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Philosophical InterventionsReviews 1986-2011$
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Martha C. Nussbaum

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199777853

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199777853.001.0001

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Undemocratic Vistas

Undemocratic Vistas

ALLAN BLOOM (1987), The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students

(p.36) Chapter Three Undemocratic Vistas
Philosophical Interventions

Martha C. Nussbaum

Oxford University Press

This chapter reviews the book The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students (1987), by Allan Bloom. Central to Stoicism's conception of philosophy's practical purpose and of the reasons for its broad distribution is the idea that philosophical education is not abstruse contemplation but the development of each human being's capacities for active practical reasoning. Bloom defends the central role of philosophy in higher education, claiming that it is essential for the health of human souls and human society. Bloom offers a diagnosis of contemporary American culture, for whose diseases philosophy is supposed to provide the cure. He argues that the central problem in higher education today, and in American society more generally, is widespread relativism. In support of this argument, Bloom constructs a colorful and highly rhetorical portrait of today's university students, who by his account seem to be pathetic characters indeed. Bloom explains how the relativism he deplores became such a pervasive influence on American society.

Keywords:   philosophy, The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom, philosophical education, higher education, culture, relativism, university students, Stoicism, democracy

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