Articles, Blog

Cultivating Good Minds: Intellectual Virtue & Education – Robert C. Roberts and Friends

October 15, 2019

>>So Bob you’ve done a lot
of thinking over the years about intellectual virtues. So it’s a delight to have you with us for this conversation today. I wonder if you might
comment on the following. Arthur Schopenhauer is
quoted as saying this. He said “our moral virtues
benefit mainly other people. “Intellectual virtues on the other hand, “benefit primarily ourselves. “Therefore the former make
us universally popular, “the latter, unpopular.” Is that the right way to think about intellectual and moral virtue? How do you think about these things?>>I wouldn’t agree with
that, that statement. The knowledge and understanding are a good, a general human good. And the virtues that enable us to pursue knowledge and understanding well include virtues that involve
sharing knowledge with others, and acquiring knowledge from others. And the processes by which we
acquire knowledge are often communal, social processes in which we’re
interacting with one another and bouncing ideas off one another and sharing information and so forth. And so intellectual virtues
are very other oriented of necessity I think. And of course the moral virtues are often very good for ourselves too. [laughing] People who are just or compassionate, benevolent, kind, are generally they generally do well for themselves. It’s of course possible
that insisting on justice, as a just person might, you
could get in trouble. [laughing] And that certainly happens. But on the whole, all of the virtues are good
for both us as individuals and our community.>>What is the difference
between intellectual virtue and a moral virtue? When we talk about the
intellectual virtues, what are we talking about?>>Yeah. That’s a little bit of
a controversial question among the philosophers. But I would say some of
the intellectual virtues have very clearly
intellectual names [laughing] like open-mindedness. That seems like a virtue
that’s clearly intellectual and pretty clearly a
not merely moral virtue, although there will be
moral elements involved in open-mindedness, a
kind of willingness to, maybe a kind of humility that would be necessary for the really
open-minded person. Let’s see now, oh the difference between. Yes. So, some of the virtues are clearly named in a way that makes them
sound very intellectual. Other virtues, other intellectual virtues are named by the names of moral virtues. So for example, I was
speaking a moment ago about our interaction with one another in intellectual matters. And there, a kind of generosity is important. One of the ways that we learn from others is to learn to admire
their accomplishments. And that’s a kind of generosity, a kind of generosity of spirit. Similarly humility is a virtue that’s both moral and intellectual. And so the question might
arise well, what makes intellectual generosity intellectual and what makes intellectual
humility intellectual? And I think that the answer to that is just a matter of context. So if the context is an
intellectual context in which intellectual goods are at
issue or are being promoted then the virtue becomes
an intellectual virtue. Perhaps you could say that
it becomes intellectual in virtue of the community
caring about intellectual goods. So there’s a kind of a basic virtue, basic intellectual virtue of loving, understanding and truth and knowledge that’s behind all of the other intellectual virtues like
generosity or humility.>>So it turns out that
Schopenhauer is wrong on another count because moral virtues and intellectual virtues
are gonna turn out to be actually the same kinds of virtues just in two different contexts?>>In large part.
>>OK.>>Robert: I think so.>>I agree, in large part and one of the virtues that you didn’t mention that complicates this
just a little bit at least is something like curiosity
or inquisitiveness. On the one hand that
seems really fundamental to the search for
knowledge and understanding that provides that basic motivation. But you rarely see curiosity
on any list of moral virtues. Indeed, depending on
how you understand it, it could be considered even a moral vice.>>Right, curiositas–
>>Exactly, exactly. That’s exactly how it’s treated
by Augustine and others. So that’s right, I tend to think that there is a lot of overlap. But then that there are
some sort of outlying cases on both the moral side
and the intellectual side that allow for some kind of a distinction. And I think as well,
very kind of simple way to draw distinction there. And it’s a superficial distinction, is to think in terms of what
are the personal qualities that you need in order
to be a good thinker or a good learner, right? There what comes to mind are things like curiosity and open-mindedness and intellectual humility
and intellectual carefulness and thoroughness and attentiveness, right? And then if you think alternatively, what are the qualities that I need in order to be a good neighbor, right? And there you might think
more in terms of kindness and compassion and respect and generosity. I completely agree that there are versions of those traits that also
