Formal Education & Philosophy

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Reply Mon 12 Apr, 2010 10:59 pm
What are the advantages/disadvantages of learning philosophy at an institution, rather than simply reading books and discussing these books with others?

I'll put my own cards on the table. Philosophy has never been associated, for me, with a test or a grade or a particular building. And yet my nose has always been in books.

Are there certain credentials that transcend persuasion? (Don't we judge other people largely by the words they use in real time?) Are credentials another form of persuasion, a form that must be worked for and also paid for?

Or are institutions ideally places for exactly these two things? Study and discussion.
 
HexHammer
 
Reply Mon 12 Apr, 2010 11:33 pm
@Reconstructo,
Institutions usually educate people in politically correct lines of given subject, cover most aspect of background, history and official interpetation, but not all the dirty tricks of trade.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Mon 12 Apr, 2010 11:34 pm
@Reconstructo,
I have grown to the point that I despise academic philosophy. I am graduating in December, and I want nothing to do with the mess that is institutionalized philosophy. But I love reading philosophy, engaging in ideas, arguing my viewpoint, and discussing things that may be classified as philosophy. The academy takes all the fun out of the process and turns little more than history and interpretations of vague writing often not in its original language. Not to mention, a philosophy department is littered with bad teachers that have done little other than proving they can regurgitate obscure ideas for their own personal bad teachers. God forbid a philosophy student entertaining what they think are their own ideas. Of course, their is value in a philosophy degree, but that is as a secondary major, minor, or stepping stone to professional school.

That is not to say that all philosophy professors are bad, but the good ones are closer to the community organizer than the professor. Thus, the true philosopher avoids academic philosophy like the plague because it turns the student into a caricature with little value to the greater society. These caricatures are little more than literature buffs, but arguing with others give these fake philosophers the illusion that what they do actually matters. But no one listens to them except future philosophy professors that have been indoctrinated by this little charade.

Philosophy degrees are just little key cards into this exclusive club of irrelevance, and upon graduating, more access is allowed. Philosophy can teach many great things to an acquiring mind, but a career as a philosopher is not one of them.
 
TuringEquivalent
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 04:47 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;151227 wrote:
What are the advantages/disadvantages of learning philosophy at an institution, rather than simply reading books and discussing these books with others?

I'll put my own cards on the table. Philosophy has never been associated, for me, with a test or a grade or a particular building. And yet my nose has always been in books.

Are there certain credentials that transcend persuasion? (Don't we judge other people largely by the words they use in real time?) Are credentials another form of persuasion, a form that must be worked for and also paid for?

Or are institutions ideally places for exactly these two things? Study and discussion.


Ultimately, if you have one good teacher, it will change your life. You continue to learn on your own.

---------- Post added 04-13-2010 at 05:50 AM ----------

Theaetetus;151232 wrote:
I have grown to the point that I despise academic philosophy. I am graduating in December, and I want nothing to do with the mess that is institutionalized philosophy. But I love reading philosophy, engaging in ideas, arguing my viewpoint, and discussing things that may be classified as philosophy. The academy takes all the fun out of the process and turns little more than history and interpretations of vague writing often not in its original language. Not to mention, a philosophy department is littered with bad teachers that have done little other than proving they can regurgitate obscure ideas for their own personal bad teachers. God forbid a philosophy student entertaining what they think are their own ideas. Of course, their is value in a philosophy degree, but that is as a secondary major, minor, or stepping stone to professional school.

That is not to say that all philosophy professors are bad, but the good ones are closer to the community organizer than the professor. Thus, the true philosopher avoids academic philosophy like the plague because it turns the student into a caricature with little value to the greater society. These caricatures are little more than literature buffs, but arguing with others give these fake philosophers the illusion that what they do actually matters. But no one listens to them except future philosophy professors that have been indoctrinated by this little charade.

Philosophy degrees are just little key cards into this exclusive club of irrelevance, and upon graduating, more access is allowed. Philosophy can teach many great things to an acquiring mind, but a career as a philosopher is not one of them.

It looks like you never had that special "teacher".
 
