I shall concern myself with two, perhaps unconnected thoughts:
I. Should we lie to children about a complex reality by telling them about a false, but simpler one?
II. What kind of person is the ideal hero as a literary idea or model of eudaimonia?
Firstly, a lie is a willing deception of an individual. To tell someone of a reality that is factually false, but one which one was not aware of being false, is not a lie.
Why is this important? We teach children from an early age, and that is a great human historical development (note I didn’t say ‘civilisation’ because I am not technically allowed to say that as it is not PC); however, as our worldview meets new evidence, our conceptions also change, in short: reality is blood complex! Examples:
Ever tried to understand the formal properties of language? Oh boy, that is a nightmare – try reading Chomsky’s linguist work on generative grammar or John Perry’s paper on demonstratives and indexicals, and you’ll see how complex this thing called ‘language’ is.
What about empirical reality? It seems, at least, over history, that our conceptions of the world can radically change. Although, of late, I don’t know if our macrostructural construction of the world will significantly change, but developments in microstructural reality has become very interesting and a problem comes in putting the former consistent with the latter – schoolkids are taught to get definite answers, not be left with even more questions – let them be perplexed at least after puberty!
Its strange, how some of my contemporaries tell me as they learn more about their subject, they find out that what they have been told is ‘wrong’ and on a higher level the ‘truth’ is something more complex. Sociology never admits there is no controversy, if it ever did the subject would fail to become critical. Philosophy, on the other hand, can sometimes teach college or secondary level stuff in a way that makes them think about age-old questions, but gives them a conceptual schema too simple to use in contemporary philosophy.
Examples of this:
1. ‘Hume’s fork’ or ‘Kant’s box’ – where statements are judged a priori/posteriori analytic/synthetic neccessary/contingent. This distinction is considered to understand philosophical positions and jargon, but when we get to Quine and Frege, we have to question firstly, our definitions of these terms, and secondly, whether these terms are actually salient.
2. Definition of knowledge. Plato’s definition: JUSTIFIED TRUE BELIEF, without one of these elements there is no knowledge. Bring in Gettier and the Gettier cases? Oh dear, we are left question-begging.
3. Ethical theories distinguished in college level between ‘teleological’ or ‘deontological’, some even distinguish between ‘relativist’ or ‘absolutist’. As for the first distinction, I’ve never heard anyone in a journal article, anthology, textbook or key text refer to ethics as being ‘teleological’, that is some bullshit people like Peter Vardy teach A-level students and they accept. As for the latter distinction, it is characterised in such a way that relativism is inherently a strawman or only idiots would believe in it (something I have buried in my mind which I consider as a truth, I sorrowfully admit), and absolitism as being the only way to truth, people then want to force in ‘God’ afterwards.
But this isn’t all about teaching philosophy, this is about the teaching of religion, science and history (political and social).
Thesis – children should be taught about religions properly – I fear the multicultural policy will water down the details in favour of diversity – leading to bad education and strawman bigotry. Either teach them one religion WELL or don’t teach them it at all. I was in Catholic schools for 14 years and only after I left I properly understood the bible and theology.
Antithesis – Teaching religion is not a critical excercise, it is merely exegesis. You can teach a class on Marx without having to be a strong Marxist or anti-Marxist in its reception, you may not care, but just learn the stuff to pass the exam! However, exegesis could be dogmatic without context, or too complex for children to understand – they won’t care about Church encyclicals or historical precedents.
Thesis: Simple science, so they understand the world. Education is empowering to the individual and the society they will integrate into.
Antithesis: Simple science, but one which is conditionally true or factually false. Teaching simple science in public education means that false knowledge will be taken as givens in the public discourse, people like Dawkins always try to rebut the typical conceptions of evolution. If something is understood simply (e.g. laws of motion), it may be propated in the name of ‘truth’ in public discourse, even though scholars know better.
Thesis: The young need to know the world that formed the backdrop of their parents, their grandparents, their distant ancestors or even that of their host nation. Spinoza says that the point of history is to avoid its mistakes; teaching kids about slavery and bigotry in our history is important. It also is helpful to ideology construction – by teaching them a simplified idea of our intellectual history they form the position(s) that their parent generation holds.
Antithesis: Education is public, a state-governed body. We may consider the ‘6 million’ death toll of Jews a given in today’s discourse, but I’ve never seen any coroner’s records, UN or historical evidence, I just hear it said by many people on the street and on TV, and then of course those people who are labelled holocaust deniers and wackos because they disagree with this view put forward in history textbooks, the government and media. Maybe ‘knowledge’ is defined as such by institutional powers, and public education and its details propagate ideology, ‘common knowledge’. We teach kids ‘facts’ and not ‘method’.
Why is this thought important? I was having a chat to a friend back in London over the summer and we argued about some things; basically he disagreed with my Kantian moral psychology and treatment of our social reality, so, I gave definitions and arguments.
This guy disagreed because he didn’t even listen to my definitions. I defined a word in a technical sense but he assumed it still in a putative sense, I defined the former sense in contradistinction from the latter. Furthermore, he didn’t even address the empirical significance of the premises of my argument, their rational plausibility or even the logical relation between premise to conclusion. His antithesis was: you think too much, dude.
I went furious. His mentality represents everything that the enlightenment project tried to fight against. The enlightenment seemingly has failed among the populace of our nations. I remember arguing about Kant’s big distinction (you know the one by now, my darling blog readers :p), and this girl said ‘oh, but that is just a human distinction’. I blew up inside, I can’t stand stupid points like that. So what were you hoping for you stupid fuck? Divine distinctions? transcendental knowledge? If you understood anything about metaphysics you would understand WHY this limiting notion is important, you wretched WHORE (this is not an ad hominem in that ‘whore-ness’ does not undermine the agent). What about the words with which you uttered your refutation of me? isn’t that SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED? YOU IDIOT! Furthermore, isn’t that a TRANSCENDENTAL ARGUMENT you are using against me? I bet you haven’t even heard of a transcendental argument you fucking dogmatic bible-believing pre-Lutheran king james edition homophobic conservative non-evolution believing protestant anti-thomistic textbook learning pathological rule-following cunt! Using a transcendental argument against a Kantian is like shooting your own side, you IDIOT. HUMAN CREATION, YOU FUCKING MORON. I hope you die and your family suffer in despair. Oh my, I have digressed. My point is that a textbook learning society can’t think beyond that textbook; life is about thinking for yourself and exploring things on your own; sure there are things we have to be told or taught, but what is most important is our intellectual autonomy.
Heroes are the protagonists of art and cultural ideas; they inspire us in pastoral and moral dimensions. I shall consider characteristics of the hero:
I. Excellence – In Return of the Jedi, Skywalker totally changes from the arrogant youth to a mature adult in his fight on Jabba’s sail barge, he embodies bravery, temperance, justice, and something indescribable, one is totally captured by his heroism, totally shocked at his greatness. Another example of greatness: Aeneas’ change from victim to hero.
II. A blemish – a great hero must be flawed. Aeneas kills Turnus in anger, Luke succumbs to the dark side and arrogance resulting in the loss of his hand. There is something beautiful about the beautifully flawed; romances seem all the more sweeter when there are two horribly flawed people who, when, together, are very different and compensate for each other.
III. Experience – this one speaks for itself. A hero knows about vice as well as virtue, as she has engaged in them both. A hero knows about falling as well as ascending. This experience is both a virtue and a flaw.
IV. Connections – the relationships one has with others, between herself and her friends, her enemies, and her ambivalent peers.
What else is there? please tell me so i can amend