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Veiled Sight

January 19, 2009

Lately, I have been recognizing more and more a particular challenge that the classical teacher faces with today’s student.  It really comes as no surprise.


It became evident for me once again this past week in a student’s response to a comment that I made implying the destructiveness of industrialism.  My student did not see any problem with industry and was baffled at the suggestion. 


I have other students who are unwilling to affirm the notion that an idea such as justice is fixed.  They are much more willing to argue that our notion of justice may be different than say King Ashoka’s.  Or, that a criminal may think that he is good, which suggests that the idea of the good is relevant.


It may not be that they are unwilling to affirm such ideas of justice or of the good, but that they have not yet clearly seen them.  Modern society has worked to firmly place a veil over these things making it the educator’s task to remove the veil and allow their students a clear field of vision directly focused upon truth, goodness, and beauty.


I recognized that what my students were seeing was not the thing itself, but they were thinking on the ways in which the idea was used to achieve personal ends.  Their focus is consistently narrowed to what a thing produces, and this refined even more to the microcosmic field of individual gain.  My students were not looking at the good, but on how a man may consider his own actions as good.  The good has been transformed from a noun to an adjective; good is now an attribute that can be applied to anything that brings one pleasure.


It is almost as if there are reflectors strategically placed so that whenever you start to talk about a thing the modern mind is redirected to its application that is not governed by any sense of the logos, but by the idios.  It is the arduous but rewarding task of the classical educator to draw the student back to a full vision of the eidos. 



From → Education

  1. I can’t help but think these attitudes are related to economics. The mirror of capitalism seems to be cropping up in more and more institutes than I had ever imagined. It sneaks it’s way into love (“How can be most advantageously affected by my beloved? Are the wealthy? Are they beautiful? How much maintenance will I have to do?) and it seems as though the “personal advantage” sought in capitalism has made its way to education as well (justice is fluid, because it’s my sense of justice). I go back to my Aristotle: “Just behaviour is intermediate between doing injustice and suffering it… justice is a sort of mean state… because it aims at a mean, whereas injustice aims at the extremes.”
    The question, in a world that is largely concerned with the “how does this affect me,” seems to be: how can we teach objectivity (thing-in-itself) in a world of radical subjectivity (thing-for-itself)?

  2. Eli,

    I am thinking of your question, “how can we teach objectivity…?”

    In my conviction that no one can ever possess pure objectivity, i.e., the “god’s-eye-view” of reality (and I don’t suspect that is what you are saying), I am drawn to realizing that in the pursuit of objectivity the subject must confess its encounter with the object. I cannot possibly know a thing-in-itself outside of a personal encounter with it. As I recognize my own presence in such an encounter, I must also honor the thing I am encountering.

    The point of this leads me to the question of “how” I encounter the other. If it is only “for myself” (denying the other) or “in spite of myself” (denying the self) the encounter is violent requiring the death of one or the other. Only an encounter that honors both parties preserves both. So the question of teaching objectivity, as I see it, becomes an essentially moral question and education the transference of a certain way of being in relation.

    p.s. The vice of one political economy ends with “for myself.” The vice of the oppossing political economy ends with “in spite of myself.” –just a thought.


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