By Prof. German Melikhov
Kazan Federal University (Kazan/Russia)
This paper is a presentation for the International Conference on Philosophy for Children “Cosmopolitanism and Identity”, October 13-16, 2016 (Graz/Austria). Translated by Alexey Melikhov.
What interests me is the limits of pedagogical impact. With every audience, either children or adults, a pedagogue presumably understands that the most important thing for the educational work is beyond his or her capabilities. It is possible to learn reflective techniques, but then have no courage to start the labor of understanding yourself. It is possible to know and love logics and the theory of thinking, but avoid the necessity to think independently. It is hardly possible to teach a person how to think freely and creatively or make somebody look into themselves and honestly admit what is going on in their minds. No matter how skilled a pedagogue is, students must walk part of the path by themselves. Therefore, a pedagogical work is about balancing what a pedagogue can do and what he or she never will be able to do. Apparently, a pedagogical skill is related to maintaining this balance. If it is unbalanced towards one direction, you will become a boring moralizing mentor. If it is unbalanced towards another direction, you are at the risk of leaving your students to themselves.
There is an opinion that it is possible to teach anybody anything because a person does not have steady inborn characteristics, that a person forms during the social development. Maybe it is so, but I think that understanding the limits of pedagogical impact is a manifestation of respect for a person, for their freedom, for their future that they will choose truly by themselves, but basing on their labor. This understanding opens a way for cooperation, because it is based on accepting the fact that the path of every person is unique. However, should we analyze a pedagogue’s work from the position of what they never cannot do rather than what they can do?
It is interesting thing to note that pedagogical impact surprisingly turns out to be successful when a pedagogue stops teaching. Instead of teaching, he or she just does what he or she loves – philosophy, mathematics, coding, and by doing it, achieve the desired goal (to make a pedagogical impact).
Since we speak about subtle, contextual matters, I will have to use notions and images thematizing things non-objectifiable, beyond our comprehension. One of such notions in modern philosophy is the power.
In philosophy of XX-th century, the notion power after works of Nietzsche became one of the most important ones. Some philosophers, for example, theoretics of feminism (Elizabeth Grosz), attempted to create the ontology not only of subject, but also of powers and actions that determine subjects and their desires. Subjectivity, sociality are results of some faceless, nonanthropomorphic powers' play. These powers never fully manifest themselves in actions, yet they determine them. Therefore, another important characteristic of the power (aside from the nonanthropomorphicness) is its incomprehensibility or non-objectifiability. I would suggest understanding power differently – as anthropomorphic. I would like to discuss powers of a specific person, a philosopher, though a philosopher may not realize that he or she has them. These powers define a person and are related, among other things, to ethics. This power can be calledmaturity.
Thus, I am interested in a pedagogue’s work with themselves, not with other people. A philosopher cannot teach how to think, but he or she can awaken in other person a willingness to philosophize, to work with yourself by using philosophy.
Probably that is what Wittgenstein meant when he said that philosophizing is a work on yourself, on your point of view.
In the beginning, I will introduce some characteristics of maturity, referring to works of Kant. Then I will analyze the understanding of philosophy as a specific work on yourself making us at least a little stronger or more mature. I will use works of Wittgenstein as an illustration.
Apparently, we think not only with our minds, but also with our lives, with experience and practice that created us as we are now. It is obvious that someone or something created us as personalities. Without a doubt the social environment is very important too. However, it is also possible to speak about us now, who are we at this very moment - we live our lives, not lives of some other people. Everyone makes choices, right or wrong, accepts some things and reject others, philosophizes. Apparently, it makes sense to speak about the quality of our lives representing ourselves as a whole, about our being which is optimal and necessary for the thinking or making the right choice. Let us name this quality maturity. For example, while discussing someone’s impressive work, we can say “This thesis is written by a mature person”. By this we mean that it discusses real, not made-up, problems and suggested solutions for them are complex and require a certain degree of self-development to realize and discuss such topics.
In his famous work An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?Kant discusses an enlightened or adult person. It is widely known that he considers as such person a human capable of independent thinking. However, it is rarely pointed out that Kant while discussing conditions for development of independent thinking names not only social factors, but also existential. He states that, appropriate to his or her dignity, a human is not a machine, he or she is born to think freely, but independent thinking can be obtained only by hard work of struggling with your own laziness, cowardice and prejudices. Thinking has existential roots – it is a labor of self-liberation, and you must have enough courage to start it. This very labor of freeing yourself distinguishes a mature person. Freedom for Kant is mainly internal freedom, freedom within, freedom from yourself, from your fear to think independently, from your laziness inclining you to think as you used to, for example, convenient questions, ready answers, and ideological clichés.
Individual labor of freeing yourself apparently requires an ability to reflection. Fear, laziness and prejudices are objectified in reflection. Reflection is a form of self-consciousness that is aimed at comprehending the foundations. We understand the foundations as the principles that serve as basis for thinking and actions. Therefore, in reflection we do not only take note of thoughts and feelings, but also analyze reasons for them.
In the bookAnthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View Kant draws a connection between freedom and non-egoistic behavior. He writes that as soon as a child becomes self-conscious, he starts to state his Self. Egoism is a constant companion of a human. The meaning of freeing yourself is restraining your egoism. Freethinking for Kant is one of the forms of non-egoistic attitude towards the world.
