Dr. Mortimer J. Adler

Dr. Mortimer J. Adler


[Note: This article was written by Dr. Adler in outline form.]

I Introduction.

A. Reason for change of title.

1. The subject of concern proposed for discussion: the humanities in relation to the sciences
—–in our educational institutions
—–in our culture

2. The problem raised by that concern is stated in a number of different ways, according to the way we define the scope of the humanities and the sciences.

3. As currently stated in this century, and in most academic circles, the problem in my judgment has no good solution.

a. The choice we are offered—the alternatives we are asked to consider and relate confront us with equally undesirable options.

(1) On the one hand, the academic departments currently classified as the humanities:
Literature, languages and philology, history, philosophy, and the fine arts.

(2) On the other hand, another set of academic departments currently classified as the sciences:

The social or behavioral sciences, and sometimes with them history as a social science; together with the natural sciences and mathematics.
And in both cases the highly specialized techniques of research associated with these disciplines.

b. Confronted with these options, my response is:
A plague on both your houses!

This is a choice between tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee.

What is represented here is not, as C.P. Snow would have it, two cultures but one culture, or, as I think it is more accurate to say, no culture at all but a multiplicity of fragments that do not constitute a culture.

4. I would, therefore, like to propose another set of alternatives. When stated in the terms that I propose, there is no problem to be solved, for the choice to be made is dictated by the alternatives as stated.

a. The dividing line that I would draw is between
What is everybody’s business, on the one hand
What is the business only of the specialist,
The expert, or the professional, on the other.

b. Another way of stating this division, is as follows:

(1) The learning of the generalist, together with the general skills or arts appropriate to the acquirement of such learning.

(2) The knowledge of the specialist, together with the specialized skills or techniques appropriate to the development of such knowledge.

c. To the first of these the learning of the generalist I would give the name “humanities,” or if you will, Humanistic and philosophical learning,
Together with the liberal arts
—-everybody’s business.
d. To the second of these the knowledge of the specialist—I would give the name “sciences,” including here

Not only the academic departments ordinarily classified as the physical, biological, and social or behavioral sciences. But also the academic departments that represent specialized or professionally expert scholarship in

The Fine Arts.

e. Please note that the current academic names for the disciplines do not by themselves indicate on which side of the dividing line a particular subject-matter falls. Thus:

(1) Taught or pursued in a certain way the way that makes them everybody’s business the sciences and mathematics fall on the side of humanistic or philosophical learning.

(2) Taught or pursued in a different way the way that makes them, not everybody’s business, but only the business of this or that branch of highly specialized, expert, or professional scholarship literature and the other arts, history, and philosophy belong with the sciences rather than with the humanities.

B. With this clarification of the terms in which I think the problem should be stated, let me now state the three theses that I wish to defend.

1. The first is that the basic and common schooling that should be given to all without exception, because it is the kind of schooling appropriate to their common humanity should aim to cultivate their minds with the learning of the generalist humanistic or philosophical learning and the liberal arts needed for the acquirement of such learning.

(It is the initial acquirement of such learning in the years of basic schooling, that should be certified by the degree of Bachelor of Arts)

2. My second thesis is that there is only one culture in which all human beings can and should participate or share as communicating members of a single cultural community—and that is the culture which results from the cultivation of the mind by humanistic or philosophical learning the learning of the generalist which is everybody’s business.

3. My third and final thesis is that the acquirement of such learning cannot be accomplished during the years of schooling.

It can be begun there: the Bachelor of Arts is initiated into it, but he is only an initiate.

It remains to be completed in a lifetime of learning by those who remain in the academy to become experts or professionals in the specialized fields of science or scholarship as well as by those who leave the academy for other pursuits or occupations.

For the members of either group to realize in some degree the ideal of the educated human being, they must continue to pursue the learning of the generalist throughout their lives.

