I. Why does Kimball phrase his characterization
of the two threads in the liberal arts tradition as follows:
xi …if one is looking to make some general sense out of the long and confusing discussion about “liberal education,” it is helpful to think in terms of a tradition that has privileged “reason” (ratio)…and a tradition that has privileged “speech” (oratio)….These are the two semantic branches of the Greek term logos, which had been thought to define the nature of civilization and of a civilized human being….the oratorical vision of liberal education, emphasizing the liberal arts of grammar and rhetoric and the skills of composing, making, and analyzing speeches and texts….“philosophers” search for a precise, rational method of pursuing knowledge, and tend to regard mathematics, logic, and natural science as conveying the heart of logos and the liberal arts.
Plato’s View: Art is essentially mimesis—slide D: Art leads to immorality.
Plato’s View: Art is essentially mimesis—slide E: Art was politically dangerous, a threat to the common good.
Slide comparing and contrasting Plato’s view with Aristotle’s regarding whether art is dangerous:art’s deceptiveness vs. art’s truthfulness,
art is concerned with sensual pleasure and whether this is good or bad,
whether art is psychologically destabilizing or healthy,
whether art leads to immorality, andwhether is politically dangerous.What do these differing views tell us about the role of art in education in Ancient Greece? Here Kimball’s “history” helps:16-17 many generations prior to the “pedagogical century,” the Hellenic concept of education had been founded upon the pursuit of arete (excellence or virtue) defined according to the code of valor of the Attic-Ionian aristocracy. Central to this program was the recitation of Homeric epic poetry, both to provide technical instruction in language and, more importantly, to inculcate the knightly mores and noble ethic of the culture. Upon the disintegration of this tradition with the rise of democracy in the fifth century B.C.E., three principal groups responded with programs of education to prepare the free citizens for their new role in governing society.
21 Until the early fifth century, the Hellenic tradition of education included two major aspects: “gymnastics,” the physical training associated with the ancient obligation of military service, and “music,” the study of the arts of the Muses, which were fundamental to the cultural tradition and to the rituals of the state cultus. Service to the military, to the cultural tradition, and to the state cultus were the normal obligations of citizenship, and preparation for these responsibilities thus constituted the purpose of the education that was associated with the antecedents of the later term enkuklios. Various derivations are possible; but it seems that these antecedents, such as kuklos, referred to “circle,” “chorus,” “cycle,” or the like. The root of enkuklios, in regard to education therefore meant “belonging to a chorus,” being educated “in a chorus,” or education “ in choric subjects,” or education in a cycle of subjects or in subjects having to do with cycles, such as music and astronomy. Eventually, enkuklios came to mean “common, general, regular” because “musical education,” or enkuklios paideia, broadened into a “general education” for the free citizen with leisure to study.
33 ...it was the orator Cicero who first exemplified this Roman educational ideal for the artes liberales, a fact affirmed by Quintilian when he became the exemplar. Both men were beholden to Isocrates, whom Cicero called “that eminent father of eloquence” and “the master of all rhetoricians” and whom Quintilian labeled “that most brilliant instructor” whose school turned out the greatest orators........Isocrates, Cicero, and Quintilian are held to be critical of the speculative and endless pursuit of truth defended by Socrates and Plato. And, in fact, Isocrates states this criticism explicitly, while Cicero rejects extraordinary complexity in issues, denigrates questions that seem to have no final answers, and criticizes philosophical contemplation pursued for its own sake.18-19 ...while Alexander was establishing his empire, a consensus began to emerge. More and more, the Hellenistic elite looked to the model of Isocrates for their training, as orators...rather than philosopher-kings, dominated public affairs....“Isocrates became the educator first of Greece and then of the whole ancient world." This “victory” undergirds the ideal of Hellenistic education passed on to Rome.pp. 37-38 and the seven characteristics of the artes liberales view.41 Frequently citing Cicero, Augustine adopted the forms of classical erudition, thus legitimating their use by other Christians at the same time that he met pagan critics on their own ground. In this fashion, he argued that Christianity had not caused the decline of the empire. Rather, fundamental pride and love of praise—the antithesis of the Christian virtue of humility—had rotted out the civilization........The septem artes liberales came to be adopted as all the education necessary for the study of higher truth in Scripture. In this way, the Church informed the late sophistic liberal arts with a reinvigorated sense of inherited truth and virtue, an inheritance derived from a textual tradition and meant to be eloquently expounded. The Christian adoption of classical forms thus elevated the sophistic artes liberales of late antiquity closer to the oratorical model advocated by Cicero and received from Isocratean Hellenistic civilization.
66 By combining, not altogether intentionally, the Stoic-Augustinian-Isidorian division of philosophy into logic, ethics, and physics with the various divisions of philosophy made by Aristotle at various points in his writings, academicians reached accord on a categorization of philosophia into natural, moral, and metaphysical divisions. Albert, Thomas, and others then proceeded to outline a five-step program of intellectual formation leading to theology: (1) trivium, (2) quadrivium, (3) natural philosophy, (4) moral philosophy, and (5) metaphysics.
78 For their program of education, the Renaissance humanists took the name studia humanitatis or, studia humanioria, terms that Cicero and Gellius had coined and equated with artes liberals and that, by the fifteenth century, had come to mean the disciplines of grammar, rhetoric, poetry, and history, often combined with moral philosophy. From here a line of continuity can be traced back through Henri d’Andeli, Alcuin, and Isidore, although this lineage must not be overemphasized because the motivation had changed. Apart from its commitment to moral instruction of the good citizen, Renaissance humanism was devoted to the continual refinement of the human personality. With this orientation, the Renaissance scholars, though Christian, advanced classical study for its own sake rather than emphasizing its instrumentality for the study of theology….
