Matt Crawford ably explains how college campuses have become incubators of schoolmarmish therapeutic supervision. No longer confident in the mission of higher education and therefore too hobbled to resist becoming an adjunct of popular society versus an engine of its thoughtful scrutiny, the American university now routinely recommends that its students turn to therapy and medication versus self-reflection and self-reliance. In this way, our colleges are exemplary of a contradiction at the heart of modernity: the Cartesian project of mastery and rational control has not liberated us from sadness and depression but still we press on undaunted, still trying to master and control ourselves, attempting to transform the burden of existential angst into the inconvenience of chemical deficiency. In other words, the central premises of modernity are mastery and control while the thinly veiled ground of a thoroughgoing therapeuticism is individual frailty. If Peter Lawler is right, that we’re really “stuck with virtue”, then we’re stuck with the conditions that demand virtue, and the self-limitations that paradoxically require more self-responsibility. By abandoning the humanizing aspects of the humanities, or its part in educating us to understand our longing for happiness and its necessary obstacles, universities have become centers for career preparation overly sensitive to the moods of its consumers and insensitive to the demands of their souls.
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