Fido
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 05:31 am
@Reconstructo,
Formal education teaches the form... That is not where philosophy will grow... We learn the form without being captured by it in order to not make the same mistakes of thought that they made, and of course, to learn what they knew... If one would be a philosopher, then they must learn what people know, and short of this step philosophical education is a waste... And I would point out how long it took to separate theology from philosophy, which division is hardly complete, and how long it took to allow history is a branch of philosophy whien it is so central to philosophy as we know it....The formal approach has never worked... Nietzsche for his part seemed to reject formality, and yet used many formal tools to reach and support his conclusions... Well; that may be inevitable, that we must know what others know to judge what others teach; but that is the horse that must go before the cart of philosophy... To first learn philosophy without knowledge is useless formality...
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 06:05 am
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus;151232 wrote:
I have grown to the point that I despise academic philosophy. I am graduating in December, and I want nothing to do with the mess that is institutionalized philosophy. But I love reading philosophy, engaging in ideas, arguing my viewpoint, and discussing things that may be classified as philosophy. The academy takes all the fun out of the process and turns little more than history and interpretations of vague writing often not in its original language. Not to mention, a philosophy department is littered with bad teachers that have done little other than proving they can regurgitate obscure ideas for their own personal bad teachers. God forbid a philosophy student entertaining what they think are their own ideas. Of course, their is value in a philosophy degree, but that is as a secondary major, minor, or stepping stone to professional school.

That is not to say that all philosophy professors are bad, but the good ones are closer to the community organizer than the professor. Thus, the true philosopher avoids academic philosophy like the plague because it turns the student into a caricature with little value to the greater society. These caricatures are little more than literature buffs, but arguing with others give these fake philosophers the illusion that what they do actually matters. But no one listens to them except future philosophy professors that have been indoctrinated by this little charade.

Philosophy degrees are just little key cards into this exclusive club of irrelevance, and upon graduating, more access is allowed. Philosophy can teach many great things to an acquiring mind, but a career as a philosopher is not one of them.


Eh, how have you been doing in your formal studies? Now, I have had considerable formal education in philosophy, and apparently lots of people on this board think I am doing well on this forum.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 08:20 am
@Reconstructo,
" Philosophy can teach many great things to an acquiring mind, but a career as a philosopher is not one of them."

Just so. Just as composing great music, Philosophy seems more a calling than a mere occupation. Acquiring a knowledge of the tradition, some training in methodology, and some exercise in composition are extremely helpful in either journey, although none of these guarantees success.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 08:27 am
@jgweed,
jgweed;151330 wrote:
" Philosophy can teach many great things to an acquiring mind, but a career as a philosopher is not one of them."

Just so. Just as composing great music, Philosophy seems more a calling than a mere occupation. Acquiring a knowledge of the tradition, some training in methodology, and some exercise in composition are extremely helpful in either journey, although none of these guarantees success.


I suppose that medicine and law are also callings. But that does not mean they are not occupations too. It is not as if something is either a calling, or an occupation, but not both. And, it may be that, like medicine, or like law, the calling nor occupation cannot be answered satisfactorily unless there is some formal training. For instance, people who say that their philosophy is, carpe diem do not, thereby, become philosophers. The term, "philosopher" can be used very loosely. Like any other term.

It is instructive that I have heard many of the disparaging remarks that have been made about academic philosophy made about medicine and about law, too.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 08:39 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;151227 wrote:
What are the advantages/disadvantages of learning philosophy at an institution, rather than simply reading books and discussing these books with others?

I'll put my own cards on the table. Philosophy has never been associated, for me, with a test or a grade or a particular building. And yet my nose has always been in books.

Are there certain credentials that transcend persuasion? (Don't we judge other people largely by the words they use in real time?) Are credentials another form of persuasion, a form that must be worked for and also paid for?

Or are institutions ideally places for exactly these two things? Study and discussion.



The advantages of studying in an institution include, but are not necessarily limited to, being exposed to ideas that one might not otherwise encounter, getting motivation to read great works that one may otherwise regard as too difficult, aid in understanding difficult works (as questions may be asked of the teacher, etc.), and getting recognition for one's studies (unless one "audits" classes only).

The disadvantages of studying in an institution include, but are not necessarily limited to, not being able to select whatever one wants to read, it costs money, it cannot be done on whatever schedule one wishes, and one may sometimes have bad teachers.