apply to the life of the mind. And that’s why you can’t draw
too sharp of a distinction. But if you think of intellectual virtues as the character traits of a good thinker or a good inquirer, a good learner, moral virtues as the character
traits of a good neighbor, maybe civic virtues as
the character traits of a good citizen. I think that allows for
a helpful first pass way of making some distinctions.>>But if you look at the reasons that the classic Christian thinkers had for rejecting curiosity as a virtue, you see that
they are actually moral,>>Yeah, yeah.
>>Kind of moral criteria. So for example, Augustine
thought of curiosity as just a kind of indiscriminate desire for sensory stimulation
and sensational knowledge, maybe gossip and kinds of
knowledge that we think actually degrade us.
>>Right.>>Or at best are unimportant–>>Right.
>>Trivial or something. And so one of the virtues that an intellectually
competent person needs is an ability to discriminate the important matters,
to know and understand from the unimportant or even corrupting.>>Yeah, yeah. And I’d say that’s necessary. That kind of further
elaboration and characterization is necessary even for thinking
of it as a genuine virtue. So unbridled curiosity or
curiosity about subject matters that are either just completely trivial or maybe morally problematic, I’d say that’s not a
genuine intellectual virtue. That intellectual virtues are motivated by a desire to know and
understand important truths, however you want to understand that, not the trivial or otherwise
problematic truths. So all of that to say
curiosity as criticized by Augustine and others
from a moral standpoint wouldn’t, in my view, count
even as an intellectual virtue. It would need to be retooled in ways for it to count as a genuine
intellectual excellence.>>Yeah, but the point
to see about that is it’s the moral quality of proper love of
truth and love of understanding that makes it into a virtue.>>Partially moral, right? So I agree that moral
considerations constrain what counts as worthy subject matters. But I do, I think it’s
an interesting question whether there are sort of intellectually, intrinsically intellectual
interesting or fascinating subjects or issues or questions.>>Yeah.>>It’s also interesting
to think about the way that being a moral person is gonna impact the way you go about any
kind of intellectual search. So I’m thinking about Pascal, and one thing that he says is that “the way that you search is
gonna be deeply dependent “on how moral you are as a person.” So if we were rivals and
you had just published a great paper, if I were
the wrong kind of person I would be motivated
intellectually to find reasons why your great discovery was false, right? Because it actually turns out that being intellectually
generous is gonna require me not to be envious. My intellectual virtues
are gonna get hampered by a lack of moral virtue in that moment.>>Yeah that’s helpful. And it’s funny even in
the conversation so far, I think we’ve kind of gone
back and forth a little bit between a very broad conception of moral and a narrow conception
so if moral is just like, being a good person or living a good life, then I think intellectual
virtues just are moral virtues. Because I think that part of what it is to be a good person is to love things and pursue things that are good. And I think knowledge and
understanding are goods. And so part of what it
is to be a good person is to love those things
and to wonder about them and to pursue them in
ways that are open-minded and tenacious but humble
and attentive and so forth.>>Yeah and there’s always
gonna be the sense that being virtuous requires balance between all of the virtues, right? The virtues can’t just exist. Oh I’m an extremely rational person and I have that virtue but
I lack self-discipline. You can’t do that, it turns
out, they have to be united.>>Yes if you ask why we
even have a separate category for intellectual virtues,
it seems that the answer is, intellectual matters,
understanding and knowing and pursuing truth are extremely important in human life. They’re absolutely crucial
aspect of human flourishing. And so they warrant, you might say, a special treatment,
whereas you know maybe if somebody tried to come up with a bunch of football virtues, we’d probably laugh at that right? [laughing] As opposed to the intellectual virtues.>>Yeah.
>>Yeah.>>If you look at the reasons that the classic Christian thinkers had for rejecting curiosity as a virtue, you see that they are actually kind of moral criteria.
>>Yeah.>>So for example, Augustine
thought of curiosity as just a kind of indiscriminate desire for sensory stimulation
and sensational knowledge, maybe gossip and kinds of
knowledge that we think actually degrade us–
>>Right.>>Or at best are unimportant,
trivial or something.>>And so one of the virtues that an intellectually
competent person needs is an ability to discriminate the important matters
to know and understand from the unimportant or even>>Yeah.
>>Corrupting matters.>>The following is a tempting
sort of perspective I think. You might think well content,
information is taught, but virtues, character
