Some Leading Benefits of Latin (and Classical) Studies



Paedagogica Index



1. [Pragmatic education] Hands-on involvement with highly relevant cultural, historical, and/or linguistic material.

You don't just read about Seneca or Caesar; you read the words of Seneca and Caesar themselves. You don't just speak your own modern language unreflectively, but you learn where much of it came from, after actually seeing the contents and the workings of one of its greatest sources. Through direct interaction with the particular data of ages past, you can better and more easily attain a differentiated historical consciousness.

2. [Personal education] Irreplaceable educational experience bearing on personal growth and fulfillment.

The ultimate outcomes of Latin studies relate to your quality of consciousness, and to the breadth and depth of your vision. You do not even know who you are if you have no memory. If you develop your memory of and appreciation of significant realities, if you learn how to judge what is helpful and admirable and what is not, then you are being helped to becoming a greater person yourself, that unique "greater person" that you are called to be. ("Become who you are!" says Pindar.) Latinity is a significant part of the past for us. We have to know it to more fully know who we are culturally, but it also gives us a wealth of material that can help us to fashion ourselves individually.

[Note: Through Latin Studies, students might more easily be given a path to political consciousness that stands at some distance from today's often distortive and misleading partisanship. Political problems can be raised and discussed more "objectively" if your own party's position is not so directly at stake in the argument. The mistakes of others may be far easier to see and to admit than one's own mistakes.]

3. [Social good] Fashioning community across boundaries of time and space.

You far transcend and better situate the narrow horizons from within which you began. You solidify connections with others who are engaged in the same kind of intellectual-personal journey and you make concrete links to the preceding generations and to the world-cultures from which the contemporary world has arisen. You begin to speak a more universal language, as it were, and therefore you become more able to communicate (or experience communion) across what otherwise would be an unfortunate divide.

4. [Large, long-term cultural value] Significant potential contributions to efforts for justice and world peace.

If Latin Studies flourish, today's culture stands a better chance of being transformed by people who have attained a larger vision, people who possess a self-knowledge and self-understanding that they would not have without some such study. If Latin Studies flourish widely, then more people of the world can experience some significant moments of a shared historical and cultural past, a shared genealogy (even if they are not biologically descended from Romans). The sense of humane kinship can grow and world harmony will become more likely. The classical liberal arts give us an invaluable praxis for transcending ethnocentrism and destructive radical fundamentalism. It is as important now as it has ever been.

[Note 1: Almost every culture in the world today either has or is significantly affected by the "Cultural DNA" of the Greco-Latin tradition. We ignore it only to our great shame and ignorance.]

[Note 2: Are Westerners "Eurocentric"? Well, Latinity is actually Mediterraneocentric, i.e., centered on three continents, and quite a bit broader than the label Eurocentrism would imply. In fact it reaches out to the entire inhabited world, not necessarily in an imperialistic way, but rather in the humanistic spirit that says, "Come, let us pool our resources, let us try to understand, and let us see what we have that might help us to build a better life." For much of its life, the Latin tradition was not so much a block of canonical contents to be handed on from one generation to the next, but a living medium or broker for international communication.]

5. Overall value.

Many different types of studies can give you this or that good. Latin studies offer an especially high overall value, incorporating what has been said here and more (e.g., word-power, particulars relating to the history and vocabulary of various disciplines, better understanding of stylistics and rhetoric, the values of foreign language study, etc.).


See also: WHY study Latin, Greek, and the Classical Humanities?






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© Claude Pavur 1997 - 2009 at  Saint Louis University.