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Fostering Freedom: Judgment in Early-Modern Liberal Educational and Political Thought
This project seeks to locate an alternative to personal autonomy—as a guiding standard of liberal education theory—that accommodates the limits of human cognition and the demands of liberal citizenship. To do so, it addresses a neglected Pre-Kantian discourse on individual freedom that privileges judgment as a civic-educational outcome. I examine three thinkers—Locke, Rousseau, and Smith—who each develop a framework for the cultivation of judgment that focuses on the individual’s ability to make informed judgments and engage in self-directed behavior. The concept of judgment that emerges from this study can serve as an alternative benchmark for self-government in liberal education theory.
Tennyson, Timothy T. 2022. “Cicero’s Romulus and the Crafting of Historical Exempla.” History of Political Thought, Vol 43. No. 1: 1-30.
I examine Cicero’s use of Romulus as a historical exemplum in support of his theory of the ideal statesman. I compare Cicero’s characterization of Romulus in De Republica to the Romulus accounts advanced in Livy’s History of Rome and Dionysius’ Roman Antiquities to better understand the character and composition of this historical exemplum. An examination of Livy’s and Dionysius’ more comprehen- sive Romulus accounts reveals Cicero’s omission of character traits and actions that contradict his stateman ideal. By crafting an image of Romulus that largely conflicts with his portrayal in the collective cultural memory, Cicero attempts to re-shape the ‘traditional’ archetype of Roman statesmanship.
Timothy Tennyson and Michelle Schwarze. 2023. “An Honest Man? Rousseau’s Critique of Locke’s Character Education.” The European Journal of Political Theory.
John Locke’s educational program has long been considered to have two primary aims: to habituate children to reason and to raise children capable of meeting the demands of citizenship that he details in his Two Treatises of Government. Yet Locke’s educational pre- scriptions undermine citizens’ capacity for honesty, a critical political virtue for Locke. To explain how Locke’s educational prescriptions are self-undermining, we turn to Rousseau’s extended critique of Locke’s Some Thoughts on Education in his Émile. We argue that Rousseau explains why such an education allows a natural desire to dominate to flourish, rendering children who receive it dishonest and incapable of self-govern- ment. Rousseau’s critique exposes how a liberal education focused solely on autonomy cannot produce the kinds of citizens a Lockean politics requires.
“Adam Smith on Education.”
In contemporary discourse on capitalism, there exists an enduring interest in the question of the proper role of government in ameliorating the negative externalities of the market. Often, this discourse is framed as a choice between two ideological alternatives: one that views top-down government programs and regulations as the only viable means of making capitalism hospitable to the disadvantaged and another that is skeptical of large-scale state intervention and attempts by centralized authorities to humanize capitalism by implementing universal redistributive or regulatory policies. From this vantage, it appears that a conservative approach to government interventionism is antithetical to humane capitalism. However, I suggest that we turn to Adam Smith—and his educational thought in particular—for a more nuanced approach to this debate. Smith’s educational prescriptions offer an alternative vision of humane capitalism that attempts to rectify conservative skepticism with a genuine concern for the deleterious effects of free-markets on the well-being of the poor. Although this vision ultimately fails, it can contribute to a more productive discourse on the relative compatibility of humane capitalism and conservative skepticism.
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