traits and the like, those are caught more than they’re taught. So you might think that education toward intellectual
virtue isn’t gonna be so much about the curriculum as it is about getting teachers in front of students who exhibit these traits. Is that the right way to think about it? If you’re trying to educate for virtue, for intellectual virtue,
does curriculum stay just as it is, whereas
you’re just more careful about the kind of teachers
you put in front of students? How should we think about that?>>Can I add a category? So not only there’s the
factor of the curriculum, what’s being taught, and
the factor of the teacher, but there’s also the factor
of the kind of activities that are assigned, so the kinds of things the students are asked to
habituate themselves into. I actually think that
would be the first category I would press into in terms of what educating for intellectual
virtue is gonna look like. So are students in a situation where they’re getting rewarded
for one-upping each other, or are they in a situation
where they’re getting rewarded for working together cooperatively to try to come to a solution? That’s the kind of
habituation that seems to me like a good place to start.>>I think the curriculum
is very important as well as the character of the teacher. One of the things about
classical schools for example is that the curriculum
is made of great texts. And these texts are great, by virtue of the depth of insight and the moral quality and the artistic quality, and the artistic excellence of the texts. If we’re trying to form students’ minds in such a way that they become
excellent as human minds, we do want for them to be feeding on excellent material. So a course could be taught by a very able
and inspiring teacher and yet if the texts weren’t very good it would be lacking in
something important.>>And just to push my point
a little bit more obnoxiously. [laughing] I teach in that
kind of a classical setting and part of the reason why
teaching in great texts is so wonderful is because it forms habits of intellectual virtue because the texts are difficult and beautiful. So just being exposed to those
kinds of texts consistently forces a kind of intellectual rigor. And also develops a kind
of aesthetic appreciation for the greatness of these books.>>Yes. I think we definitely wanna
keep the aesthetic dimension in the picture and not separate it from the moral and the intellectual, not try to divide things up too much.>>Right, I think one
point that’s consistent with what both of you have said is that educating for growth
and intellectual virtues isn’t primarily a matter of teaching or talking about those traits, right? So it’s not a sort of separate curriculum that gets pursued in addition
to the academic curriculum. It’s much more a matter
of how you approach the academic curriculum, and then yes, what the substance of that
curriculum is as well. And that suggests that there are multiple kind of variables that are worth thinking about
here if that’s our goal. One is certainly who the teacher is and whether they model
the passion for ideas and the love of the subject
matter and so forth. And that’s often what kind of transmits, growth and inspiration,
in these qualities. But like Janelle was saying, there are values that are
implicit in any classroom, what gets rewarded and
what doesn’t get rewarded. So thinking about setting
up the values of a classroom in a way that will lead to
students asking questions and focusing on important
details, and working together, and considering alternative perspectives which I think illustrates a broader point about kind of the
culture of the classroom. So ideally what we would have is a teacher that’s
knowledgeable and passionate, a curriculum that lends
itself to deep thinking and learning about important ideas. And then a culture that
supports that as well in terms of what’s the
language that’s used? What are the values that are used? Or the values that are upheld. And then similarly of
course, there are practices, pedagogical practices as well. You might be a very passionate teacher. But if you don’t have
certain pedagogical skills, for instance if you
don’t give your students and know how to give them opportunities, as you were suggesting, to think well, to practice these
virtues of the mind then, if you’re not creating those opportunities they don’t always happen.
>>Right.>>Just lecturing, that
doesn’t always make for opportunities to think in class. So being able to structure activities, be it inside the classroom or outside, that gives students opportunities
to practice the virtues seems important as well. So seems like a lot of different things need to be pursued.
>>Yeah. If I can highlight one thing you said, maybe this was a good distinction. So intellectual virtues aren’t ideas, they’re habits of mind. You could teach about
intellectual virtues, but no amount of teaching content about intellectual virtues, that’s not how you’re gonna transmit an intellectual virtue, you
have to cultivate a habit within a student.
>>Yeah. And then that allows, if you’re thinking about
this philosophically, it allows us to draw on
the whole rich tradition of asking about how
