Essay, Research Paper
In his essay, “The Place of Science in a Liberal Education,” Russell Bertrand explains how a liberal education is obtained through a literary education and an education based on science. His goal is not to attack literary education, but to draw attention to theachievements and excellencies in science in the present.
Bertrand Russell speaks in length about education “in the sense of.” He states how we can obtain an education in the narrow sense by learning information on various topics and subjects through the instruction of others. He also states of obtaining an education in a broad sense by getting an education of life through personal experiences. However Russell interprets education in the sense that it is defined as, “the formation, by means of instruction, of certain mental habits and a certain outlook on life and the world.” (page 73) Russell discusses two different types of education. The first being an education based on literature, and the second based on science. He states that most people gree
that a literary education is superior to scientific education because it is the true nature of science and the methods involved which can be used to train the mind in a finer quality, are too often sacrificed for only the useful products of science. Also, humans do not give enough credit to the capabilities and values of science, but merely draw from what can immediately benefit them and discard the rest as insignificant.
Our whole life, Russell says, is built around primary instincts and impulses.
Education cannot be expected to generate desires and motivation. It must instead work to broaden the scope of our existing impulses by providing a wide variety of thoughts and helping us find a way to reach greatest satisfaction of our desires. There is no outside source that can provide these instincts. Therefore the purpose of education, “can only be to enlarge the scope of those that human nature provides.” (page 74) We are born with existing instincts which motivate all other actions. Russell states, “nature must supply the initial force of desire.” (page 74) A main goal of education is to help us direct our basic desires toward a broader range of application, to make us a universal, interactive being instead of an isolated individual.
Another goal of education is a pure intellectual goal, and that is to make us see the world from an objective viewpoint. While a completely objective view is pretty much impossible, it still is approachable in this ideal. The success of education is based on how closely the outcome approaches this ideal. Science helps us to reach this goal because the nature of a scientific approach is to make human passions irrelevant and focus only on pure, universal truth. Russell realizes that science is an ongoing project. While literary education deals primarily with the past, science deals with the present achievements, andstrives for the future accomplishments that will come about. I fully agree with the views Russell has set forth regarding nature and the purpose of education in this essay. We do glorify the past and ignore the amazing achievements of the present, and we will most likely ignore those in the future. If we put all of our moral desires, and our interpretations aside, we would learn more. With science anyone with a moderate capacity can make a significant contribution to the cause, but in art and literature you do need to truly be near genius status. Russell keenly points out that the fault of science being regarded as inferior lies in how science is presented. Russell says that if
instructors realized sciences full potential, mental excellence could be achieved to rival that achieved from literary education. Science combines both personal experiences and knowledge and if we taught science the way Russell is proposing, the affects will be a lot more significant that the use of literary education as we know it.