Is Higher Education Worth It—Part 2? Can It Teach Us How to Die?
So this post is, first of all, a piece of shameless self-promotion. I’m the editor of the best journal in political philosophy and the related fields—Perspectives on Political Science. The most recent issue is mostly devoted to a symposium on the most able, thoughtful, and comprehensive book written on Plato is a very long time—Catherine Zuckert’s Plato’s Philosophers.
One of the contributors to the symposium, Robert Kraynak, asks, in effect, whether Zuckert is more than a mere scholar: “Is she a convinced Socratic or Platonist?”
Zuckert claims, Kraynak reports, that the Socratic view of philosophy “has lessons and applicability for us today as we face the impersonal universe of modern science yet still need to know the human good for the purpose of leading a good and noble life.” Socratic philosophy (at least as presented by and improved upon by Plato) is “the best philosophy,” because “it alone answers the question ‘Why philosophy?’ in a way that stands independently of any cosmology, metaphysics, or scientific view of the natural universe.”
For Kraynak: “The crucial test would be whether or not Socratic philosophy can make people happy in some reasonable sense, especially by overcoming the fear of death and cosmic insignificance….If Socrates provides the best answer for Zuckert, has she learned from him how to be happy in the crucial sense of overcoming the fear of death, or she still afraid of dying like the rest of us?”
It’s that test, Kraynak explains, that shows us whether or “great scholarship and philosophical knowledge” actually do us any good.
I will give Zuckert’s very interesting response in another post.
For now, I will self-indulgently turn to my own observations, in terms of considering whether higher education is worth it.
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