Kenneth Smith

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, mastery, belief, education, teaching, and students

It is not enough to say that a philosophy teacher presents students with counterpoint to their customary ways of seeing things.  A teacher in philosophy is not necessarily very profoundly philosophical for that reason, nor need he or she be.  The teacher may be only a few leagues ahead of the students, and may frequently find that a superbright student will tax his or her supposed mastery of the issues.  To be honest about these relations and difficulties, I have always assumed that as a professor I was no more than an exemplary student, and "mastery" was merely a way of gaining momentum, not declaring the race was over.  Self-mastery in philosophy is how one orchestrates the energies to be able to dislodge really prodigious monolithic belief-systems.  It is by no means any kind of self-congratulation. 

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, teaching, students, principles, and values

It is not the business of a teacher in philosophy to "confuse" students any more than it is to "resolve" their confusions.  It is his business to explain in broad metaphysical and moral terms the difference between the kinds of factors in our lives that serve as raw material and the kinds of factors that act as organizing forms.  A course in philosophy raises on this basis issues that students ought to trouble themselves to evaluate on their own:  is this something matter or form, does it tend toward chaos or toward cosmos?  If I try to deploy this as a principle or concept or value, what will the teleology of this attempt turn up--an organismic system, an accomplishment of harmonic order, or a self-conflicted and incoherent contrivance that defeats the criteria of the mind?

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, soul, and self-realization

Always, a form of self-equilibration, a soul or psyche, is trying to assert itself, to continue the melody of its self-realized life.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, education, intelligence, and self-mastery

With education as with the system of law, we confront a spectrum of humanity that ranges from virtual angels to virtual devils, although most humans naturally fall in the fattest part of the natural bell-curve of distributed traits:  it has been said that some humans are so virtuous and rational and self-disciplined that for them, the very existence of the law is superfluous; and some are so depraved and immired in their own self-interestedness that even the most horrendous sanctions of legal punishment are not sufficient to bind them to behave justly.  The same is true of the distribution of resources of philosophical intelligence and insight.  Some very few minds could reconstruct for themselves many of the major perspectives of previous thinking, but these would be only a handful out of the population of the earth every generation.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, conversation, verbalization, and phrasing

I struggle in every lecture and conversation and correspondence to grasp exactly the most acute and incisive way of phrasing issues, but it was precisely to discourage students and readers from making false idols of my ways of phrasing things that I have sought always to recast issues in alternative ways of interpreting or terming them.  Every attempt at wording issues has its idiomatic potential deformities, its wayward or stray implications and connotations.  There is never just one absolutely right way of phrasing anything.  Words are not perfectly equivalent to or univocal with principles or ideas or values.  The liveliness or freedom of our minds is expressed in our agility at varying not just perspectives but also verbal constructions:  we must always struggle to preserve distance between ourselves and our verbalizations as our intellectual and moral creatures. 

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, individualism, stereotyping, and rebels

It is the cruelest of all ironies that moderns imagine themselves to be (abstractly understood) "individuals," because in actuality moderns are "types," abstracted and self-abstractive victims of a process of stereotyping that afflicts even would-be rebels and anarchists.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, criticism, thinking, judgment, achievement, understanding, and identity

Those who have chosen the path of least resistance in life, who cannot bear to bring themselves to make a stern value-judgment in criticism of their own most intimate feelings, achieve what they deserve:  not self-understanding but radical self-superficialization, not a discovered but a self-ascribed identity that explains nothing, reveals nothing, means nothing, and ultimately accomplishes nothing culturally or intellectually. 

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, thinking, and self-criticism

Thinking is the subtlest form of self-polemics, the art of a certain finesse in psychological self-vivisection and self-crucifixion (Hegel of course called the path of self-disillusion the via dolorosa or "highway of despair," in Baillie's fine and florid rendering, like Jesus' route to Golgotha).

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, belonging, and independence

Human beings "belong" to some minor comity or enclave of faith at the expense of the clarity and autarkia of their intelligence and conscience, of course.  "Belonging" is another way of saying:  "capitulating to."

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

A Quote by Kenneth Smith on philosophy, thinking, and doubt

In spite of the ancient roots of skepticism--all the way back to the radical Sextus Empiricus and beyond, to Parmenides and Zeno--"doubt" remains a constantly miscomprehended action and posture.  Doubt is a state of the suspension of both belief and disbelief:  many people assume that thinking has only two positions, positive and negative, and if you doubt something you are disputing its validity or positing the contradictory position.  This is disputation, not doubt.  Doubt per se questions the form or content of what has been asserted but it itself is a freeform state of wondering what the general parameters of the issue are and how it most rationally ought to be framed.  Such particulars as most people are familiar with--position A or not-A, conservative or liberal, Christian or atheist, etc.--are never authoritative or exhaustive alternatives for a truly thinking and creative or radical mind (determined to go for fundamental principles, not their peripheral consequences or specific applications).  They are "stock fallacies" or forced choices.

Kenneth Smith

Contributed by: Dave

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