C. I have stated my thesis as bluntly and succinctly as possible.

1. Since the terms of reference in which I have stated them may be somewhat strange, paradoxical, or puzzling within the context of current academic discussions, let me provide some further clarification and explanations.

a. First, by briefly reviewing the historical background of the problem we are considering.

b. Second, by explaining why what I have called humanistic or philosophical learning is everybody’s business and why what I have called the sciences and specialized scholarship are not everybody’s business.

2. When I have done these two things, I will then present a number of conclusions about our colleges and universities, about our culture, and about education that follow from these stated, clarified, and explained.

II. The historical background.

A. From the Greek until modern times–

In fact, until the 19th century, when the modern university with its professional departments and its professors of this or that, its Ph.D.’s began to dominate both the educational scene and the culture of our society—

The distinction between the learning of the generalist and the knowledge of the specialist was understood and acknowledged, though not always with the same degree of clarity or with a full recognition of its significance.

1. We owe the first clear statement of the distinction, as we owe most of our fundamental insights, to Aristotle.

a. The distinctions made in the opening chapter of the first book of his treatise On the Parts of Animals.

b. The Greek words that Aristotle used to make the distinction, and the meaning he assigned to them, are as follows:

(1) On the one hand, episteme (which in Latin becomes scientia, and in English “science”)

(2) On the other hand, paideia (which in Latin becomes humanitas, and in English “learning”)—

This Aristotle regarded as the learning of the generalist, the learning appropriate to an educated man, one who has acquaintance with all branches of knowledge, but an acquaintance that does not make him an expert, a specialist, or a professor of any one of them.

c. As my paraphrase of Aristotle’s text indicates, he is presenting us with the distinction between the kind of learning that is everybody’s business and the kind of knowledge that is not.

2. This basic distinction is preserved in the centuries that follow:

a. In Roman culture, by such orators or rhetoricians as Cicero and Quintillian (who, by the way, thought the ideal orator had also to be a philosopher).

b. In the high middle ages, by the distinction between the kind of learning that made a master of the arts and the kind of professional competence that made him a doctor of medicine, law, or theology.

Please note, in passing, that there were no doctors of philosophy. The masters of the arts were all philosophers, all generalists.

The Ph.D. degree was first created in the German universities to signify professional competence in a specialized branch of knowledge (espisteme or scientia, not paedeia or humantias). It misuses the word “philosophy”, which should be associated with the humanistic learning of the generalist, not the scientific knowledge or professional scholarship of the specialist.

The degree should have been Sc.D—doctor of science or scholarship. So named, it would have clearly indicated that the bearers of this degree, most of whom become university professors, are men of specialized knowledge, not generalists, not humanists, least of all philosophers.

c. After the middle ages and at the beginning of modern times, the so-called “renaissance of learning” is a return to the Roman version of Aristotle’s distinction.

(1) It placed emphasis on literature and the languages on humane letters rather than on the sciences.

(2) It failed to see, as the Romans failed to see, that, according to Aristotle’s way of making the distinction, the sciences and even mathematics, approached in a certain way could be included in the learning of the generalist in humanistic or philosophical learning.

3. What I am saying, in other words, is that with the Romans and the Renaissance, the humanities, or humanistic learning become too restricted, with its major or almost exclusive emphasis on humane letters language, literature, and rhetoric and with too sharp a distinction between humane letters, on the one hand, and the special sciences, on the other.

4. Beginning in the 17th century, we have the modern development of the experimental and investigative sciences, but it was not until the end of the 18th century and the middle or end of the 19th century that all these specialized disciplines broke away from the parent stem of philosophy and became of specialized knowledge.

B. The first modern statements of the opposition or conflict between the sciences (the knowledge of the specialist) and the humanities (the humanistic or philosophical learning of the generalist) are to be found in the writings of three 19th century educators .

One, himself a scientist and philosopher of science, William Whewell, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. Another, himself a philosopher, John Stuart Mill, in his Inaugural Address as Rector of St. Andrews University and third, himself a theologian, John Henry Cardinal Newman, in his Idea of a University.

