The World Explored, the World Suffered Education Issue Nr. 19 June 2019 - Page 25

It is not certain that Aristotle or Kant would have appreciated the above account of the distinction between the universal and the particular in relation to Philosophy and History. Certainly, Aristotle in his work on Poetry contrasted History and Poetry in terms of the particular and the universal but he would certainly have appreciated the historians search for the material and efficient causes of the particular events studied and surely some true generalizations could be the result of such investigations. But the question to be asked here is "Are historians relativistic in their judgments about what is best?" This sounds more like poetry. Aristotle would not have subscribed to any view which attempted to relativize the idea of the best. For Kant, the historian must be concerned with historical truth and this, in turn, must have some relation to the notion of progress and the postulated telos of Cosmopolitanism, an end state which may or may not be reached and in relation to which the state may or may not "wither away". The events of history would be susceptible to both causal and teleological explanations and these explanations would not be subject to the criteria of identity one applies to judgments about particular events or particular cases. Indeed for Kant, such judgments would require more general universal premises relating to underlying principles, if they were to generate the kind of knowledge we expect from history. Professor Smith concludes his lecture series by asking where the teachers of these underlying principles are to be found. Not in most Universities, he claims because the respect for tradition has been lost: "Modern Professors of History often appear to teach everything but proper respect for tradition. In my own field, civic education has been replaced by game theory-- a theory that regards politics as a market place where individual preferences are formed and utilities are maximized. Rather than teaching us to be citizens, the new political science teaches us to be rational actors who exercise preferences. By reducing all politics to choice and all choice to preference the new political science is forced to accord legitimacy to every preference, however vile, base or indecent it may be." Smith acutely touches upon a major issue in education: the colonization of the humanities by firstly science and then the science of economics. His complaint is somewhat puzzling in the light of the fact that game theory would seem to be a logical consequence of the rejection of the relation of ethics to politics that Kant proposes. It would also seem to be a logical consequence of the modernism that the very modern USA embraces.