Undemocratic Vistas

Martha C. Nussbaum

in Philosophical Interventions

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199777853
Published online May 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780190267612 | DOI:
Undemocratic Vistas

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This chapter reviews the book The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students (1987), by Allan Bloom. Central to Stoicism's conception of philosophy's practical purpose and of the reasons for its broad distribution is the idea that philosophical education is not abstruse contemplation but the development of each human being's capacities for active practical reasoning. Bloom defends the central role of philosophy in higher education, claiming that it is essential for the health of human souls and human society. Bloom offers a diagnosis of contemporary American culture, for whose diseases philosophy is supposed to provide the cure. He argues that the central problem in higher education today, and in American society more generally, is widespread relativism. In support of this argument, Bloom constructs a colorful and highly rhetorical portrait of today's university students, who by his account seem to be pathetic characters indeed. Bloom explains how the relativism he deplores became such a pervasive influence on American society.

Keywords: philosophy; The Closing of the American Mind; Allan Bloom; philosophical education; higher education; culture; relativism; university students; Stoicism; democracy

Chapter.  7992 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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