Volume 12, 1998
Paideia: Moral Education in the University?
Does the title of the World Congress of Philosophy, Paideia: Philosophy Educating Humanity, reflect hubris, irony or a pragmatic optimism? How is it possible for philosophy to educate the human community in the twenty-first century? More specifically, at a time when few people besides academic philosophers read philosophy, in what sense can philosophy educate humanity? In this essay I examine one possible way philosophy can educate humanity advanced by Derek Bok, former president of Harvard University. In a variety of public lectures, published essays and books Bok insists that America's leading colleges and universities ought to recommit themselves to moral education as one of their central tasks. I argue that recommitment to this task on the part of these elite universities is far more difficult than Bok admits. Indeed, I contend that as long as America's elite educational institutions retain the intellectual and structural commitments that displaced paideia, Bok's vision for moral education has little chance of success.