virtuous habits are formed. Role models, exemplars are part of it. But communities, and practices are a big part of it as well.>>One of the expressions
that you see a lot in connection with
education and the virtues is love of learning. I wonder how we instill a love of learning in our students especially
if we distinguish that from the love of knowing? I think I know people who love knowing but hate learning.
[laughing] Learning is like going to the dentist. They’ll pay a lot of money for it, but really they hate it. What they really want is knowing. And if that’s a sensible distinction, how can we train folks up into the love, not just of knowing but of learning?>>Well I think that making the process of learning enjoyable is an important thing. And making it enjoyable, you can make it enjoyable in part, just by making it excellent. [laughing] If your method of learning, of teaching is very rote or if you’re just teaching for the exam or something, then the student might
well and appropriately hate learning.
[laughing] But if you make it a matter of conversation with other interesting people about interesting topics, and teach students to be critical, to enjoy the give and take of civil critical interaction, then I think it just is enjoyable. It’s an activity that should be enjoyable for human beings because
it’s the way we are.>>Yeah, yeah, my first
instinct was to say “something must have gone wrong “for someone to not love learning “in the first place,” right? I actually think mostly
people love learning. It’s maybe a set of bad habits
that have been cultivated, or a set of bad educational environments that have changed a person
into the kind of person who doesn’t enjoy
learning for its own sake. ‘Cause that’s the kinds
of things that people are, people are things that are curious.>>That said, there are painful moments in
the process of real learning. When you’re really puzzled about something that you deeply want to understand, it’s emotionally painful. But of course, if you stay with it, you may come up with a solution to your problem and
when understanding emerges, after that kind of suffering, it’s especially enjoyable, right?>>So the point there is you actually need an intellectual virtue in
order to enjoy learning. ‘Cause perseverance in that moment, of, I’m going to keep doing this thing that I am not feeling like
I’m making progress in. You actually have to have that virtue in order for learning to be something that continues to be enjoyable.>>Yeah so it looks like there are things essential to learning that
are accidental to knowing. So perseverance presumably, is essential to learning, but
it’s accidental to knowing. A kind of industry, the habit of industry as opposed to sloth. Looks like that’s gonna
be essential to learning but accidental to knowing. There are others, I’m sure. So part of this I think is training students up into the
love of submission, industry perseverance and the like of that.>>That sounds right to me
provided that you’re thinking of learning in a more kind of, as a complex process that
takes place over time. ‘Cause there are simple
things that we can learn, simple uninteresting things we can learn without perseverance and so forth. But deep understanding of rich and important subject matters, that’s hard to come by,
and the only way there, or the way there makes demands not just on how smart we are, or how much prior knowledge we have, but on who we are as
people and on our agency. So even in our best moments
when we’ve got the best texts and we’re performing well in our capacity as teachers, we’re using good methods,
we’re modeling good thinking, at least if your experience
is anything like mine, there are still going to be a few students whose looks on their faces suggest that they’re not on board,
they’re not buying it. And that group can be larger or smaller. But one of the things that
I’m really interested in is what do we do about them? So when some of the standard methods for fostering intellectual
virtues aren’t working, what, if anything, can we do to get some of those
other students on board?>>Well I think we can
engineer successes for them. ‘Cause we enjoy things that we succeed at, we like those moments of triumph. If a student is tuned out and disgusted with what’s
going on in the class, one way to do it is to try to marginalize the really active,
smart kids for a moment and concentrate on the one who’s slow and then make it maybe simple enough so that he or she actually
can have a success.>>Like that, and I think
one point that illustrates is how it’s worth asking of ourselves, when we encounter students like that, what’s getting in the way? Because like you were saying, the goods that we’re inviting them to pursue and enjoy are genuine goods.
>>Yeah.>>And so something’s gotten in the way. And so asking what are the obstacles? What messages are they telling themselves that are getting in the
way of their engagement? And I think often it
will be something like well I’m just not, I can’t
do it, I’m not competent. Or I’m too afraid to fail. So asking what are those messages and then trying to create
opportunities in the classroom to address those whether
engineering for success, or in the case of fear of failure, having a classroom wide
