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Brand Blanshard, Lecture on “Education,” delivered at various locations, 1937-1944.
Brand Blanshard Papers. Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University.

Karen Huang ’11, Brand Blanshard’s Aristocracy

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Blanshard’s commitment to rationalism raises the question of the relationship between university and society. Since philosophy should take a primary role in a liberal education—that is, in cultivating rational minds—the university should therefore serve as a training ground for an intellectual aristocracy. In this lecture delivered to colleges across the nation, Blanshard stresses the particular need for this educational model in a democracy, where standards for truth or goodness are determined simply by the popular vote. Where there exist no rational standards for values, Blanshard holds the university responsible for developing the rational mind and, in turn, for leading students toward the true and the best. Hence, the university bears the responsibility of not only training philosophers, but training them as aristocrats. By viewing higher education as such, Blanshard sequesters the university as an elite institution, but nevertheless stresses its obligatory engagement with society.