The Liberal Arts Endeavor: The Arts of Liberty in a Time of Uncertainty

Written by: Christopher Long

Primary Source:   Christopher P. Long Blog, March 19, 2017

Even if, as Hannah Arendt suggests, “we are always educating for a world that is or is becoming out of joint,” 1 our commitment to general education as “a distinctive cornerstone of the arts of liberty” gains urgency in times of uncertainty.

Although we often think of liberty as a basic right bestowed upon us, it is more fundamentally an activity rooted in the human ability to begin anew. As an activity, liberty can be practiced well or poorly. Practiced well, the arts of liberty enrich our communities, enliven our connection with the natural world, and advance the cause of social justice. Practiced poorly, the arts of liberty diminish us, impoverish our relationships, and destroy the environment on which life depends.

The Journal of General Education endeavors to open a space for scholarship deeply committed to educating a generation of citizens who are capable of discerning truth from falsity, of advocating for those who are unable to advocate for themselves, and of putting freedom into practice in ways that enrich the world we share.

“Education,” Arendt reminds us, “is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token save it from that ruin which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable.” 2

In times of uncertainty, renewal requires citizens capable of responding to complexity with nuance and grace. As educators, assuming responsibility for the world we love means nurturing the arts of liberty in future citizens so they are able to practice freedom well to mend a world so often out of joint.

As the editor of the Journal of General Education, I would like to invite submissions committed to advancing this vision of the liberal arts endeavor. To submit an article, please visit the Journal of General Education website.

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To view the published version of this essay, see The Liberal Arts Endeavor: The Arts of Liberty in a Time of Uncertainty.

  1. Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought (New York: Penguin Books, 1954), 192.
  2. Ibid., 196.
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Christopher P. Long is dean of the College of Arts and Letters at Michigan State University. His extensive publications in Ancient Greek and Contemporary Continental Philosophy include three books: The Ethics of Ontology: Rethinking an Aristotelian Legacy (SUNY 2004), Aristotle On the Nature of Truth (Cambridge 2010), and an enhanced digital book entitled, Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing a Politics of Reading (Cambridge 2014). The digital platform of the enhanced digital book enables readers to engage directly with the author in an online community. He is also co-founder of the Public Philosophy Journal, a project that has received over $780,000 of funding from the Mellon Foundation to create an innovative online space of digital scholarship and communication. To learn more about his administrative approach and his recent research in Philosophy, digital scholarly communication, and the educational use of social media technologies, visit his blog: www.cplong.org. He is the host of the Digital Dialogue podcast (thedigitaldialogue.com) and can be reached on Twitter @cplong and @deancplong.