discussion about, look, we’re all afraid of failure right? And yet that kind of
fear can be paralyzing. And if it takes over, you’re
never going to engage. And if you don’t engage you’re never really going to grow. That seems like one really
helpful way to think about it. I also think too that the kind of relationships
that we have with students, they need to know that our classrooms are
safe and respectful places. And it’s fascinating to
me why that’s the case. I think at least part of
why it’s the case is that character change is profoundly personal. By trying to help them
grow in these qualities, we’re asking them to
internalize new values and practices and habits. That’s extremely personal. And I think, just as kind
of a matter of common sense, we aren’t generally open
to deep personal change in relationships or environments that feel unsafe or hostile. So being able to show students that look, this isn’t a classroom
where you’re gonna get personally attacked, it’s a classroom that values intellectual humility. Talking about placing
values on certain things in the classroom, elevating the value of intellectual humility where it’s as good or better to
explain what you don’t know, or what you’re struggling with, or to try to overcome something
that you’re struggling with, where that’s rewarded just
as much if not more than getting the right answer and
getting it as fast as you can.>>Right, right. Yeah I think there’s a profound good in the kind of relationship between a student and a teacher where the student isn’t motivated so much by grades anymore as they are by wanting to,
the negative way to put it is wanting to be approved
of by their teacher. But it’s actually wanting
to have a relationship of respect with someone. If that’s an opportunity,
I respect this person and I know if I do my best
they will respect me too. That’s so much better as a motivator than any kind of selfish,
>>Yeah.>>I need to get an A in this so I can go to med
school kind of mentality.>>And wrapped up in
that too I think is often the experience of
admiration and emulation. And the same way that I want to have a mutually respectful
relationship with this person where together we’re pursuing
something that’s good, also I want to be like that person. I want to think like that person. I want to have the loves
that that person has, that’s attractive.
>>Yeah.>>I wonder if we could
talk just a little bit about the relationship
between intellectual virtue and education toward intellectual virtue and civility and civil discourse. It’s no secret that there’s
a widespread breakdown in civility and civil discourse, especially on controversial
topics in culture. I guess it’s not hard to
see that in many cases, there’s a moral failure. Participants in these conversations are failing one another
morally in various respects. But I wonder if there’s also an intellectual dimension to the failure? Is there a failure of intellectual virtue? And correspondingly, is
there a way of educating into virtue that would help
us into more civil discourse and civil society, more generally? What do you guys think?>>Let’s see if we can say what civility is as a virtue. I take it that it would be something like, it would be a kind of patriotism. It would be a kind of
love of the community. But it would also be a trust in the mechanisms of government such that when one disagrees with
the people in power, one continues to respect the
mechanisms of government. And seeks to support those mechanisms. And I think that the virtue of humility is relevant to this, to
the practice of civility or the virtue of civility in that some of the vices that undermined civility and make government dysfunctional are such vices as “selfish ambition” to use a word from the Apostle
Paul in Philippians two. Vain glory, arrogance, the love of power,
domination, that kind of… fixation on being the party in power or
something of that sort. So each of these, as I understand humility, each of these vices sort of corresponds to a slightly different kind of humility, maybe a variant within the
larger category of humility. And so, for example, arrogance is a disposition to claim entitlement to things that you don’t
really have entitlement to. False claims of entitlement
on the basis of thinking, of overestimating your own importance. And so if you overestimate the importance of your party affiliation, you may be inclined to think that you don’t really need to listen to what the other people, people on the other side of the aisle say. And that of course, is
poisonous for civility. If you’re just not
listening to one another. And so a kind of humble listening and taking seriously what the others say and trying to keep your own strategies within the bounds of the spirit, you might say, of the American government, that would be a way, an important virtue to have, to head off incivility. That has an intellectual
side to it because listening to the other side is an intellectual exercise, right? It’s a matter of taking in, being open to taking
in what the others say and taking it seriously as something a colleague is saying.
>>Yeah. I wonder Greg, if your
