On Education

When I say the word education, whether internally or externally, my imagination fills the void with someone standing in front of a chalkboard and others sitting quietly or goofing off quietly.

Aristotle says, “Hence a young man is not a proper hearer of lectures on political science; for he is inexperienced in the actions that occur in life, but its discussions start from these and are about these; and, further, since he tends to follow his passions, his study will be vain and unprofitable, because the end aimed at is not knowledge but action.” (NE, 1.3)

And it was wrestling with this passage that shattered my illusions about becoming a teacher. In some sense that which shatters illusion is always immediately available. And yet, it is the agent who must notice, who must see, who must consume, digest, put to use, and all of these acts are only understandable from his interests, preference, desire, want, demand.

Aristotle says that the proper hearer of lectures on political science is the one with experience of life and rule by reason (the alternative to guidance by passion). [(Experience)+(Rule by Reason)]=Proper hearer of lectures on political science

Who knows what I am still missing, but what occurs to me is that there is a kind of education (E1) prior to what I normally think of as education (E2). Or put differently, there is a kind of production (E1) prior to the production of the one who is benefited by lectures (E2).

The rub? E1 cannot be produced in the setting that E2 occurs in since E1 is necessary for E2 and it is impossible that E2 depends on E1 and yet that E1 would follows E2. But what type of education occurs that is not sitting quietly consuming lectures? What is E1 if it is not E2?

How to produce the one who can sit quietly and attend to another’s words, hold the string of words together as it is emitted, distinguish the more important from the less, and interpret correctly the sayings of the one who lectures so that what is remembered is remembered rightly, and what is remembered is applied rightly? It is too much.

First, what is needed: tranquility of soul. Tranquility of soul is an ideal, and as such it is inadequately expressed by anyone who has not achieved it fully. But, even without definition, almost anyone has some sense of what is gestured at by the word. It is the condition from which any and all adequate response is both perceived and chosen by the agent to any confrontation with externals.

If the soul is not quiet, then it will drown out the sound of the lecture and make hearing increasingly impossible. If the soul is not quiet, then it will hear what it wants more than what is offered. Hearing falters. Interpretation falters. Application falters. E2 falters.

Second, the condition cannot be forced. It cannot be caused in the efficient sense of caused. But it can be caused in the final sense. One of the benefits of the study of Aristotle is the return to a time in which to cause had senses. It could mean different things. The final cause is that which draws forth without touching. It is the seducer, the lure, the attractive, the sexy in the best sense. In this sense the condition of tranquil soul is caused.

Third, let us distinguish, in final causes, between the end of a non-personal series of events and the end of a personal series of choices. Choices are caused, efficiently, by their choosers. And choosers cannot choose without actually aiming at. And aiming at cannot be accomplished toward that which is not seen. There must be some difference in the imagined sensory appearance which permits the reorientation toward. Thus, the final cause of the oak tree is, qua non-personal, the ideal oak. But this final cause toward which the seedling develops is a recipe for change, but it is not personally chosen since no chooser is present. The final cause of the human is the ideal human, but here development is not possible without choice. And choice is not understandable without end in view. So, let us distinguish mere final cause (non-personal) from exemplar cause (personal).

The transition from ignorant and passionate to experienced and ruled by reason is the E1 necessary for E2. E1 cannot be given in the same way E2 can. The product of tranquil soul cannot be delivered to he who needs it in the way a lecture can be delivered to a student.

But what can be given by anything analogous to a teacher in the E1 scenario that makes E2 possible? The gift is the exemplar of tranquility found in developed soul! Like a desert lacking water are places where the natural savage (child in years) has no exemplar to copy! Even worse, like a victim needing to take cover is the natural savage (child in years) who must live near the passionate and inexperienced who is elder in years and so more physically powerful but not adequately soulfully powerful. Privileged, in the best sense, is he born under care by the virtuous, by those who approximate tranquility.

Naturally, what is analogous to the learner of lectures of E2, in the scenario of E1, is he who trips over his current state of soul, collects the data of its inadequacy, and begins to hunt for alternative forms for soul to take.

THEN, the exemplar, shining bright in the memory of he who never gave it a second thought, acts. Then there is causality. Then the gift that was always there for the passionate and inexperienced is put to use. Next begins the investment by the inadequate in moving toward adequacy. Such a process is full of fear and trembling, but it is so good.

Published by Purilib

Anonymously interested in grasping the good life.

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