Linked Post: A Peculiar Point in Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch's Essays on Education, Elliot Resnick from JewishIdeas.org
"Despite the rhetoric emanating from certain camps of Orthodox Judaism, studying secular knowledge lishmah-knowledge for knowledge's sake-is a widely accepted notion among Jewish thinkers. In fact, virtually none of the great Jewish personalities who discuss the value of secular knowledge-from Rav Saadiah Gaon and Rambam to Rav Kook and Rav Soloveitchik-speak of its utilitarian value. Rambam does not praise Aristotle's philosophy for its salary-increasing powers, nor does Rav Kook laud university studies because of their utility in getting into a good law school.
Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch is a classic example of this knowledge-lishmah school of thought. Not only does he extol the spiritual value of secular studies, he explicitly derides those who see knowledge as a tool in advancing one's career. Two quotations (many more can be adduced) from his essays should suffice to establish this point. In "The Relevance of Secular Studies," Rav Hirsch writes:
[A]ny supporter of education and culture should deplore the fact that when these secular studies are evaluated in terms of their usefulness to the young, too much stress is often placed on so-called practical utility and necessity. Under such circumstances, the young are in danger of losing the pure joy of acquiring knowledge for its own sake, so that they will no longer take pleasure in the moral and spiritual benefits to be obtained by study."