1. Let me first summarize briefly the central educational theses advanced by these three writers, and then comment on them:

a. Whewell: distinction between permanent and progressive studies, the permanent studies being the main substance or core of everyone’s education, to which should be added some acquaintance with, but not expert or specialized proficiency in, the sphere of progressive studies.

b. J.S. Mill: distinction between the kind of learning that should be the property of all educated human

beings and the kind that should be reserved for particular professions or occupations.

Here I cannot refrain from quoting two passages from Mill that sum up his basic insight.

In the first, Mill, using the word “university” where we would use the phrase “undergraduate college,” declares, without qualification, that the university should not be concerned with professional education. He says:

It is not a place of professional education. Universities are intended to teach the knowledge required to fit men for some special mode of gaining their livelihood. Their object is not to make skilful lawyers, or physicians, or engineers, but capable and cultivated human beings. It is very right that there should be public facilities for the study of professions. It is well that there should be Schools of Law, and of Medicine, and it would be well if there were schools of engineering and the industrial arts.

Rephrasing his point in our vernacular, Mill is saying that specialized or professional knowledge of all sorts scientific knowledge and specialized scholarship belong in what we would call the graduate school, which is built on the nineteenth-century model of the German university, not in the undergraduate college which should be devoted only to initiating the young into humanistic or philosophical learning of the generalist.

The second quotation from his address gives his reason for saying this:

“Men are men before they are lawyers, or physicians, or merchants, or manufacturers; and if you make them capable and sensible men, they will make themselves capable sensible lawyers or physicians. What professional men should carry away with them from an University, is not professional knowledge, but that which should direct the use of their professional knowledge, and bring the light of general culture to illuminate the technicalities of a special pursuit. Men may be competent lawyers without general education, but it depends on general education to make them philosophic lawyers who demand, and are capable of apprehending, principles, instead of merely cramming their memory with details. And so of all other useful pursuits, mechanical included. Education makes a man a more intelligent shoemaker, if that be his occupation, but not by teaching him how to make shoes; it does so by the mental exercise it gives, and the habits it impresses.”

c. Cardinal Newman: distinction between the liberal or philosophical learning, on the one hand, and specialized scientific knowledge having technological or useful applications, on the other.

Again I must call your attention to the fact that for Newman, as for Mill, what is meant by “university” is what we mean by “undergraduate college”.

Though their language differs in other respects, both are saying, that the basic schooling of the young, up to the Bachelor of Arts degree, should be devoted entirely to general learning, at once philosophical and humanistic, not to highly specialized knowledge, however useful that may be.

2. To this summary of the views of Whewell, Mill, and Newman, I need add only the following brief comments.

a. Whewell, unfortunately, placed too much emphasis on language, literature, and ancient philosophy in his conception of the permanent studies. (the subjects then constituting the main substance of the classical curriculum at Oxford and Cambridge).

b. Mill and Newman had a broader conception of the learning of the generalist, as contrasted with the knowledge of the specialist. They both included the whole range of subject-matters, but only through the kind of acquaintance with them that results from approaching them philosophically and humanistically—in a way that makes them everybody’s business.

c. Even though the German universities of the 19th century imposed the misnamed Ph.D. upon us and glorified the accomplishments of the research specialist, not only in the natural sciences, but also in history, in philology, and in philosophy, it must also be pointed out that those who became professors of specialized knowledge in the university were all men trained in the humanistic gymnasium (devoted mainly to the classical languages and literature Whewell’s permanent studies), not in the technical high school. (the German humanistic gymnasium thus paralleled the classical curriculum at an Oxford college).

C. Turning now to the 20th century (in order to complete this brief statement of the historical background relevant to the theses I have proposed), let me call your attention to and comment briefly on four things.

1. The protracted controversy that followed C.P. Snow’s essay on the two cultures is one source of our present confusion about the relation of the humanities to the sciences.

a. The two cultures referred to in Snow’s essay and in the many responses it evoked are not two cultures at all, but separate fragments of one and the same culture–the culture of the specialist.

