The liberal arts college and humanist learning

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What is liberal education? How do its aims differ from those of either grammar or vocational education? Does it truly deserve its own supporting institution? In response to these questions, Arcilla develops a defense of the liberal arts college. He observes that all projects of formal learning presuppose that the learner possesses answers to three fundamental, existential questions: What is one's nature? What is the good for beings of this nature? What facilitates this good? We develop better responses to these questions by engaging in liberal learning. The mission of the liberal arts college, then, is first and foremost to support this learning. With this idea of liberal learning and its college in mind, we may nonetheless wonder whether the existential knowledge it seeks is really something that can be learned. Arcilla articulates a version of humanism that illuminates the conditions of possibility for liberal learning and affirms this learning's intrinsic value. At the same time, this philosophical theory requires for its verification that we engage in liberal learning. Arcilla calls the symbiotic partnership formed by liberal learning and humanism "humanist learning," and he points out that it is this learning, which is crucial to our other kinds of education, that would be lost if society ceased to support genuine colleges of the liberal arts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-27
Number of pages7
JournalAsia Pacific Education Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Existentialism
  • Higher education
  • Humanism
  • Liberal arts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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