Idea of a University, Discourse 7, continued

In defense of a liberal University Education in which the intellect is cultivated for its own sake without limiting it to one profession Newman quotes Edward Copleston, who was a fellow at Oriel when the controversy first broke out over liberal education at the turn of the 19th century. Copleston argues  that the separation of professions and division of labors tends to the perfection of every art for the person who pursues this,

“But, while he thus contributes more effectually to the accumulation of national wealth, he becomes himself more and more degraded as a rational being. In proportion as his sphere of action is narrowed his mental powers and habits become contracted; and he resembles a subordinate part of some powerful machinery, useful in its place, but insignificant and worthless out of it. If it be necessary, as it is beyond all question necessary, that society should be split into divisions and subdivisions, in order that its several duties may be well performed, yet we must be careful not to yield up ourselves wholly and exclusively to the guidance of this system; we must observe what its evils are, and we should modify and restrain it, by bringing into action other principles, which may serve as a check and counterpoise to the main force.”

If a society does not foster a liberal education its citizens will end up holding many partial notions of the truth which are disconnected, “displacing and repelling one another.”

Copleston defends the study of the classics at Oxford, a cultivation of literature which perfects the mind. He writes that, “without directly qualifying a man for any of the employments of life, it enriches and ennobles all. Without teaching him the peculiar business of any one office or calling, it enables him to act his part in each of them with better grace and more elevated carriage; and, if happily planned and conducted, is a main ingredient in that complete and generous education which fits a man ‘to perform justly, skilfully, and magnanimously, all the offices, both private and public, of peace and war.'”

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