Birds of a Feather

K and K wish to link stages of epistemological development (or attitudes towards how one knows or doesn’t) to moral development.  In this light, the moral position of B might be superior to A.  I am,mentogether however, unwilling to accept a link between epistemological development and moral development.  Or to put this a little more clearly, I am unwilling or unable to say that because a person has been to graduate school that his or her moral judgment is superior to someone who hasn’t.

The conception of education that I am trying to elucidate, in any case, does not aim at the creation and/or production of graduate students but at the cultivation or development of individuals.  Going to graduate school does not of course not make one an individual; but surely going to graduate school does not guarantee either that one is an individual.  That academics might, of course, tend to privilege or to take as moral development epistemological development makes sense of course.  Universities seek, as do most institutions, to perpetuate themselves.

 Universities, like the Marines, are always looking for a few good mostly men and some women.  Professors, or epistemological workers, are consistently on the look out for people who show the potential for thinking like themselves.  Curried and favored these few individuals are encouraged to sign on with the university and once they have they are thrown into the boot camp of graduate school.  This is no more than to say that birds of a feather flock together.

The desire of educational institutions to perpetuate themselves has more to do with the creation of tribes (or flocks) than it has to do with the cultivation or development of the individual.  I have felt and continue to feel that the members of the university may at times be entirely too comfortable with “uncertainty.”  This may be a very valuable thing in the realm of “science” and knowledge production, but not a valuable thing in the realm of action.  Or more precisely, uncertainty in the realm of action tends to take one out of one’s comfort zone rather than put one in it in the realm of knowledge pursuit.

In the realm of action, as William James said, skepticism is not operational.  Beliefs sustain and guide persons in their actions, and they are “beliefs” and not knowledge because it is impossible to know if one’s actions will have the effects or the consequences that one intends.  For example, should I join the Army now, or live at home, work, and seek a degree at the local community college.  Or should I marry X who clearly loves me and whom I love or risk losing X while I pursue a career that may take me to another part of the country.  

Uncertainty in the realm of action can very easily produce the very unpleasant discomfort—far, far more uncomfortable than the uncertainty of skepticism—of intense anxiety.  As Sartre suggests, we may in such situations employ all sorts of rationalizations, excuses, and psychological maneuvers to conceal the anxiety that arises from choice.     

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