Sunday, October 29, 2006

Good for the goose

It seems, as it has done for what has been the longest time, that after my education I will become a teacher. Assessing precisely what I can do about the educational experience of my charges - whether I can encourage them to become critical and responsible human beings - will be a difficult and probably forlorn task, but one best left until then. Recent experience, however, forces upon me the probably arrogant and condescending task of trying to understand the merit of regulative discourses and how to implement them. That is to say, how to force (in a sense) someone to admit that they lack knowledge.

This amounts to asking how to ensure that the other person is interested in the truth or otherwise of the argument. Or asking on what grounds can an agreement to dialectical progress be committed to. If this kind of agreement is laid down, both parties will be singularly aware of breaking their bond, and will have to admit with regret their inability to find the truth or make genuine progress.

And yes, it seems initially that I am not heeding the warning of Nietzsche, who might ask what I mean by truth, along with I'm sure many other objections. But in the notion that 'wisdom is a woman, she loves only a warrior' we might read the recognition of the necessity of regulative discourses, of condescension and oppression, of the affirmation that the intellect causes suffering and is sometimes right to do so.

So what kind of regulative discourses work? It has appeared to me that we have come to deny the reality of precisely those discourses that lead to genuine dialectic, but this is thankfully a consequence and perhaps not a necessary one. Thankfully a consequence because when we throw out babies with bathwaters we usually stop at political ideals. If the inference is drawn nonetheless to the philosophical system of dialectic, which we can then not seem to smuggle in undetected, can we show that this inference is an erroneous one - what appeal, specifically, would this involve?

I have noted that throwing open the floor and asking for comments hasn't been very useful in the past, but I'm sure my good friend News might offer up an answer?

2 Comments:

Blogger News is Good said...

I can understand your post up to the penultimate paragraph. An explanation of which discourses have been denied (and why), why political ideals are being brought up, and also the substance of the last sentence would help me to reply:
"So what kind of regulative discourses work? It has appeared to me that we have come to deny the reality of precisely those discourses that lead to genuine dialectic, but this is thankfully a consequence and perhaps not a necessary one. Thankfully a consequence because when we throw out babies with bathwaters we usually stop at political ideals. If the inference is drawn nonetheless to the philosophical system of dialectic, which we can then not seem to smuggle in undetected, can we show that this inference is an erroneous one - what appeal, specifically, would this involve?"

However, I feel that I can offer brief comment on your earlier thoughts. "That is to say, how to force (in a sense) someone to admit that they lack knowledge. This amounts to asking how to ensure that the other person is interested in the truth or otherwise of the argument. Or asking on what grounds can an agreement to dialectical progress be committed to." Educational psychologists and philosophers often talk about epistemologies of students, and the different ways in which they view knowledge. I feel that you are asking students to adopt a certain epistemology - and a very good one - but the problem is that they are very resistant! The best students nearly always see knowledge as a certainty passed down to them by the teacher, and they will be asked questions to ascertain the fullness of their retention. The concept that knowledge is uncertain and must be argued about sickens them. They ask, at A-Level, such questions as "Why learn this if it's not true? Why learn it if other people disagree? Can't you just tell me the answer?" Their frustration is frustrating, and it occurs, too, in philosophy classes. I'm sure you have encountered this ehile doing your degree.
The best students are prepared to learn and revise, but not often prepared to think. The schooling and assessment regime, in fact, penalises thinking, as answers outside of the set framework are not understood by markers so get fewer marks. I'm afraid that, under this current system, dialectical progress won't be rated very highly in terms of summative assessment, and the best students are motivated by grades. Those students who don't even care so much to get a good grade, those who are set against education as it seems to them unimportant... the concept of thinking deeply about anything is appalling. They mock reading, they mock learning, and their prime concern is usually selfish pleasure. The worst students I have taught were only interested in psychology so far as it could answer questions like "why are girls so weird?", in order that they could use the knowledge to securely organise themselves (as a male) on top of the world, and as superior to their girlfriend. The concept that girls are often weird, girls are human, and all humans including boys are often weird was not an accepted argument in this situation.



"But in the notion that 'wisdom is a woman, she loves only a warrior' we might read the recognition of the necessity of regulative discourses, of condescension and oppression, of the affirmation that the intellect causes suffering and is sometimes right to do so."

Absolutely. In a shallow way, students accept the difficulty of education - the 'surface learning' adopted by the A-grade students incurs lots of hard work and lost time, and they accept this. And all students prefer a strict teacher who tells them what to do and punishes them when they slip up, they feel more motivated to work and, interestingly, more cared for. But the real pain in truth is suffering being wrong, and changing who we are, and students don't think learning should do that. They want to learn why they are right, I find, as they have very selfish epistemologies. The refrain is 'you are entitled, if you are different, to your opinion', the ever-so tolerant subtext being 'what you are saying is only an opinion, so you're actually wrong'. I fear that to tackle these problems that our education system would have to change utterly, and along with it our culture.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Atum said...

"So what kind of regulative discourses work? It has appeared to me that we have come to deny the reality of precisely those discourses that lead to genuine dialectic, but this is thankfully a consequence and perhaps not a necessary one. Thankfully a consequence because when we throw out babies with bathwaters we usually stop at political ideals. If the inference is drawn nonetheless to the philosophical system of dialectic, which we can then not seem to smuggle in undetected, can we show that this inference is an erroneous one - what appeal, specifically, would this involve?"

Sorry News! A bit of a train of thought paragraph and not put very well. Thought I'd commented clearing it up but I hadn't, so here's a belated clarification -

By political ideals I mean revolutionary thinking: The activity of consumerism ties our desires to the state to the extent that we don't want to be able to think of political alternatives, so historical bathwater is thrown out - socialism etc - and with it the baby jesus of reasoning objectively by considering possibilities (but not in fact the baby jesus: he smells of rusks). A dialectic requires real commitment to progress in active thought, and the way we live takes this activity offline, thus denying dialectic per se.

Getting rid of the commitment required for the scope of thought that dialectic operates with is what I think we as a people do, but because this is an effect of consumerism (though could say capitalism and etc) it isn't self-conscious enough to draw its conclusions to the door of philosophy - instead the focus is on political radicalisation as a great evil menace thing nasty boo. Philosophy could slip in unnoticed and slit the throats of the would-be evildoers of unreason, but this would entail some coersion.

Such coersion would be pretty simple - because people are pretty simple - but there is that annoying situation that seems to keep recurring in my life where a person takes me to be some sort of 'freedom fighter' or 'religious zealot'. And it is very annoying and quite quite bad of them. My question is to ask at what point this badness can be, not something displayed merely through scorn, but shown to be evident in some intellectual way that they can't shake.

Hope all this made more sense than my woefully brief post.

11:16 PM  

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