On Monday, it will be Kant’s 203rd anniversary (of death). Kant was one, of many who placed faith in reason to liberate us from ourselves; self-incurred minority comes not only from fellow humanity; but from our own discriminatory practices. While we have trust in reason; we must also limit its pretensions. How are we to do that?
I thought about Rousseau’s Emile for a while; how are we to educate the young? Not just telling them facts; but also, methodology; emotional maturity; physical improvement of well-being and, something that troubles me much; sentiment. Must we teach sentiment to the young?
Sentiment is a very dangerous feature of our psychologies; to indulge in a sentiment is to express a tender feeling over something that does not deserve it; at the cost of being callous when it is not warranted.
If, however, we trained children in certain ways to indulge in sentiment; perhaps they will be better moral characters than we are; however, to impose a criterion of judgement in the young is de facto imposing our ideologies upon them.
Children are not intelligent enough to be critical; they must first be dogmatists. There is a point where we must be dogmatic about our reality; YES, I am sitting down, YES, it is Tuesday, YES, this circle is square. It is fine to be dogmatic about our basic physics; but, NEVER about our metaphysics.
Back to the original question; how are we to cultivate the young?
John Stuart Mill is an example I like; his father, a friend of Bentham; had a grand project of making Mill junior into a genius; teaching greek at 6, graduating at 16; Mill was brought up to embrace atheism and in doing so, remains one of the greatest atheists; Mill has a great cultural sensitivity and much intellectual prowess; even if some claims in the Logic are…a little off (numbers being a posteriori, for example).
If you wanted to bring up a child, or a set of children; how would you educate them? What music and poetry will you expose them to? What emphasis will their education of the physical world will you imbue; what about ethics and politics? What virtues will you celebrate?
These things have an enormous impact upon a child; and probably, I will have most ignored the emotional development (physical development is a given); Mill certainly didn’t start off very happy. What about discipline? The extent of harm that you wish to impose upon the child in order for them to be curbed away.
If we look at studies like Piaget; we can find there is a very clear difference in the way children conceptualise the world (in a cognitive sense), we can’t force Ohm’s law on them inasmuch as we cannot force them to read Marcus Aurelius. It’s probably better for them to be cultured in an environs more familiar to them; such as Catcher in the Rye; although Ancient literature had a huge impact on myself and my peers; to the point that we are motivated to think beyond our putative sets of values and look elsewhere; such as the enlightenment which ended and failed so long before we were born; yet it is so fundamental to our intellectual heritage that we must maintain the hopes of Condorcet when he believed that truth, goodness and beauty are all the same thing.