Post Classifieds

The Purpose of it All

By Taylor Fulkerson
On August 30, 2012

Because of this semester's course content, a reflection on my summer as a construction worker, the inevitable complaints about the impracticality of the Xavier Core Curriculum and a bit of prodding from my roommate, I feel like it may already be time to clarify why the humanities are important-again.
My roommate (let's call him Sam), a proud business student, forced this issue on me last week. Why is philosophy-
or any other subject of the humanities - valuable if there is no economic output? If philosophy can't cure disease, why philosophize? If theology doesn't have a flashy marketing
scheme, why theologize? If the Xavier Core Curriculum
won't land us the job that puts food on the table, why should
Xavier keep it? To be fair, philosophy, theology and the other liberal arts aren't like the hard sciences or any of the business disciplines. They work from a different system of values than the others, which have a certain sense of expediency to them. Making money and curing cancer are practical to say the least. They put food on the table and keep us alive,
but they can't tell us what is ethical, or whether God
knows every hair on our heads. The liberal arts generally seek to interpret this world: why it works, how we work as human beings and how we are situated physically and
metaphysically- within the natural world around us. Thatl is to say, deeper meaning is good in its own way. Just not for basic survival. Sam was unsatisfied with my abstract justifications for the humanities, and I was forced to enter his way of thinking. In a modern paradigm, what value do the humanities have? Realistically, a reductionist modernity has little
need for philosophy, less for theology. Efficiency and art for art's sake are opposing processes. Universities used to not be concerned with profit, whereas they now support scientific research and take pride in the glamor of flashy, pricey, exclusive campuses. The study of the liberal arts, then, is perhaps more of a privilege in our modern world than a necessity if you take it from that perspective. Even more so, I think it's
important that we recognize who endows us with this privilege, and why that matters. The Jesuits have been proponents
of education since the very beginning (1540), and have continued that tradition into the modern age. They have resisted
the ethos of the modern world under the premise that God can be found in everything. This can be applied to other disciplines as well: meaning in everything, art in everything, purpose in everything. The surface-based demands of today's culture don't ask that we seek the deeper meaning; the
Jesuits still do. They founded Xavier on that premise and set up a core set of courses to expose us to all forms of truth.
The liberal arts survived not because they have saved lives or enriched nations, but because the search for knowledge is life giving in a way that economies of scale are not, and the Jesuits still realize that. When I hear underclassmen
complain about the Xavier Core Curriculum, I often think it imprudent and rash, but I also understand where they're coming from. This pricey education should set me up with a job,
right? What's all this theological nonsense? The modern
university no longer looks like the institution of liberal arts from the outside; it looks like the career-maker. The Jesuits
don't think that way for a reason. In light of so many educated men advocating for this deeper meaning across centuries, continuing to the present, it would be wiser to consider why they reaffirm it again and again, and why we have multiple departments full of professors who advocate for the same thing. So even if we don't understand why we should philosophize or theologize in this twittering world, it may be more
prudent to spend our time trying to understand the why behind it instead of merely complaining.  

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