Education and Intellectual Wisdom #1

There was a call for a richer development of the list of skills I wrote should be a part of a true education. I thought it would be best for people to give a variety of examples.

#1 the way to discern the fundamental human questions that lie beneath a text

Any examples of such discernment?


Jen said...

This is one thing I love so much about my book club. We have several people who are able to ask these types of questions as we read. Sometimes, I think it's magic. I love discussing them, but I can never come up with them on my own. Perhaps I'm missing a level of curiosity? Not really sure.

JPB said...

Here's an example from class today. We were reading Locke's Second Treatise on Government, particularly the chapter, "On Property."

Now, click on the links. It can be some pretty dry stuff - or at least slow sledding.


"Sec. 26. God, who hath given the world to men in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of life, and convenience. The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being. And tho' all the fruits it naturally produces, and beasts it feeds, belong to mankind in common, as they are produced by the spontaneous hand of nature; and no body has originally a private dominion, exclusive of the rest of mankind, in any of them, as they are thus in their natural state: yet being given for the use of men, there must of necessity be a means to appropriate them some way or other, before they can be of any use, or at all beneficial to any particular man. The fruit, or venison, which nourishes the wild Indian, who knows no enclosure, and is still a tenant in common, must be his, and so his, i.e. a part of him, that another can no longer have any right to it, before it can do him any good for the support of his life."

But one of the key intellectual skills we should teach students is how to ask, "What is the human concern beneath something like this? What is my stake in what he's saying?"

In this case, it's significant and expressed in questions like these:

"Why do we talk about 'mine' and 'yours'?"

"Why am I angry when someone takes food off of my plate?"

"What in the world do I mean by MY plate anyway?"

Once you perceive the deep mysteries beneath the intellectual problem of ownership, you can read Locke much more meaningfully.