Mortimer Adler, modern apostle of classical humanism, once posed an interesting educational question.1 There are, says Adler, two categories into which all human endeavor can be placed: the operative arts and the cooperative arts. The operative arts are those activities in which a human being operates on nature to bring about some desired effect which nature itself cannot achieve. A cobbler operates upon rawhide and composes a pair of shoes. A sawyer reduces trees to lumber, and a carpenter takes the lumber and builds a dwelling. General Motors extracts iron ore from the Mesabi Range and fashions a Chevrolet. In every instance -- shoes, dwelling, Chevrolet -- the product would not have come into existence without the direct and active intervention of human intelligence.
The cooperative arts, on the other hand, are those in which man simply cooperates with nature, assisting it and facilitating its customary procedures by watchful attention and timely prodding. The practice of is perhaps the best example of this. A doctor does not actually create health; he merely assists the natural physiological processes to restore health to the organism. Organisms tend toward health; a doctor____________________