In the Weekly Standard last week, there was this great review (subscription required) of a book by Roger Scruton called Liberty and Civilization. In the review, there is a provocative passage on the value of liberal education:
Yet the classical understanding of a liberal education is “not to liberate us to act on our desires, but rather, and precisely, to liberate us from slavery to them. Personal authenticity . . . consists in self-mastery—placing reason in control of desire.” The reason to study Plato and Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas, Dante and Shakespeare, Rousseau and Kant, is to free our minds from the tyranny of present opinion, to free our wills from slavery to our passions, and to free ourselves to come to know, love, and choose what is beautiful and good. Of course, this presupposes that there are objective truths, and that they are best appropriated when freely pursued. Not merely knowing what is the case, but understanding the how and why, allows us to incorporate the string of reasons into one’s own deliberations and choices. This liberation from self, from popular opinion, and from radical skepticism, makes true liberty—freedom for excellence—possible.