The justification of the pursuit of philosophy faces a similar difficulty, when the essential impulses of both Paideia and philosophy come together. What is the actual goal of philosophy? One fundamental purpose of philosophy seems to be a form of assistance in elucidation and validation.

Greek Paidea and philosophy

However, this cannot be the exclusive objective of philosophy, just as the simple cultivation of abilities and expertise in a particular field are not the main aims of a liberal education. However, comparable ideas of serving the government are presented as the main reasons for pursuing education, going beyond mere financial benefits. Undoubtedly, this does not adequately justify the considerable challenges that students encounter in humanities programs worldwide. What is the reason for choosing philosophy as the quest for wisdom, and what is the reason for choosing Paideia?

The rationale for both philosophy and Paideia is fundamentally rooted in ethics and can only be effectively expressed, if it is still possible, using virtue-based language. Unraveling such a moral principle would require reassessing the inherent value of acquiring knowledge and the individual autonomy and influence that stem from it. However, what is the precise definition of this?

In order to enhance the essence of one’s being, to manifest the whole range of human capabilities, to evolve into superior individuals, or so we assert. Undoubtedly, this is the message we convey to both our pupils and ourselves. However, expressing oneself in this manner gives the unmistakable impression of engaging in self-deception.

Evaluating Paideia from a virtue-based perspective, as opposed to a practical one, would include considering an ideal representation of the Human Being and using it as the ultimate objective of education. The concept of Paideia, akin to philosophy, does not enhance our citizenship or professional skills, but rather enhances our humanity. Nevertheless, we do not possess the necessary ethical vocabulary to genuinely offer a justification for this. Truly, I contend that we do not genuinely accept any of these justifications.

We articulate the phrases that would be associated with a concept of human nature that has the ability to improve itself, becoming more outstanding in every aspect. However, the mental image evoked by these phrases appears exaggerated and unrealistic to the extent that it does not even amount to wishful thinking, but rather to a lack of belief.

This places us in a profoundly uncertain position where we devote our careers as educators and thinkers to something that we do not genuinely have faith in, ardently advocating for a portrayal of mankind that is, in reality, contrived and humiliating to anyone but those who are exceptionally intellectually unsophisticated. Allow me to elucidate my reasoning for my belief in this assertion.

The Protestant Reformation brought about a significant shift in the Western understanding of human nature. This shift emphasized the importance of individual experience and limited the role of speculative reasoning. As a result, there were changes in how human nature was perceived in social and political contexts, as well as in the understanding of consciousness itself.

This approach involves a shift in the starting point of reflection, moving away from the interdependence of meaning and reasoning process among individuals, towards the solitary subject and its direct confrontation with personal experience. There has been a shift in the way Western culture perceives the process of logical and disciplined thinking.

This transformation, as described by Alasdair MacIntyre, has turned reasoning into a largely calculative activity that is limited to evaluating factual truths and mathematical relationships, and nothing beyond that. Central to this shift is a belief that mankind is inherently restricted in its capacity to comprehend things through reason. It is seen as being influenced, in a sense, by its own unique characteristics and physical existence, and profoundly damaged by original sin.