Liberal Education, Part II: Liberation and Rulesets

“The soul’s escaping, through this hole that it’s gaping
This world is mine for the taking
Make me king”

Eminem, “Lose Yourself

“Over and over again this cycle of Destruction and Creation is repeated until we demonstrate internal consistency and match-up with reality.”

John Boyd, “Destruction and Creation

In the previous post I described how kin (one’s family), folk (one’s people), and trade (one’s primary work-task) give identity to humans…


Identity is not just a type of name, a handle for an individual, but is part of the definition of the individual.

Recall what Ortega y Gasset said

I am myself and my circumstance

Or for that matter John Donne

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine own were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

In other words, while there is a “person” or “self that relates to folk, kin, and trade, folk, kin, and trade are part of the self


In my post on Quality, I had earlier referred to this “self” as “meaningful existence,” so this meaningful self could also be diagrammed as an entity and its attributes


Of course, reality is more complicated than this. These “soft” or implicit relations exist along with “hard” or “explicit” relations, such as being under the police power of the State, being under the military protection of the State, working under the rules set by the State, and living in family structures allowed by the State, etc. Visually:

The Meaningful Existence of the Self and the State

The diagram above would be a good description of Ba’athi Iraq, because it shows “traditional” structures as still meaningful, within the context of the State’s attempted monopolization of violence.

A more developed state will use liberal education, in the context of everything else, to improve its legitimacy. Instead of allowing the petty troika to co-exist with the State’s police and military, the state will attempted to sublimate all things under rule sets generated under the State — rule sets which people will then accept.


The United States and other developed countries are at this stage. Once explicit controls have become implicit, the larger society “just works.” The petty troika has been replaced by generated rulesets that the State finds increases its own power.

The goal of liberal education is to liberate the individual from the petty troika, allowing him to be defined by the generated rulesets he accepts, all within the context of the state


A wider view:


Under liberal education, the self of the citizen focuses on generated rulesets, just as the self of a child may shift from his mother to his nanny.

Through liberal education — through its substitution of the ties of folk, kin, and trade, the State seeks to reinvent the selves of its citizens around rulesets which focus on the State.

Liberal Education, a tdaxp series

Liberal Education 1: The Petty Troika
Liberal Education 2: Liberation and Rulesets
Liberal Education 3: Infection
Liberal Education 4: The Mitochondrial Peace