Friday, February 17, 2017

Cours de Rien


When I was in school, I never considered the meaning of education. I valued the humanities, but mainly because I liked them and I vaguely thought that the humanities made people better. It wasn’t until grad school that I began to see just how much one’s educational model shapes one’s worldview. I realized how much I was not taught philosophy or ethics or rhetoric. My education did not aim to make me a good citizen but a good labor source.

I had some really great teachers. They cared about me and challenged me to do my best and let me stretch my intellectual chops even when that meant roaming off curriculum. It’s just that I didn’t realize how much unspoken assumptions are taught within the educational model. And I didn’t realize what was missing. The West has a rich tradition of logic and philosophy, but in high school I only received passing mentions of Plato, Aristotle, Erasmus, and Kant, and that was only because I was a nerd who took Latin and Great Books. In college there was Plato’s cave and Nietzsche’s superman, but still never an all-encompassing curriculum of the foundations of Western thought.

I still feel like my understanding of philosophy is piecemeal. I read a philosopher, get lost, realize I need to read someone earlier to understand this one, and wind up with a growing reading list and no follow-through. And Christian apologetics are so philosophical. One has to understand Western thought to understand Western explanations of the divine. 

Transubstantiation is so much easier to swallow (heh) with an understanding of substance theory. Augustine relied on Plato’s “incorporeal truth” to understand spiritual matters in a physical world. The Logos of John 1, the “unmoved mover,” and omni-benevolence all stem from Greek thought. How different would my conception of God be without these? How different would my conception of God be if I better understood them? 

If education continues to only be labor training and not actually mold minds and build up citizens, then people will become more and more distant from the rich philosophies that study and shape the world. They will only know what it set before their eyes—the shallow, literal, unexplored meanings. That all that matters is quantifiable matter. That the only time is the present. That natural philosophy is the only philosophy, and it’s not even philosophy at all. We’ll be so set in the narrow confines of empiricism that we’ll miss out on the beauty of the earth, the meaning of life, and the truth of God. Classes of nothing will result in souls of nothing. There is a desperate need for in-depth neoclassical education—the medieval trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. But more, there is need for the desire to study, to learn, to grow as humans, regardless how much it will increase earning-potential. We should seek knowledge for the sake of truth.

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