Liberal education and the uncertainties of culture

Joaquina Pires-O`Brien

A succinct review of liberal education by Leo Straus (1899-1973) forms the topic of our main article in this latest edition of PortVitoria. Strauss was a German Jew who immigrated to the United States, where he became a professor of political science at the University of Chicago. His article, reprinted here in Portuguese, is a speech that he delivered in 1959 during the tenth graduation ceremony of the Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults at the University of Chicago. In it, Strauss discusses the most important things associated with liberal education – culture, democracy and ‘the facile delusions which conceal from us our true situation’; together with our incompetence and the uprising of relative culture.

Our second article, by the Portuguese writer João Carlos Espada, is a biography of Ralf Dahrendorf (1929-2009), a German-born British sociologist, philosopher, political scientist and liberal politician who exerted a great influence on the many Brazilian and Portuguese postgraduates who studied at the London School of Economics and at St. Anthony’s College, University of Oxford.

The third article by the Brazilian thinker and poet Fernando da Mota Lima, a retired professor of sociology at the University of Pernambuco, discusses the ‘narrow life’ (vida mesquinha). It is a reflexion of the importance of thought and common sense for the good life, cogitating a possible correlation between the culture of binge drinking and other excesses and the rarity of epiphanies.

Our Book Review section includes two books – La civilización del espetáculo (2012) by the Peruvian-born Spanish writer Mario Vargas Llosa and O mistério Inglês e a corrente de ouro (2010) – by the above-mentioned João Carlos Espada. Both books are compilations of essays, most of which were published as articles in daily newspapers in Spain and Portugal. Vargas Llosa’s book is a criticism of the new global ethos of constantly seeking entertainment and the causes and consequences of this behaviour. Espada’s book is a brave attempt to explain to the public a number of themes of political philosophy and to show how liberal education can help people to manage the constant social tension of modern living.

Regular readers of PortVitoria will notice that the articles and reviews in this edition are interwoven and we hope that you like this style.

January 2014

Pires-O`Brien, J. Liberal education and the uncertainties of culture. Editorial. PortVitoria, UK, v. 8, Jan-Jun, 2014. ISSN 2044-8236.