Consolation of Philosphy

This might appear confusing and I suppose it is.  On one hand, I appear to want to claim that education can assist in the development of the individual.  Certainly, at the heart of this mentogether2development would be shifts in one’s epistemology.  However, I appear also to want to claim that a person with a highly complex epistemology, like K and K’s graduate student, may not, by virtue of his or her education, have developed as an individual.

I have said this because I do believe that the university as an institution seeks to perpetuate itself and thus culls from the great mass of students those people who might best assist in its perpetuation.  Who are these people more exactly?  I would suggest they are people, a particular group of people, whose intellect, as a part of their particular psychological configuration, is more detached from the emotional realm than is the case with most people.

This does not make such people “smarter.”  Rather it means only that they are able to shift to the complex epistemology of the university more easily than might be the case with persons whose intellect remains relatively rooted in the emotional realm. Education, as I think of it, may not require of the former, given their detached intellects, development at deeper psychological levels.  Education, as I think of it, may require, however, of the latter, a developmental move, with its attendant destabilization and affective discharge, not because they are not as smart as the former, but because their intellect is not detached from but rooted in their emotional universe.

Educational institutions, such as the university, may feel they are doing their jobs, that indeed they are educating, because they appear to educate some relatively few persons into become “graduate students” and perhaps later themselves professors.  I am arguing however that the university, as currently constituted, does not “educate” these individuals but culls from the great group of students those whose relation to the intellect and its activities permits them, with relatively little psychological turmoil, to assume towards knowledge that position favored by the university.

I express this roughly.  But the psychoanalyst, D.W. Winnicott, has argued that some individuals at the earliest stages of development and in relation to a particular set of circumstances may develop a relation to the mind as an object.  The mind as object becomes detached from emotional or subjective realm, but at the same time serves those individuals for him it has become detached as a stabilizing and anchoring object.  Such people find the activity of the mind particularly satisfying and may turn to it not as a way of understanding or coming to grips with the conflicts of the emotional universe but as a way of stepping, however momentarily out of it.

Such people experience endlessly chewing over a particular intellectual puzzle not as an exercise as futility, but as enlivening and stabilizing. Such people may, in fact, find consolation in philosophy.  I have wondered about my own inclination, over the years, when enveloped in a certain kind of depression, to actually WANT to read Hegel, and to find, as I struggled with his tortured meanings, if not release, at least distraction, however fleeting and momentary, from the weight of my depression. Other people, under such circumstances, might bake a cake.

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