Tuesday, September 17, 2013

on being light

We don’t wince at talk of humane or humanistic enlightenment, but to walk the talk is to enown teaching, philosophically perhaps to ask: What is channeled that may be so enowned by learning that It gives (as Heidegger would connote with “Es gibt,” There is/It gives) enlightening, at best profoundly so?

A developmental interest (one’s ownmost reason for an emancipatory interest) belongs to both learner and teacher, at best in an essentially-complementary way.

So, a philosophy of teaching (also “an event of appropriation,” Heidegger’s Ereignis)—would (should) be about, among many things, joys of enlightening.

I doubt there’s much philosophical expression in Virginia Professor of English Mark Edmundson’s Why Teach?—I’ve only read the review (written by the president of Wesleyan University, Michael S. Roth), which inspires this posting—but great teaching surely “calls” for thinking about how to bottle it, which a philosophy of teaching might venture. 

So, I muse about a high “cultivation of humanity” here through philosophy, and others (e.g., Drèze and Sen, discussed yesterday) plea for a modest possibility of change through democratic practice. The midland there is the democratic mission of liberal education, which is led through exemplary teaching.

When I read in the review of Edmundson that the university’s “mission [is] to confront our prejudices and conventions while inspiring our passions and talents,” I think of how teaching can be great emancipatory light only because it appeals to a teacher and learner together in a developmental interest. At best, belonging together in the difference is an alliance of complements (each appreciating the alliance differently, yet in the same engagement).

But that’s difficult to feel inasmuch as “inspiration is in short supply these days on campus.”
Mr. Edmundson worries that too many professors have lost the courage of their own passions, depriving their students of the fire of inspiration. Why teach? Because great professors can “crack the shell of convention,” shining a light on a life’s different prospects [in order] to discover possibility.
We want, beginning in happy childhood, what we should grow to want highly in college: “...inquiry, inspiration and challenge....to make ... writers one’s own...[to enown] humane sensitivity.” So, Edmundson stands to exemplify “the transformative power of a true education” (which suggests a more enlightened sense of ‘true’ than accuracy, in so-called love of truth). Let’s have more love! : Love for truth, goodness, beauty—and hey, my copy of Martha Nussbaum’s Political Emotions arrived today. Remember?: “...Why Love Matters for Justice.”

But I digress. “Art inspires us; teaching changes us,” writes Roth of Edmundson. “...[T]eaching is a calling, an urgent endeavor in which the lives—he says the souls—of students are at stake....[H]e still goes to the classroom each semester seeking new possibilities—for his students and for himself.”

I’m posting this to remind myself—and share with you—that philosophy more or less began (with Socrates) as a conception of teaching (maieutic), which philosophy has always been.

This posting is associated with the “good thinking” area of gedavis.com.