The comments here go pretty much the way you might expect them to. Perhaps it's that I'm teaching Plato and so the insufficiency of all knowledge is prominent in my mind, but I will take occasion to note how utterly strange it is to me that on both religion and politics, people seem to have no problem believing that they had it all figured out at 15, and that at such a precocious age they encountered all possible arguments so as to render follow-up on either topic a waste of time. Especially so, since it's a belief that many of these people would find damning in other fields: if one's favorite book at 30 is the same as one's favorite book at 15, then one clearly hasn't read enough, or it will be taken as a sign of immaturity of judgment. The ability to charitably and regularly take on strong articulations of a view with which you differ is a basic condition for being a serious interlocutor in any conversations at all. (I mean, goodness: this is the base-line condition for academic research.)

The first assignment that I'm giving my students this term is a straightforward one, but I also hope that it's a profoundly difficult one: give two interpretations for one ten-line-ish passage of the Republic. The idea is that it's a sign of sophistication and adult maturity to be able to put on other minds, to see from perspectives other than one's own. The point is not so much to drive them to see endless interpretive possibilities in a text (which is not a position I agree with or would argue for) so much as to get them to recognize that other possibilities exist at all.

No comments: