Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Socrates vs. Isocrates: The Limits and Promise of Reform in the Liberal Arts

Prof Donald M. Nolen.

Two ancient ideals of a liberal education (the Socratic and the Isocratic) have vied with each other for academic dominance for centuries. The tensions between them account for most of the historic disagreements and conflicts that arise from efforts to reform liberal arts programming. Understanding the relationship between these traditions will provide a more balanced perspective to reformers, and can guide those (e.g., administrators and legislators) who are struggling to adjudicate contemporary campus culture wars. Relfecting on these relationships also should provide some bridges of understanding and accommodation between those who make conflicting claims about the worth (or worthlessness) of a liberal education.


Prof Donald M. Nolen  (United States)
Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Philosophy Department
Parkland College

I am Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Parkland College. I have taught philosophy and religious studies at various colleges and universities for the past 30 years. During this time I published several papers on ethics, business ethics, critical theory, the theory of rationality, humanities education, educational reform, and the theory of rationality. In addition, I have organized and presented at several humanities conferences, served as President of a local school board for 12 years, and continue to host a regional television program called "Intersections: Issues in Religion and Ethics." Currently I am a consultant for ethics education and practice, and organize interfaith dialogue programs for schools, colleges and communites. Last August I presented a paper on business ethics at the 21st World Congress of Philosophy in Istanbul, Turkey.

  • Liberal Education
  • Liberal Arts
  • Reform
  • Culture Wars
  • Socrates
  • Isocrates

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)