distinction earlier between love of learning and love of knowing, and maybe even a step
further, love of being right is the kind of thing that
you’re talking about Bob? This idea that I would rather there not be a solution than for the other team to have come up with a better solution than I have come up with. I would rather the
problem not be addressed than be addressed successfully by someone other than myself. [laughing] That seems to me like that’s at the heart of some of the breakdown
in civil discourse. So the intellectual virtue there is kind of a love of truth right? I love truth more than myself and more than my own advancement.>>Yeah, to love discovering
that I have been wrong–>>Janelle: Yeah, yeah.>>Is maybe an acquired love. [laughing] Not one that just comes naturally and bubbles up out of our nature.>>But a deeply important one if you’re ever gonna be
intellectually virtuous.>>Seems like if we take a
little step back and say, is there an important connection between educating for intellectual virtues and civility or civic
discourse, civil discourse, here’s one way to try
to kind of bridge it. It’s pretty straightforward that you think that education should aim at producing good citizens. And if you think that part of what it is to be a good citizen is
to be disposed to engage in public discourse well, or in a manner that’s civil, and if you think doing that or civility is partly a matter of
being intellectually humble and intellectually
rigorous and open-minded and fair-minded and intellectually honest, then that gives you a really good reason to think that educators
should be concerned with trying to foster growth
and intellectual virtues ’cause they’re important to
engaging in public discourse. They’re important to other forms of democratic participation. If you wanna make a responsible vote, you need to ask the right questions. You need to look at the evidence carefully and thoroughly, you need
to be honest with yourself. And I think that some of
these things are timely for the reasons that
you’ve already suggested which are that so much
of public discourse today seems to be marked by what
you might even describe as epistemically bad behavior.>>Janelle: Yeah.>>How do people handle
evidence of each others’ views? And what you see is a
lot of being dismissive. The person on the other
side must be stupid, they must be ignorant. Caricaturing of other peoples’ views, in some ways, a lot of
mishandling of evidence and other epistemic goods. And intellectual virtues just are the personal qualities or character traits that you need in order to
handle those goods well. So insofar as public discourse is aimed at knowledge and understanding, then for it to go well you’ve got to have intellectual virtues. Now you might think public discourse, whether it should be or not, is often aimed at other
goals like power, right? And that’s when things get complicated, that the goal of power and the
goal of knowledge and truth can conflict and so the qualities that one cultivates
with those ends in mind can be different.>>It just struck me that
there’s another side of maybe the vices of public discourse that we haven’t talked
about and that’s apathy or lack of engagement, right? There are a small number of
people who we can look at and say “wow, it seems, from
this outside perspective “that the motivation is
power rather than the good.” But there’s actually
this much larger problem of despair, I think, of many, many people
just failing to engage because they’re not convinced that their small voice is going to matter in the larger picture.
>>Yeah.>>So there’s a different
intellectual virtue there and willing to be engaged, even if you’re not gonna be the rock star, even if you’re not gonna be the one who yourself makes all the difference.>>But it’s interesting,
on one way of telling it, that vice traces back to
the same love of power. So the reason I’m not engaged
is because I love power and there isn’t any to be had here for me. [laughing]
>>Exactly.>>And so that same
vice is driving things. So we’ve been talking quite a bit about intellectual virtues and educating for intellectual virtue. But we all know there
are corresponding vices. And some of them are connected up with the goods associated with the virtues so we all know that Paul warns against a kind of puffing up that
often accompanies knowing. Even knowing of the right
sort, you might think is sometimes accompanied by a puffing up. So what can we do to educate
folks into these virtues whilst avoiding these corresponding vices?>>If you’re looking for a sort of large, programmatic answer to that question, I think that what the John Templeton
Foundation is doing, in promoting the kind of schools that Jason has founded and calling public attention to
the whole issue of vices, actually virtues, but then
because of that also vices, is a wonderful place to start. That’s not itself gonna make anybody intellectually virtuous
but it’s a way of beginning an awareness and calling on people to be creative in their efforts to achieve
something in this regard. I would strongly commend what
Jason is doing in his school. Namely just sitting down there and starting to do it and think hard about what kind of a curriculum, and what kind of teachers you want, and how they should be
