Abstract

In this essay, I outline a Kantian line of defense for the liberal arts. Despite the essential function of education in moral life for Kant, it has only been in recent years that Kant scholarship has paid close attention to the importance of education for his moral theory. I believe that, in addition to our understanding of how education can shape the moral character of individuals, Kant also affords insight into how education–and the university, in particular–may make a contribution to our role as citizens. In this paper, I trace how Kant’s view of history, the arts, and philosophy can be seen to make a contribution to the fulfillment of our civic duty to exercise free speech. After outlining the relationship of these disciplines to the government along with a brief analysis of our duty to exercise our reason publicly, I draw out the distinctive ways each of these disciplines supports our efforts to improve society.

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