One is more likely to actually get a well-rounded education by formally studying it than by only reading on one's own, though it is possible that one can do so on one's own. People who only study on their own typically do not have the breadth of knowledge of those who study it formally, and typically do not have the depth of knowledge even in those portions that are studied. (The two, of course, are not mutually exclusive, and most who get degrees continue to read philosophy on their own time as desired. That is usually the best way to learn the most about a particular subject.) When people read only what they like, they don't learn things that can be learned from things they do not like. Typically, that encompasses a good deal of information.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 08:43 am
@Reconstructo,
The difference is that formal training (and specific degrees and passing specific tests) is absolutely essential to practicing either the profession of law or of medicine; this is neither the case with composers nor philosophers.

No one will deny that "philosophy" or "musician" are often applied in a very casual and loose way to human endeavors that barely "partake" of the genuine coinage, just as it might be that a voodoo priest might call himself a doctor. That this happens says much about society and its language, but does not invalidate our experience that in both philosophy and in music, important contributions have come from those without academic training in the subject. What degree did Kant or Beethoven have?
 
Khethil
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 08:57 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;151227 wrote:
What are the advantages/disadvantages of learning philosophy at an institution, rather than simply reading books and discussing these books with others?


Oh, what a great question!

I've had some formal education in philosophy, but it wasn't my major and it was only a few years; probably 90% of my philosophical experience consists of self study and seems to be a result of some strange unrelenting personal desire to study; and I do mean "study" (which is distinctly different than just reading, in that one fleshes out each 'piqued' thought with questions, annotations, cross references and researching). Its a private endeavor, with little discussion (although I'd love to; I find the preponderance of people morbidly sensitive enough to be interested in philosophy often tend to be the least able to amicably discuss).

So I'm biased towards the personal, 'truer' interest in philosphy than the academic sort. But I must say that the academia helped to spark my interest in its structured approach to grasping each of the classical types of philosophies. Without this basis, I'd probably still enjoy it immensely, but it gave me a foundation on which to build.

As far as the bias of instructors others here have spoken about; Absolutely! Though the way I look at it forgives this as an unavoidable shortfall of being human. Mainly, because philosphy touches on the ideas we all hold dear (in any branch, virtually), it's virtually inevitable that through prolonged discussions in class an instructor's bias would be discovered. In some cases it was blatant and in its most innocuous form, as a student I perceived an almost heroic attempt to hide his or her own slants. So, except in the most extreme cases, I find it forgivable. I will say this: The more an instructor is able to just present the material and nursemaid students through grasping the ideals without bias, the better the class would be.

So yea, I'd see it as a potential 'enhancer' to philosophical study; but its iffy territory to be sure and certainly not necessary to grasping and enjoying the many rabbit holes of thought philosophy offers.

Reconstructo;151227 wrote:
Are there certain credentials that transcend persuasion? (Don't we judge other people largely by the words they use in real time?) Are credentials another form of persuasion, a form that must be worked for and also paid for?


No, I don't think any credentials transcend persuasion. And yes, I do think it's often a form of persuasion. More to the point, I'd say that when and where we see ostensive/overt mentioning of credentials as a form of "endorsement". Much like having Michael Jordan say he loves <these> shoes. Theses associations can have the effect of lending credibility to that being argued. I don't buy it and have a severe distaste for such displays. I do believe this is a common practice (subtle or otherwise); much like how we toss in quotes to punctuate the points we make. It's a form of support.

My father and I differ on this severely. Don't misunderstand; I love and respect him immensely. He's often chided me for not getting my doctorate, saying that the 'prestige' is well deserved. I'm a poor man's philosopher; true, real and flawed in all my amateurish attempts. But that's ok, to my value set it speaks more to the honest, without-pretense human condition that lies at the everyday heart of philosophy than strutting labels.

Reconstructo;151227 wrote:
Or are institutions ideally places for exactly these two things? Study and discussion.


I think those are fine purposes, sure. I suppose I'd say the best place for philosophy in academia is to illustrate the major forms of thought for each philosophical branch; ensure the students understand the major arguements for or against each, then let them 'run' with it. Some will embrace it, others will fall asleep. It's all good - mainly because for those with minds fertile for such ideals, afterwords the seed will grow on its own.

Thanks again, excellent thread starter.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 09:03 am
@jgweed,
jgweed;151338 wrote:
The difference is that formal training (and specific degrees and passing specific tests) is absolutely essential to practicing either the profession of law or of medicine; this is neither the case with composers nor philosophers.