119 Out of this revival of the philosophical tradition, with its fascination for Socratic criticism and mathematical laws can be abstracted the characteristics of another ideal type that would come to be associates with “liberal” studies in contradistinction to the artes liberals ideal. I call this the “liberal-free ideal” because it served as an underlying cultural ideal and because it is symptomatic in the sense of comprising a logically coherent whole.119 Foremost among the seven characteristics of the liberal-free ideal is an emphasis on freedom….
120 The desire for freedom is particularly linked to an emphasis on intellect and rationality, a second characteristic of the liberal-free ideal.
120-121 Thirdly, the liberal-free ideal incorporates a critical skepticism, even though some freethinkers, converted to the new faith of natural science, presumed to reach final answers in their inquiries. But this response generally missed the point of the scientific method: any conclusions inferred become new hypotheses and are always subject to challenge and criticism.
121-122 As “certainty is the mother of intolerance,” so tolerance became the fourth characteristic of the liberal-free ideal. Appearing at the turn of the eighteenth century, this was a “new virtue,” for the notion of tolerance had previously implied weakness or cowardice, that is, lack of commitment to one’s professed beliefs. The new virtue thus depended centrally on the epistemology of skepticism….If standards cannot finally be proven right or wrong, then no viewpoint can be considered absolute, and the free thinkers were quick to embrace the idea. A tendency toward egalitarianism, a fifth characteristic of the liberal-free ideal, follows also from the relativizing of standards and norms, although this connection was not immediately emphasized.
122 A sixth characteristic of the liberal-free ideal necessarily accompanies this tolerance and egalitarianism: emphasis upon volition of the individual rather than upon the obligations of citizenship found in the artes liberals ideal.122 The concern for individual growth reinforces the seventh characteristic of the liberal-free ideal: its standing as an ideal, an end in itself.
VI. What is Kimball's "Synthesis?"
141 The [American] Revolution brought change. In fact, it was precisely this rebelling that kindled Enlightenment influence in America, particularly in education, and weakened the Georgian theory of liberal education in England. Equality, liberty, learning, progress, experimentation, and science were associated in the minds of the Revolutionary leaders….this Enlightenment ethos also promoted suspicion of authority and tradition, as well as attacks on the gentlemanly virtues and classical education that conveyed them. Consequently, the Revolution can be considered the catalyst for engendering the liberal-free ideal in America.218-219 In the artes liberales ideal, a presumption of certitude underlies the identification of virtues and standards reposited in classical texts; and commitment is thereby demanded, identifying an elite who embrace the virtues and preserve them as leaders of society. The foundation of the curriculum lies in the study of language and letters, required in order for the student to fathom the texts and then to express their lessons in public forums as advocates, statesmen, preachers, or professors. In the liberal-free ideal, skeptical doubt undermines all certainty, casting individuals entirely upon their own intellect for judgments that can never finally be proved true. Consequently, the views of others must be tolerated and respected equally, while all beliefs must change and develop over time. Logic and mathematics, which hone the intellect, and experimental science, which teaches the honed intellect to turn old truths into new hypotheses for further testing, form the core of the curriculum designed to graduate the scientist and researcher who loves knowledge and therefore pursues it without end.219 The artes liberales accommodation [to the conflict between the two models] amounts…to prescribing the reading of classical texts primarily in order to develop critical intellect.
224 The tension of “universal aristocracy” appears as well in the liberal-free accommodation [between the two traditions], although there it has somewhat different implications and developed in the opposite way from the above mentioned challenge to a preexisting elitism.
226 If the combining of “excellence” and “mass education” gained comprehensiveness and sacrificed systematic integrity for the liberal free accommodation, it also pointed to a more central conflict: that this accommodation extols the absoluteness of a critical rational method while presuming nothing to be absolute.p. 228 for Kimball's “accommodation chart.”237-241 Kimball presents his “synthesis” of the philosophical and oratorical traditions.241 The alternative exists, however, because the Ciceronian and Socratic conceptions of liberal education continue to stand in tension, as they have since antiquity, like the two foci of an ellipse whose locus includes the varying approaches to liberal education of any particular time. And the points on the ellipse are defined by their relation to Isocrates and Plato, Isidore and Boethius, Orléans, Arnold and Huxley, that is, to the orators and the philosophers.
280 The problem of instituting value and coherence in education is therefore directly connected to the problem of instituting value and coherence in society, and in the culture at large, and both of these problems are relegated to the problem of the authority of knowledge, of epistemology. This epistemological problem is an important reason for the interest in the interpretation of texts. As Jurgen Habermas has observed about the neo-Aristotelians, such as Robert Hutchins, Mortimer Adler, Richard McKeon, and their fellow traveler Allan Bloom: “The ethics and politics of Aristotle are unthinkable without the connection to [his] physics and metaphysics….Today it is no longer easy to render the approach of this metaphysical mode of thought plausible. It is no wonder that the neo-Aristotelian writings do not contain systematic doctrines, but are works of high interpretive art that suggest the truths of classical texts through interpretation, rather than by grounding it.” Here one sees why the cry for commitment to a coherent and unified curriculum and philosophy of education frequently accompanies the prescription of reading classical texts, especially those of Aristotle. Given the impossibility in the twentieth century of rationally and causally grounding systems of metaphysics and ethics, one retreats to advocating commitment and interpreting texts.