(1) Snow’s main point turned on the failure of communication between the literary man and the scientist, the failure of each to understand the language or the contribution of the other.

(2) The explanation of that failure lies in the extraordinary degree to which specialization has advanced in all academic disciplines, not just in he natural and social sciences, but in historical research, in literary scholarship, in philology and philosophy as well.

(3) The real point that Snow should have made is not that we are now confronted with two cultures that cannot communicate with one another, but rather that we are confronted with a vast multiplicity of specialized disciplines (some of them classified as sciences, some as non-scientific scholarship), none of which can communicate with any other.

(The annual meetings of A.A.A.S. bear witness to this. Even the mathematicians meet in fifteen or twenty different sections, divided by the intense degree of specialization that now exists in mathematics. Communication and understanding has now been narrowed down to the minute sectional subdivisions of each specialized academic discipline. What is true of mathematics is equally true of historical research, of philosophy, of psychology, and so on.)

b. In other words, what we are confronted with, as a result of the progressively ever more intense specialization of knowledge in all academic fields, is not two cultures, but no culture at all–if by a culture is understood the common learning in which all human beings should be able to participate and in terms of which they should be able to communicate and understand one another.

2. As further evidence of this deplor-able state of affairs, let me mention briefly my own experience in the work of producing the new Britannica, the 15th edition, which appeared in 1974.

a. As further the initiation of this work 10 years earlier, I proposed that the 15th edition should differ from all earlier editions, especially from the famous 11th, in making all its articles intelligible to the intelligent layman.

(1) Nothing less than that deserves the name “encyclo-pedia”– the circle of general learning, of paideia in Aristotle’s sense of that term.

(2) In both the 11th and the subsequent 14th edition, the articles were written by specialists in the same field. The encyclopaedia had become an anthology of specialized knowledge, rather than a compendium of generalized learning.

(3) How far did we succeed in achieving our objective? I wish I could say one humdred percent, but we fell a little short of that. It is remarkable that we did succeed 80 or 85 percent of the way. That is a remarkable improvement on earlier editions of Britannica.

b. We should have been able to succeed one hundred percent if we could have solicited articles from men of general learning that includes an acquaintance with and understanding of mathematics and the sciences as well as history, literature, philosophy, religion, and the arts.

(1) One measure of the degree to which we can no longer call upon such general learning is the amount of editing we had to do to make the scholarly contributions as readable as they should be.

(2) Another indication of the same is the number of instances in which scholars refused to comply with our request for generally intelligible writing, or refused to accept editorial revisions we felt compelled to make in order to remove technical and specialized jargon and to render their articles more intelligible and appropriate for a general encyclopaedia.

3. When about twenty-five years ago I worked with Father John Cavanaugh, then President of Notre Dame, to create at that university a Program of General Studies that would, like the program at St. John’s College in Annapolis, have a completely required curriculum devoted to humanistic and philosophical learning, the learning of the generalist, the opposition came from the professors of English and other languages and literature, from professors of mathematics and of the natural and social sciences.

a. Why? Because all these men have been trained as specialists in the fields in which they had earned the Ph.D’s. None was himself a generalist, none was a man of humanistic or philosophical learning.

b. As professors of specialized knowledge, they wished to impart it to the young in the college courses they taught, even though, in most cases, they were mainly interested in their own on-going research and its effect on their advancement in the graduate school.

c. A completely required curriculum of general studies would have prevented that and would, in addition, have been uncongenial to their professional interests if they had been asked to participate in it as teachers.

d. In this connection, it is worth recalling that the introduction of the elective system by President Eliot at Harvard at the end of the last century was similarly motivated. It was intended to allow the specialized disciplines of the graduate school, modeled after the German university, to gain a foothold in the undergraduate college; and, through the insidious system of majors and minors, to draw the undergraduate student into specialized study and away from general learning.