No one will deny that "philosophy" or "musician" are often applied in a very casual and loose way to human endeavors that barely "partake" of the genuine coinage, just as it might be that a voodoo priest might call himself a doctor. That this happens says much about society and its language, but does not invalidate our experience that in both philosophy and in music, important contributions have come from those without academic training in the subject. What degree did Kant or Beethoven have?


Actually, Kant was really the first professional philosopher. But, the problem with your (I suppose) rhetorical question is, that few of us are Kants or Beethovens.
 
ughaibu
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 09:08 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;151347 wrote:
Actually, Kant was really the first professional philosopher.
What about Plato?
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 09:22 am
@jgweed,
jgweed;151338 wrote:
The difference is that formal training (and specific degrees and passing specific tests) is absolutely essential to practicing either the profession of law or of medicine; this is neither the case with composers nor philosophers.



That is because it is not allowed, not because it is impossible to learn the law or medicine on one's own. No one is stopping you from learning these things on your own, but you are not allowed to practice these things unless you have the appropriate credentials. And this should not be allowed, for the reasons I specified inmy post above about philosophy. You will find that if you wish to teach philosophy at an accredited school, they will require that you have appropriate credentials. But, of course, no one will stop you from writing some great work of philosophy without a degree. What stops most people from doing that, aside from a lack of interest, is a lack of ability.


jgweed;151338 wrote:
No one will deny that "philosophy" or "musician" are often applied in a very casual and loose way to human endeavors that barely "partake" of the genuine coinage, just as it might be that a voodoo priest might call himself a doctor. That this happens says much about society and its language, but does not invalidate our experience that in both philosophy and in music, important contributions have come from those without academic training in the subject. What degree did Kant or Beethoven have?



There are very few who are going to be a Beethoven, but your analogy is not as apt as you appear to think. Beethoven studied music at an early age, and did so formally, in the accepted manner of his time and place. Likewise, Kant formally studied philosophy. So they are not examples of "self-made" great men; they are more an argument for the other side of the discussion.
 
HexHammer
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 09:23 am
@jgweed,
jgweed;151338 wrote:
No one will deny that "philosophy" or "musician" are often applied in a very casual and loose way to human endeavors that barely "partake" of the genuine coinage, just as it might be that a voodoo priest might call himself a doctor. That this happens says much about society and its language, but does not invalidate our experience that in both philosophy and in music, important contributions have come from those without academic training in the subject. What degree did Kant or Beethoven have?
barely "partake" of the genuine coinage I'm not sure what you mean, not familiar with a "genuine" coinage.
Less do I know how a voodoo priest relates to anything in this.

Imo Kant and Beethoven can't be applyed to this thread, since they'r geniouses, which falls out of the premesis of the discussion. Geniouses has a stronger selfteaching factor than common people, and it's common people which this thread relates to.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 10:39 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;151349 wrote:
What about Plato?


I mean that Kant was a University Professor (Dozent) and paid a salary to teach and to do research.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 02:30 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;151337 wrote:

One is more likely to actually get a well-rounded education by formally studying it than by only reading on one's own, though it is possible that one can do so on one's own. People who only study on their own typically do not have the breadth of knowledge of those who study it formally, and typically do not have the depth of knowledge even in those portions that are studied. (The two, of course, are not mutually exclusive, and most who get degrees continue to read philosophy on their own time as desired. That is usually the best way to learn the most about a particular subject.) When people read only what they like, they don't learn things that can be learned from things they do not like. Typically, that encompasses a good deal of information.

I liked your post, but must object somewhat to this part. I've met a few college boys for whom philosophy was just one more test, and their knowledge was skimpy, to put it mildly. Passion is everything. Those who actually give a damn will read, and much more importantly THINK, voraciously.

If we look at the history of philosophy we find the greats as outsiders here or insiders there. From Diogenes to a virgin professor like Kant. Then you have strange fusions like Nietzsche, a star pupil gone rogue. Of course it's hard to forget that Socrates was put to death (having been not only a philosopher but also a courageous soldier, a beloved friend, etc.)

---------- Post added 04-13-2010 at 03:41 PM ----------

Khethil;151344 wrote:
and I do mean "study" (which is distinctly different than just reading, in that one fleshes out each 'piqued' thought with questions, annotations, cross references and researching). Its a private endeavor, with little discussion (although I'd love to; I find the preponderance of people morbidly sensitive enough to be interested in philosophy often tend to be the least able to amicably discuss).