It is interesting that different forms of egoism Kant opposes not to altruism, but to pluralism. It is the way of thinking when a person does not project oneself to the world. Kant calls such person “a citizen of the world”. A mature person can see the situation from the perspective of another person, from different point of view. Altruism not based on reflective distancing from oneself, one’s own ideas and assumptions can end up being a subtle form of egoism. In this case, a desire to help can hide, for example, unconscious desire to have power. People often do not see what is going on around them. The Kant’s regard to take into account another point of view is related to a goal, which is simple yet hard to achieve: to see people surrounding you and act according to characteristics of another person. It implies the need for you to step aside.
Strangely enough, usually a person who “stands aside” appears to be in the center of the action, and only he or she manages to grasp the gist of what is happening.
The maturity is the non-egoistic way of thinking and acting based on the labor of self-liberation implying well-developed ability to reflect and allowing us get in touch with the reality, to notice what is happening above your conceptions. In this meaning free thinking coincides with a mature person’s being. We can say that we think using not only notions, procedures and operations. We think mainly by our maturity.
Walking down the path of the self-liberation makes us stronger. We can say that we think by using the power, which we create during the labor of self-liberation. This power is the maturity.
Wittgenstein’s philosophizing is an example of non-conceptual philosophizing, which aims not at creation of a new theory, but at freeing yourself. The best education is the education that does not teach about freedom, but frees. How can we help a person become at least a little freer if we cannot teach him or her how to be mature?
Looks like there is only one way out left: repeatedly try to “step aside”. The best form of therapy training is a self-therapy about which you can tell to those who interested in it. At least it is not boring to work together to achieve the common goal.
L. Wittgenstein courageously and resolutely fights with his own intellectual habits. The source of them is the language forcing onto us its rules. The freedom of thinking is related to freedom from chains of language. A language makes us think that the world consists of parts that can be named, and the unity as a whole does not exist. However, what for a person matters is not only the expressed, but also unexpressed. Ethics and aesthetics lie beyond the boundaries of the world. A word is not able to contain what supports the world. Ethics and aesthetics manifest itself not in words but in actions of a mature person.
A thought is an action to the extent it, while being based on a labor of self-liberation, can affect yourself or other person. Philosophizing has a pedagogical impact when a philosopher appears to be able to hold simultaneously in his labor of freeing oneself both a thought and rejection of it. It is not the thought that makes impact, but the person that could change the point of view, change the angle from which one sees things.
The change of point of view is possible when we can truly step aside from ourselves. It is extremely difficult to step aside from yourself taking into account the reality of another person. It is hardly possible to force yourself to do it. The events of “stepping aside” happen sometimes. Let us call such event the shift. The shift manifests the respect for another person, opens a possibility for new thoughts to manifest or because of the shift we start to see what we could not see earlier. In the shift we become “the citizens of the world”.
The shift is the manifestation of the maturity and its condition at the same time. The shift is the form of living with your Self in the distance.
The philosophizing that captured the shift (one cardinal or a series of shifts of the point of view) makes the impact. This impact frees, makes freer (from ourselves).
We think that Wittgenstein’s lectures bear traces of the shift. Let us speak about the Wittgenstein’s Lecture on Ethics (1929 or 1930).
First of all, a lecturer shifts the point of view of the audience by suggesting people to take up a reflective attitude. The aim of the lecture is to clear up your own consciousness. It is as if Wittgenstein says that there is no theory that deserves to be remembered and discussed. It is the reflective act that has meaning.
Then Wittgenstein changes our perception of ethics. Ethics interests him as the object of aesthetics. He provides a number of synonymous sentences illustrating the meaning of ethics. Wittgenstein draws a connection between aesthetics and form of expression. The right choice of expressions would highlight the meaning of ethical (like an image on a painting). However, it is not so. Wittgenstein differentiates judgments of relative value (“This is a good chair”) and absolute value (“You ought to want to behave better”). He comes to the conclusion that words are able to express only facts. Nothing that we can say or think does not belong to the ethics. What do we mean by the “absolute value”?
He justifies his thesis by providing illustrative examples. The author jumps from one example to another – the philosopher makes the audience constantly change their opinion about already expressed point of view. At first we were told about language expressions characterizing everyday behavior of people (“This is a good chair”, “you play (tennis) pretty badly”, “You ought to want to behave better” etc.) – and now Wittgenstein shifts the focus of discussion. He offers to think about the experience related to philosophy. This is the experience of being amused by the existence of the world, of feeling absolutely secure. Here we come to the conclusion that we use the language in the wrong way. Then Wittgenstein suggests to change point of view once again, to try to describe the experience of being amused by existence of the world as a miracle. Once again, we come to the conclusion it is impossible to express what we understand as the “absolute value”. Finally, Wittgenstein performs another “jump.” He states that everything what he just did is his attempt to “run against the boundaries of language”. Some will ask to which conclusion we came? To the fact that all our efforts were in vain? Maybe, Wittgenstein would answer. However, is our attempt to go against boundaries of language really meaningless? Maybe something happened, but we are yet to notice it?
When do we appear in thinking? When we become freer.
Philosophizing starts when someone finds themself captured by “the feeling of the whole”, feels as if they are in the open space now, now they do not cling to “yours” and “not yours” (Kant’s “the citizen of the world”).
By philosophizing, we do not seek the truth. Wittgenstein thought that you cannot come to the truth or kindness, you can come to some place, but maybe we are already in the truth without knowing it. By philosophizing we seek liberation, among other things from ourselves, our past concepts and ideas. Repeatedly shifting from what we thought and said earlier, we open ourselves to the open space.
Only a free thought bears a pedagogical impact, and this is how we know that we could be free.
The meaning of therapy by philosophizing is in developing the willingness to free yourself or helping to become a mature person.
Only mature person can keep a balance between what he or she can do and what he or she will never be able to do.