4. Examine the catalogue of any undergraduate college today, not only colleges that belong to universities with graduate schools that control the college curriculum, but also colleges separate from universities but which imitate the pattern set by colleges in universities.

a. What do you find? A vast assemblage of variegated courses from A to Z representing branches of specialized knowledge, both scientific and non-scientific, that constitute the multiplicity of fragmented departments in the graduate school.

b. In a great many instances, the courses offered got into the catalogue in the first place because of the highly specialized research interest of some professor in the graduate school.

c. The catalogue, with its system of majors and minors, presents no program of general learning. On the contrary, it prevents the existence of such a program.

d. The competition for the student’s attention is not a competition between humanistic learning on the one hand, and scientific knowledge, on the other. It is only a competition between one set of specialized disciplines, currently classified as sciences, and another set of specialized disciplines, in other fields of scholarship, such as history, literature, and philosophy, currently classified as humanities, where that word does not signify that they are truly humanistic, but only that they are non-scientific.

e. At the University of Chicago in the thirties and forties, President Hutchins tried to reverse the picture by instituting a completely required curriculum which would give all the students in the college the humanistic learning of the generalist, through the reading of great books and through discipline in the liberal arts.

(1) His Higher Learning in America, published in 1936, was an eloquent appeal for a reform of undergraduate education by emancipating the college from the graduate school and by reconstituting it in line with the version of general humanistic learning set Fourth by Whewell, Mill, and Newman.

(2) He succeeded in establishing this reform at the University of Chicago, but never as fully as he wished, and his success was short-lived. Within a few years of his departure from the university, the graduate departments re-assorted themselves and dismantled the Hutchins college.

(3) To my knowledge, the Hutchins reform persists only in two places—at St. John’s College and in the Program of General Studies at Notre Dame, which, it must be added, enrolls only a handful of the undergraduates at that university; the rest are exposed to the elective system with its majors and minors in highly specialized knowledge.

III. The underlying basis of the distinction between the learning of the generalists, which is everybody’s business, and the knowledge of the specialist, which is not.

A. Up to this point, I have repeatedly insisted upon and employed the distinction between what is everybody’s business and what is not–between the learning of the generalist and the knowledge of of the specialist.

1. I have given you the historical background relevant to understanding this distinction, especially as it bears on education, on our colleges and universities, and on our culture.

2. But I have not explained the distinction itself. I have not explained what makes a certain kind of learning everybody’s business, and how it differs from the kind of knowledge that is not everybody’s business.

3. The quickest and most effective way of doing that is to explain why philosophy is everybody’s business and why the sciences are not.

B. My understanding of the difference between philosophy and science developed over many years and finally emerged in mature form in a book, The Conditions of Philosophy, which I wrote and published in the early sixties. For the controlling insights in that book, I am indebted to what Jacques Maritain taught me about the grounding of philosophy in common experience and about its relation to common sense.

1. First let me be sure you understand that if we use the term “knowledge” to stand for some hold on the truth about reality, philosophy no less than science can claim to be knowledge.

a. Both achieve some truth in their effect to answer questions about the nature of the world in which we live, about the nature of man and human behavior, and about society and its institutions.

b. In both cases, the truth they achieve involves reliance upon experience and involves processes of thought, reflecting upon and analyzing that experience.

c. But the kind of questions that the philosopher asks, the scientist cannot answer by the method that makes him a scientist. Similarly, the kind of questions that the scientist asks, the philosopher cannot answer by the method that makes him a philosopher.

d. The pivotal and crucial difference in their methods lies in the kind of experience to which they appeal, and then, consequently, in the kind of thinking they must do to interpret that experience.

e. The philosopher appeals only to the common experience of mankind, the experience that all human beings have simply by being awake, without the slightest effort of deliberate and methodic investigation, without having prior questions in mind to answer by means of investigation.

f. In sharp contrast, the scientist is, first and foremost, an investigator, a man who devises special methods of observation in order to answer questions he has formulated. As a result of his methodically carried out observations, whether in laboratories or not, whether with instrumentation or not, the experience on which the scientist relies is the very special experience produced by his methodical observations.

g. Like philosophical knowledge, our common sense knowledge is also based on common experience. That is why philosophy is an extension of and refinement of common sense and that is why both differ sharply from the scientific knowledge that is based entirely on special experience.

