Richard M. Weaver

1910 - 1963

Scholar, historian of ideas, and rhetorician, Richard Weaver, a native of North Carolina, spent most of his career at the Chicago University.  Weaver was a devoted Southerner who recognized the value of Southern traditions and the Southern culture, and how the South and her people were distinct from the rest of America.  Two of Richard Weaver's key works were "Ideas Have Consequences," and "The Southern Tradition at Bay."

Weaver was deeply concerned with the decline of liberal arts education in America. Against the collectivists who sought uniformity, lowering of standards, and the imposition of liberal ideology, Weaver upheld the idea of excellence and the role of education in producing unique individuals capable of making reasoned choices. Against the apostles of specialization and permissiveness, Weaver maintained the integrity of academic disciplines while affirming the unity of knowledge.

In his essay "Education and the Individual," Weaver discussed the relation of liberal education to a free society in terms integral to the establishment of the Richard M. Weaver Fellowship Awards Program in 1964:

A liberal education specifically prepares for the achievement of freedom. Of this there is interesting corroboration in the word itself. "Liberal" comes from a Latin term signifying "free," and historically speaking, liberal education has been designed for the free men of a state. Its content and method have been designed to develop the mind and the character in making choices between truth and error, between right and wrong. For liberal education introduces one to the principles of things, and it is only with reference to the principles of things that such judgments are at all possible. The mere facts about a subject, which may come marching in monotonous array, do not speak for themselves. They speak only through an interpreter, as it were, and the interpreter has to be those general ideas derived from an understanding of the nature of language, of logic, and of mathematics, and of ethics and politics. The individual who is trained in these basic disciplines is able to confront any fact with the reality of his freedom to choose. This is the way in which liberal education liberates.