WSW: Are Liberal Arts a Moral Obligation?

Mar 15, 2017

The "bronze professor" near WMU's Chemistry Building
Credit Andy Robins / WMUK

Kristopher Phillips says we have a moral obligation to study the liberal arts. The assistant professor of philosophy at Southern Utah University will make his case Thursday, March 16, at Western Michigan University.

Phillips says much of higher education today is focused on narrowly "practical" areas designed to move students into jobs right after they graduate. But Phillips says that ignores the moral obligations we have to others and ourselves. He says that includes an obligation to make sure that we become "functioning, literate, intelligent, and informed members of our democratic society." Phillips says studying the liberal arts develops critical thinking skills and the ability to listen carefully to differing points of view.

Phillips' presentation, "Do We Have a Moral Obligation to Study the Liberal Arts?" is based on the chapter he wrote for a forthcoming book. His address at WMU is part of the 2017 lecture series sponsored by the Center for the Study of Ethics in Society. It starts at 6 p.m. in Room 213 at the Bernhard Center.

By "liberal arts," Phillips says he means literacy in math and science as well as "softer" disciplines like history, visual art, literature, and his own field, philosophy.

As the economy surrenders more jobs to robots and automation, Phillips says studying the liberal arts will become even more important. He says they develop skills that can be applied to many jobs, something that is not true of narrowly focused training programs.

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