Brotherhood and the Liberal Arts: Or, The Philosophy of Action

By Jared Brewer ’16, a Biology & Political Science major from Barbourville, KY

Young people from all over the world come to college in pursuit of an education. What they get ends up being a transformative experience that comes with them through their entire lives. A Transylvania education does this by imbuing each person with a sense of what the liberal arts means and does, but even that does not fully encapsulate the potential of this four-year experience. Rather, it has been the combination of the worldly education that comes through an engagement with the liberal arts and my actions with and for Delta Sigma Phi that I have become a better person who is better equipped to achieve my goals and, hopefully, make a difference in the lives of those around me.

Fraternity is no longer the naive experience that it may have once been. It has, indeed, become my way of expressing myself through the liberal arts and into the world around me. The liberal arts teaches us to not only find the connections in things, but to find them dialectically – that is, through an exploration of the similarities and dissimilarities between things and how those opposing features can be reconciled into a coherent whole. In the baldest way possible, that is what the fraternal experience in Beta Mu has been all about: finding commonalities in the sea of differences. We are men of diversity in the broadest ways possible and finding the things that brings us together beneath the veil of our timeless values is at the very core of our mission, but there is much more to it than that.

One of the central missions of the national organization of Delta Sigma Phi is to create men of action. Action seems simple: go into the world and work with the goal of making something better than you found it. Yet, it has been the subject of philosophical pondering for centuries. Marx called it “praxis”; Arendt associated it with the “zōon politikon”. It cannot be as simple as just performing community service, although Beta Mu performed over 1,600 hours last year, nor can it be as easy as donating money to the Red Cross. The key to action is findings ways of expressing our values and the liberal arts into the world. It is convenient, then, that our values and the liberal arts are interwoven and work together toward the common goal of making the world better by first understanding it and then using that understanding for the betterment of us all.

You may think that these are merely the lost musings of an overly dedicated student: you might be right. That, however, does not detract from the all-important conversation that needs to occur (and has been occurring) both within our Greek chapters and the university as a whole about how Greek life fits into the inclusive mold that the liberal arts espouses. The truth is that Greek life is not only congruent with that goal, but a crucial vehicle in actualizing them. To better the lives of men (broadly): that is what Delta Sigma Phi, Transylvania University, and each of us as individuals aspire toward. It all starts with connecting the dots and drawing the lines between what we do in the classroom, what we do in Davis, and what we do in Lexington. Our education becomes an experience loaded with the capacity to create change in ourselves and the world around us. For me, the fraternal experience has not been a part of the Transylvania experience, but the experience that has uncovered the harmony in the chaos of a young man finding himself during his time in college.

-Jared Brewer ’16


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