2. Common experience, I repeat, is the everyday experience of the ordinary man—experience he has without any effort or plan of investigation on his part. It may give rise to the asking of questions and once it does, he begins to philosophize about it, but it does not originate from the asking of questions as the special experience of the investigative scientist does.

a. The core of common experience is the universal experience that is the same for all human beings at all times and places. Some parts of common experience may vary with the circumstances of particular environments or of particular times; but there is always a common core that is universal–the same at all times and places regardless of circumstances.

b. Let me read you a statement by George Santayana which conveys most eloquently what I mean by the universal core of common experience.

For good or ill, I am an ignorant man, almost a poet, and can only spread a feast of what everybody knows. Fortunately, exact science and the books of the learned are not necessary to establish my essential doctrine, nor can any of them claim a higher warrant than it has in itself: for it rests on public experience. It needs, to prove it, only the stars, the season’s, the swarm of animals, the spectacle of birth and death, of cities and wars. My philosophy is justified, and has been justified in all ages and countries, by the facts before every man’s eyes….In the past or in the future, my language and my borrowed knowledge would have been different, but under whatever sky I had been born, since it is the sky, I should have had the same philosophy.

3. Precisely because they are based, as common sense is, on common experience, and because it is an extension of common sense, elucidating and illuminating insights that belong to common sense in a rudimentary form, philosophy is everybody’s business.

4. And precisely because it is based on one another variety of special experience which results from one or another highly specialized method of investigation, the sciences are not everybody’s business, neither their special techniques of investigation nor the specialized knowledge that these techniques produce.

5. Like philosophy, the liberal arts are also everybody’s business, at least to the extent that they are skills the mind employs in reflecting upon the common experience of mankind and upon the communication of that experience or of reflections about it in language.

6. Imaginative literature–epic, dramatic, and lyric poetry, novels and plays–is also like philosophy in that it too draws upon the common experience of mankind and represents reflections about it. Nothing but common experience and reflection about it is needed for the understanding of such literature.

7. Even the literature of the sciences and of mathematics can be read and understood in a way that brings them within the grasp of the generalist who, in the light of his common sense and his common experience, asks philosophical questions about them and use the liberal arts to pursue the answers.

a. When John Erskine introduced the readings of the great books at Columbia in the early twenties, he–a professor of English literature and a specialist in the scholarship of the Elizabethan period read and discussed all the books on the list: the historical, scientific, and the theological books as well as the poetry, the novels, and the plays. He read them all as literature which an intelligent person should be able to discuss in the light of his common experience and his common sense and with whatever philosophical insights he could bring to bear.

b. Subsequently, when the great books course at Columbia expanded its enrollment and many seminar sections had to be formed, to be conducted by other members of the faculty, the professors of sociology or of economics, of history, or of literature, who were then drawn into the picture abstained from reading and discussing the books on the list that did not fall within their sphere of special scholarly competence. They obtained substitutes for themselves by asking other professors to discuss the books that fell in their special fields.

c. I tell this story in order to indicate the difference between Erskine’s humanistic and philosophical approach to the reading and discussion of books, which made all of them the province of the generalist, and the non-humanistic, non-philosophical approach of his colleagues who assigned the books to one or another of the academic specialties they professed and in which they claimed scholarly competence.

C. I hope I have now made clear why philosophy is everybody’s business and why the sciences are not.

1. In addition, I hope that what I have said about the relation of philosophy to common sense also explains why the learning of the generalist includes a humanistic and philosophical approach to all subject-matters to the kind of philosophical reading and discussion of books that treats all of them as humane letters, whether they are books written by poets or philosophers, by historians or scientists, or by physicians, lawyers, or theologians.

