, etc.)
Speculative Philosophy (Metaphysics, Psychology, Epistemology, Literary Theory, etc.)
Natural Philosophy (Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Mathematics)
"In addition, the trivuum of grammar, rhetoric, and logic would be mandatory, first courses. They are indispensable to a liberal education (and to a good life)."
This idea of subsuming most worthwhile subjects under the rubric of philosophy ignores--it seems to me--the wariness that many now feel with regard to philosophy as it is commonly pursued in English-speaking universities.
To be sure, virtually every academic field evokes dislike, even hatred from some quarter or other. Rudolf Wittkower, my boss during my brief time teaching at Columbia Universiity, once vouchsafed to me the following: "As to sociologists, they should all be killed!" This savage recommendation occurred, mind you, at Columbia University, the homebase of the brilliant sociologist Robert Merton. Every word he wrote is golden, to be read and read, and pondered.
So I am not concerned with the common-variety form of academic backbiting, but with the hostility that phlosophy generates sui generis. The first reason for this dislike stems from the pride that those equipped with philosophical training often affect. Sometimes they seem to think that they are inherently smarter than anyone else; at other times they seem to believe that it is the study of philosophy that has made them such. Perhaps it is both. To this, I suppose, the vulgar response is "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" From what I can gather Gayspecies is fairly well off, but I doubt that he got that way from studying philosophy. There are too many philosophical cabdrivers driving around.
A more serious problem arises from the definition of philosophy itself. One view is that philosopby addresses, with great acumen and insight, a limited number of topics that are intrinsic to itself. Over the centuries, philosophy has seen the emigration of a number of fields formerly within its purview, starting with the natural sciences in the 17th century and culminating (possibly) with the emancipation of psychology a little over a hundred years ago. In my day, a half century ago, philosophy seemed to have reached a limit in this shedding process, for (within the limiis of the proto-analytic trend then hegemonic) it rejected not only the fields mentioned, but saw fit to cast into the outer darkness metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics. These fields were redesignated "poetry," possibly charming, but affording no access to truth.
At the same time, there survived the older notion that philosophy is the Queen of the Sciences. As such, it is entitled to intervene at any point in any field in order to dispell confusions and set the practitioners of the right path. Well, in my own realm of art history I have seen nothing but mischiief in the effort of professional philsophers to intervene and set us on the right path. Colleagues in other disciplines have told me the same.
The universalizing concept of philosophy seems to me quite simply a product of arrogance.
Thus there are two forms of arrogance. First, is the notion, cited above, that individuals with philosophical training are per se smarter than everyone else. Secondly, there is the idea that philosophy and its practitioners constitute a kind of Herrenvolk, with a sublime mission to govern and regulate everyone else. In practice their efforts in the latter realm are regularly ignored and rebuffed, but hope springs eternal, as seen in the above-cited utopian proposal to herd most areas of study into the great corral of academic philosophy.
Ne sutor ultra crepidam. Let us all look to the health of our own discipline before we seek to offer therepy to another.
By the way, the Ph.D. degree (I have one) is a mere conventional title. It carries no further implications than does, say, the term "bachelor" underlying the B.A. degree; there is no understanding that the married--or for that matter women--are not
eligible to obtain it. Similarly, few would accept that possessors of the M.A. degree are entitlted, ipso facto, to be our masters.