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Reason & Analysis by Brand Blanshard

The Uses of a Liberal Education: And Other Talks to StudentsThe Uses of a Liberal Education: And Other Talks to Students by Brand Blanshard, Eugene Freeman (Editor)

In this volume, Eugene Freeman has helpfully collected and edited twenty-three talks by rationalist philosopher Brand Blanshard, twentieth century philosophy's finest exemplar of what he himself called the "rational temper."

The talks are grouped loosely around the theme, "What is the purpose of education?" They are divided into three sections: "Ends," a series of eight talks in which the question is pretty directly addressed; "Corollaries," eight talks in which several related issues are canvassed; and "Homilies," a group of seven "humanistic sermons" in which Blanshard offers reflective advice on matters from "books" to "courage" to "admiration."

I won't try to summarize the specific content of this broad collection, but the overall thrust is the same as that of Blanshard's philosophy in general. Basically, Blanshard identifies education with philosophy, not as a narrow technical specialty but as the broad attempt to "see things steadily and whole." He develops this theme with his usual style, grace, vigor, and urbanity, and very effectively excoriates the antirationalism of most of the twentieth century.

Readers new to Blanshard and without much background in philosophy might want to start with this volume, which is uniformly accessible and non-technical and deals with themes that will be of general interest. Many passages present nontechnical discussions of themes Blanshard treats at greater length in his longer works (particularly _Reason and Goodness_). Most of these discussions cover territory that will be familiar to Blanshard's longtime readers, but even they (well, "we") will find some new delights here. (I am thinking particularly of "Sanity in Thought and Art," which is cited several times in _The Philosophy of Brand Blanshard_ but is not in print anywhere else.)

As Blanshard notes in this volume, our admirations tell us something about ourselves and prompt us to become more fully what we are and should be. One object of my own admirations is Blanshard himself, and I recommend his works highly for the inspiration I have drawn therefrom.

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The Rational Temper: Brand Blanshard and What Objectivists Can Learn From Him

by Scott Ryan


The entry under Brand Blanshard's name in the Oxford Companion to Philosophy [p. 96] closes on an uncharacteristically personal note: "Blanshard's personal demeanour," writes Peter H. Hare, "was one of extraordinary graciousness."

So far as I have been able to determine, Blanshard's entry is the only one to remark on the personal comportment of a philosopher. And the comments of Blanshard's friends, colleagues, and former students echo Prof. Hare's brief and telling statement.

As a longtime reader of Blanshard, I would like to explore why this is. Though I never met Blanshard personally, I feel safe in saying that his bearing and conduct, as described by those who knew him, exemplified his views on the nature of reason and the importance of the rational temper. I know at least that his own style of writing and thinking is a seamless embodiment of those views.

Brand Blanshard

From Daily Objectivist

"People take to philosophy by very different routes—some through Zeno's puzzles, some through the shock of a friend's death, some through doubts about right and wrong. My route was perhaps the commonest one—through the hope of certainty in religion."

So wrote Brand Blanshard in the autobiography of one of the twentieth century's greatest rationalists...


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