2. To this, I must add one very important qualification. Until the last hundred and fifty years or so, great books in every field were written for the intelligent layman. This is true of Galileo, Newton, and Darwin, of Augustine and Aquinas, of Herodotus, and Thucydides, Tacitus and Gibbon, of Plato, Aristotle, Locke, and Mill, of Machieavelli and Hobbes, as well as of Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Shakespeare.

a. But since the rise of specialization in almost all fields of research and scholarship, since the crushing of the generalist in the coils of what William James called the Ph.D. octopus,” since the modern university has outlawed generalists from its faculties by demanding that of its professors highly specialized competence in some narrowly restricted field of special knowledge, it is no longer true.

b. In 1902, Alfred North Whitehead wrote an Introduction to Mathematics that could be read and understood by the intelligent layman. No book like that has been written since then.

c. In the early years of this century, Bergson, Santayana, James, Dewey, and Russell wrote philosophical books intended for the intelligent layman, not just for the eyes for their colleagues in departments of philosophy. In the last 25 years, few if any books like that have appeared. Philosophers are now as much specialists as their scientific colleagues in the university: they write, whether books or periodical articles, only for their peers other professors of philosophy.

d. What I have just said holds comparably in the fields of literary criticism, the study of literature, so-called scientific or sociological history, the history of the arts, and so on.

3. That is why there is no good choice, either with respect to education or to culture, if one has to choose between the present academic disciplines that are misnamed “humanities” and the academic disciplines that are classified as the sciences. For both groups of disciplines are essentially alike in being highly specialized branches of expert knowledge, fragmented into minute subdivisions and rendered incommunicable to one another by the technical jargons that each employs.

4. Let me repeat what I have said at the beginning –that the only good, the only meaningful choice, is one that permits us to choose the humanistic and philosophical learning of the generalist, learning which belongs to everybody and should be the common culture in which everybody participates: and, having made that choice, we would assign a secondary and subordinate place in education and in culture to the non-humanistic, non-philosophical knowledge that should be reserved for scholars, researchers, or professionals in special fields.

IV. Conclusions.

A. On the light of what has gone before, you will, I hope, see the conclusions to which we are led by the analysis I have presented. Let me state them for you with maximum brevity.

B. First, with regard to basic education the schooling that, in a democracy such as ours, should cultivate the kind of learning that is everybody’s business. Such schooling should terminate with the Bachelor of Arts degree.

1. The curriculum should be a completely required one.

2. It should involve the reading of the great books in all fields of subject-matter, approached in the manner that I have described as humanistic and philosophical, not in the manner that I have attributed to professors or narrowly specialized professional competence.

3. To ensure that the learning which an undergraduate college cultivates is the humanistic and philosophical learning of the generalist, the members of a college faculty should not be professors of this or that subject-matter, or members of this or that academic department. Their competence should be the competence of generalists, not the competence of specialists.

4. The acquirement of specialized scientific knowledge or of specialized scholarly knowledge in non-scientific fields the kind of knowledge that is not everybody’s business should be reserved for the graduate school, where it is proper to have academic departments and professors of this or that.

C. Second, even though the university is the place for the cultivation of specialized knowledge and specialized scholarship, it, too, needs the leaven of the generalist.

1. Without the presence, to some extent and in some way, of humanistic and philosophical learning, the university cannot be a community of scholars, for a community of specialists is a community in name only, and not in fact.

2. How to achieve this is extremely difficult to devise. My only suggestion, which falls far short of a proposal of detailed measures to adopt, is that philosophy as everybody’s business not philosophy as it is now taught in philosophy departments should somehow pervade the university, and serve to provide a universe of discourse in which all the specialists can participate and talk to one another about their specialties.

D. Third, and finally, I must say that only if these two reforms are accomplished in our educational institutions in our undergraduate and in our graduate schools; and only if human beings thus properly schooled continue throughout their adult life to pursue the humanistic and philosophical learning of the generalist, is there any hope for the restoration of a truly human culture in which all can participate one culture, not two, and certainly not the multiplicity of cultural fragments which constitute the cultural chaos that now confronts and bewilders us.

Mortimer Adler
(Presented as a lecture at the University of Kansas, March 23, 1978.)