Well written! For me, one writer lead me to another. Rorty lead me to Hegel, for instance, although Hegel is chrono before Rorty. (Hegel-haters, who IMO didn't understand him, had kept me away. Growl!)

Indeed it is a private endeavor, and for me it was sacred, if I may be allowed the word. And having come to philosophy from a literary obsession, the relationship between the two was obvious. Indeed, modern art, including conceptual art, seems like a part of the whole. It's all so god damned fascinating that bored human beings amaze me, and I tend to avoid them. And yes, the few that are alive to such form are often quite sensitive. I think this is why "ironism" was so appealing once. As a cure for such sensitivity. Pretend to negate it all in order to assimilate it all.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 02:44 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;151464 wrote:
I liked your post, but must object somewhat to this part. I've met a few college boys for whom philosophy was just one more test, and their knowledge was skimpy, to put it mildly. Passion is everything. Those who actually give a damn will read, and much more importantly THINK, voraciously.

If we look at the history of philosophy we find the greats as outsiders here or insiders there. From Diogenes to a virgin professor like Kant. Then you have strange fusions like Nietzsche, a star pupil gone rogue. Of course it's hard to forget that Socrates was put to death (having been not only a philosopher but also a courageous soldier, a beloved friend, etc.)


Those college boys took one course in philosophy (maybe). I don't think we were talking about them. How will people with passion know what to read, and how understand it with no background? They may spend their time reading Kahil Gibran and think that is philosophy. Or worse, read Nietzsche and think that is philosophy. As Talleyrand advised to his aides, "Above all, no zeal". Zeal gets into the way of thought.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 02:44 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil;151344 wrote:

No, I don't think any credentials transcend persuasion. And yes, I do think it's often a form of persuasion. More to the point, I'd say that when and where we see ostensive/overt mentioning of credentials as a form of "endorsement". Much like having Michael Jordan say he loves <these> shoes. Theses associations can have the effect of lending credibility to that being argued. I don't buy it and have a severe distaste for such displays. I do believe this is a common practice (subtle or otherwise); much like how we toss in quotes to punctuate the points we make. It's a form of support.

Indeed. I agree that we also often quote the famous for similar reasons. Sometimes it's a paying of tribute (the love of God is a love of the greatest humans --Blake), and then I sometimes do it so as not to seem a plagiarist. And sometimes I do it to be more persuasive. (:bigsmile:) But it's only a step from here to idolatry. There was a time that idolatry seems like philosophical enemy #1. I even liked to describe philosophy then as the destruction of idols. And I still think this is a necessary process for the growing mind. Of course philosophy is more than just this, but perhaps an escape from idolatry (be it of teachers, or the famous dead) is a necessary rung on the ladder.

---------- Post added 04-13-2010 at 03:52 PM ----------

Khethil;151344 wrote:

But that's ok, to my value set it speaks more to the honest, without-pretense human condition that lies at the everyday heart of philosophy than strutting labels.

I can relate to this. In my book(and Hume's --quote for persuasive purposes), one must be a man first, and a foolosopher second. And foolosophers are easily mocked as windbags, although I know damn well that the good philosophers are cultural treasures.

I can imagine a nice young college boy with a fund of facts on the famous fools of philosophy, and yet our nice-young-college-boy is perhaps a virgin (less likely these days, but hardly impossible) whose has never had his nose bloodied, or bloodied someone's nose. Or never been high, or fired a gun, understood rocknroll, poetry, food, left his locality, etc.. Not that any of these activities are in themselves so great, but experience matters. And human experience is as varied as human fingerprints. This is the limiting factor on abstractions, and I do love abstractions. We all use this same word "life" and yet it is impossible that it can have the same meaning for all of us. So it is with the word "philosophy" and so many other words.

---------- Post added 04-13-2010 at 03:55 PM ----------

Khethil;151344 wrote:
Oh, what a great question!

Thanks again, excellent thread starter.


Thank you, my friend!
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 13 Apr, 2010 03:21 pm
@Reconstructo,
How does it happen that words have different meanings for us all, and yet we can communicate with one another. Might it be that words have a meaning for us all? Not individually and privately, but collectively and publicly.
 
 

 
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