首页 > 大学教育 > Martha C. Nussbaum, A Liberal Education:Should academics join the government?(附吴万伟译本)

Martha C. Nussbaum, A Liberal Education:Should academics join the government?(附吴万伟译本)

本文作者Martha C. Nussbaum是芝加哥大学法学院、神学院和哲学系合聘的弗伦德法律与伦理学杰出贡献教授,研究领域涵盖古希腊、罗马哲学,政治哲学和伦理学。

Last month was decision time for the many academics who left their tenured jobs to work in the Obama administration. Universities standardly grant leave for at most two years, at which point a professor must either return or resign. Some, of course, can hope to be rehired later, but prudence often rules. Many of my acquaintances made the choice to return to writing and teaching. A few have stayed on. For a long time I’ve been comparing my free and sheltered life to those exposed and difficult lives, with a mixture of relief and guilt. I keep thinking of Cicero’s acerbic commentary on philosophers who refuse to serve the public realm: “Impeded by the love of learning, they abandon those whom they ought to protect.” Even worse, he accuses them of arrogant self-indulgence: “They demand the same thing kings do: to need nothing, to obey nobody, to enjoy their liberty, which they define as doing what you like.” It’s difficult not to hear that voice in one’s dreams, even if one believes, as I do, that writing itself can serve the public good.

While I pondered my own regal privilege and the recent choices of my friends, I happened upon a book that sheds as much light on such choices as any I know: A Liberal Education, by Abbott Gleason. Gleason is a respected historian of Russia in the pre-Soviet and Soviet periods. He taught in the History Department at Brown from 1968 until his recent retirement—but with a two-year stint in Washington running the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a leading think tank focused on Russia and its surrounding states. Gleason’s father Everett, also a historian, made the opposite choice, leaving his tenured position at Amherst and taking on the jobs of chief of the current intelligence staff for the Office of Strategic Services, and of deputy executive secretary of the National Security Council. So Tom (as I always knew him, when we overlapped at Brown) grew up in two worlds, and this early experience informed his later choice.

Gleason was a child of WASP elite privilege, and he ultimately came to detest narcissism and egotism in all its forms, even those that masquerade as revolutionary zeal. That’s what makes this memoir, written with a lovely sense of irony (Orwell is his favorite stylist, and it shows), so tricky and so fascinating. As Tom depicts his early forays into left-wing politics while a Harvard undergraduate, some of the commitments were genuine—he ran real risks in the South during the civil rights movement. But there was also a lot of narcissistic hype, as he came to believe that he and his mostly Jewish friends (he congratulated himself both on having such friends and on being able to keep up, almost, with their smarts) would someday run the world, in a far better way than it had been run before. Meanwhile, as he shows, his own life contained stunning pockets of unexamined arrogance, particularly in his role as a husband who just expected that his wife would like everything he liked and do whatever was most convenient for his career. (It is a testimony to his interest in genuine self-knowledge that the marriage has endured and flourished.) The tale Gleason tells is, ultimately, one of patient self-unmasking and self-recreation, as his radical effusions gave way to a cautious and deeply unfashionable liberal individualism with conservative elements (the love of community attachments that he depicts historically in his best known book, Young Russia).

Where government service was concerned, Gleason took issue early on with contemporaries who denounced everything that went on there as corrupt, while saluting one another with canned revolutionary slogans. But he also knew how life in Washington, with its constant jockeying for reputation and power, its severe restraints on self-expression, had drained his father of joy over time, and he was determined not to be drawn too deeply in. After two years of what he regards as useful and enjoyable public service he had had enough. He had learned something—a richer sense of the reality of political choices, a new confidence in his grasp of the whole range of issues affecting Russia—but he saw that beyond a certain point staying there would not satisfy his desire to understand.

But why the academy? Gleason’s portrait of that life (my life, the life of those returners) is far from rosy. He trenchantly puts before us so much vanity, so much anti-Semitism, sexism, racism, so much disdain for the legitimate demands of students, that the reader begins to wonder why he didn’t run screaming away. He’s particularly rough—rightly—on Harvard, where both professors and students alike operated (and maybe we should use the present tense!) on an unearned assumption that they were indeed kings and that they would rule the world with their superior endowments.

And yet, there is just the delight of finding something out and teaching it to others. It’s deeply moving to see Gleason find, slowly, the subject that grabs his passions and, ultimately, sustains his life. Moving, too, to find that he connects his curiosity about Soviet history with the capacities for self-criticism and self-change that he slowly developed, and with his evident capacity for thinking critically and creatively about academic institutions. (He almost became provost while I was at Brown, but withdrew from the final group of two because of a health issue.) In the final chapter, he talks about his current struggle with Parkinson’s disease. As his body increasingly eludes his control, there is still the abiding pleasure of doing some work every day, learning just a bit more, being just a bit deeper as both thinker and person. He’s still getting a liberal education, and that, in the end, he suggests, is what life is really about.

I admire and honor my friends who have made Cicero’s choice for service and who stick by it. They are giving the world something that we who write all day are not. Reading Gleason’s powerful memoir, however, reminds me that it is not just cowardice or truculence that keeps us here in the study. It is something in which a reasonable person could reasonably hope to find the meaning of a life. 



马萨·诺斯鲍姆 著 吴万伟 译


就在我思考自己帝王般的特权和朋友们最近的选择时,我碰巧阅读了阿伯特·格里森(Abbott Gleason)著的《自由教育》,该书阐明了我所了解的这些选择。格里森是令人尊敬的历史学家,专门研究苏联时期及苏维埃之前的俄国历史。自1968年到最近退休,一直在布朗大学历史系教书,但是曾有两年时间的停顿,在华盛顿主持伍德罗威尔逊凯南研究所,这是一个专门研究俄罗斯及其周边国家的智库。格里森的父亲埃利特(Everett)也是历史学家,却做出了相反的选择,放弃阿默斯特大学(Amherst)的教授岗位,担任了战略服务处当前情报部主任和国家安全委员会副秘书长。所以汤姆(因为我早就认识他,我们都曾在布朗大学工作过)就是在政界和学界的两个世界长大的,这种早年经历指导了他后来的选择。







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  1. 默识
    2011年3月28日08:51 | #1


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