Undergraduate Conference Theme: Work, Leisure, and the Pursuit of Happiness

The mark of a liberal art is that it is pursued for its own sake. Unlike work, which is ordered toward other ends such as production and profit, a liberal activity is in itself edifying and meaningful. In a word, it is leisurely. Thus, liberal arts education cultivates the habits necessary for liberty from ignorance and for truth, from the misery of life in the cave and for the happiness of seeing things as they are. This noble aim of liberal education is often co-opted for other purposes. Liberal arts colleges market themselves based on how well they prepare students for money-making and other servile ends rather than on how well they cultivate the leisure necessary for the life of the mind. Students are pressured to view college as unpaid work, padding their transcripts with multiple majors and minors in preparation for gainful employment. School (which derives from the Greek word for “leisure”) ought to be ordered toward the happiness that is the examined life, but this noble aim is usually observed in the breach. With a desire to encourage students to think on higher things, we invite submissions on core texts that help us to reflect on any aspect of our conference theme, “Work, Leisure, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”