Wednesday, July 28, 2010

World without Logos

Every created thing has its own logos. So do man made things. The teacher's goal is to discover that logos and then enable the student to see it. The most important preparation for every lesson, then, is to identify the logos of the lesson. The second most important part is to embody it so the student can perceive it.

Modern thought is a crazed effort to build a world without a logos. -- Quiddity
I had to clip this because it expressed so closely something I was trying to think out earlier today.   However, I do not find the "logos" always easy to identify and I wonder if this "seeing" described in the passage is more like a habit of close looking than an actual outcome of having seen.    Having caught a glimpse of the "logos" of something, one is probably better prepared to catch a better glimpse on a future occasion, but I am afraid of the presumption in thinking one has grasped and known even a man-made creation.  Please note that I am not critiquing the Quiddity post here; quite the opposite, since reading Quiddity has helped me think through what education is really all about.  If I'm thinking of anything specific, it's of some of the glib "Christian worldview" type resources that we've probably all seen that seem to reduce philosophy to a set of cliches and slogans that aren't much better than the radio ads of the 50's.  

Aquinas says in a treatise on faith:

..If man of himself could in a perfect manner know all things visible and invisible, it would indeed be foolish to believe what he does not see. But our manner of knowing is so weak that no philosopher could perfectly investigate the nature of even one little fly. We even read that a certain philosopher spent thirty years in solitude in order to know the nature of the bee.
A little child takes it on trust that the evidence of his eyes is correlated with reality.   Yet a child also seems to understand that what he does perceive is only the very rudiments of a great mystery that can be approached but never completely mastered.   For a child, that understanding is delightful because it is like opening a door to a new world and taking the first step through.  So it almost seems to me that what our society has lost is partly that kind of wonder and openness to otherness that allows us to glimpse the "logos" of a given thing.  I don't even think this sense of wonder is destroyed by silly childish Disneyfication so much, though it's perhaps trivialized and commodified in the world of commercial tie-ins.   I think it's the pragmatism of our educational system and the toxicity of the adult culture that has done the worst damage.  

I guess what I am saying is that I wouldn't want the teaching of the logos to become a Gradgrind sort of endeavour.   When I think of traditional paideia I think of teachers patiently forming their students towards the habit of contemplating, of dwelling on things that are not easy or directly accessible, of perceiving subtlety and newness without immediately trying to categorize and "frame" it within the scope of your present understanding.   For some reason the visual image that keeps coming up is that of bird-watching.   You might sit patiently in a covert all day and never glimpse that rara avis or you might be strolling along thinking of something altogether different and suddenly catch a breathtaking serendipitous view of it.   But either way, you are better off than the one who is thinking of how he will spend his next paycheck and never sees the rara avis at all or the Gradgrind-type student who thinks he knows the bird because he knows various quantifiables about it.   Or the one who makes up and relays a lot of mystical esoteric rubbish about the rara avis in order to feel wise or psychically in the know.  Or the one who wears a picture of it on his T-shirt or puts a sticker on his notebook and thinks that somehow that substitutes for seeking it out and hoping to actually glimpse it. 


  1. It has been a trying week and I am tired. So when I sat down to read this post, my mind was not soooo good. I read logos as LEGOS. It becomes quite a funny read.
    pondering life without Legos

  2. Hmm, life without Legos would be a bit sad, too. Though I wouldn't miss the way I sometimes step on them first thing in the morning.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!