encouraged and educated.>>This is in some ways more general, but also maybe a little bit more narrow. I think if you think that as
human beings we’re disposed more than we ought to be towards considerations of power
or selfishness, right, then it’s unsurprising that even something good like
knowledge and understanding, something that has
power associated with it might be mishandled and
misused, that it might puff up. And that it might be used to harm or marginalize others. And if you think that’s our orientation, then certain virtues become really important to
focus on and think about. And I think just in my experience thinking about these things and in some of the
educational applications that Bob mentioned,
I’m increasingly struck by the importance of
intellectual humility. And we think about these
things a little bit differently but on my view, if I’m
intellectually humble, I’m going to be alert to, and I’m going to be
willing to acknowledge, or to own my intellectual
limitations and weaknesses. I’m not going to be defensive about them. I’m not going to be
arrogant or prideful, right? I’m going to be willing
to say I don’t know when I don’t know. Or I’m gonna be willing to
say that was a mistake, right. Or this belief of mine, it’s not as well supported
as this other belief, and your argument really
did shed light on that. So I think if you start
with a certain view of human nature, like the one I mentioned, then the importance of
helping each of us [laughing] be a little bit more willing to look at and to acknowledge our
intellectual limitations would be a really good foundation from which to pursue some
of the other virtues.>>It’s interesting Greg, so
that verse, the end of it is “knowledge puffs up but
love builds up,” right? And I think it’s interesting ’cause most of the time
when I read that verse I think about it in terms
of loving other people. But I actually think the right
kinds of love of knowledge, as opposed to, so there’s
this love of knowing, which actually ends up
being a love of self, right? I love being the one who knows. And that’s where you get
these intellectual vices. But if the love is of knowledge,
rather than of knowing, then you actually, a lot of those vices end up getting overturned,
because I would rather know the truth than be right. And I would rather learn from
you if you know the truth than show the world how
much righter I am than you. So it turns out that if you can combat a certain kind of vice with a certain kind of love, both of knowledge and of the other, that’s a way to turn those vices back into sort of the properly functioning virtues that they were meant to be.>>It’s great, and I love
the idea of ending on love. Because it gets back to
the relational aspect of it as well, I think
so often, part of why we are defensive and do what we can to either hide from
ourselves or hide from others the limitations of what we know or of our beliefs, or our abilities, is a sort of fear of not being accepted. And so if I’m thinking about these things in connection with other people and wanting them to pursue the epistemic goods in a deeper way, I think that, I want my students to admit what they don’t know and to take responsibility for that. I think doing that in the context of love, for them, is critical.>>Well Janelle and Jason and Bob, all three of you I know
have thought deeply about intellectual virtue. And I know also that you’re known for, and I know you to be people
who manifest the virtues with your students and in your writing and in conversation. So it’s been a real delight
to think about these things together with you and I want
to thank you for joining us.>>Thank you.
>>Thanks Greg.


  • Reply Jeanette Sparks February 16, 2017 at 11:16 pm


  • Reply eric gamliel October 3, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Excellent discussion! Great for any educator!

  • Reply Dazzletoad October 31, 2017 at 3:58 am

    The first speaker is very generous in regards to common people.

    We are lazy thinkers by nature, not everyone; a needless clarification, and what Schopenhauer said is true, I think, in general.

    On review of this post I think it would be wise to include the context of time to the above statement of mine, since we are living in an ever increasing world of infobites, fast facts, and internet, this I would argue to some extent is retarding the populus, and contributing to Schopenhauers point.

    When we develop intellectually you find your thinking becomes deeper, you begin to uncover new things and make abstract ties, referencing specific areas of interest that take a formidable amount of time and effort, in some cases, to understand.

    People around us may have a passing interest, a superficial interest in what we then talk about (if any interest at all) but once we begin climbing the intellectual staircase with them we find them breathless on the third step.

    The more intelligent you become as a person, the more intellectually self corrective and honest even when the information clashes with your preference, you start leaving people behind.

    I for one have seen this over the last 8 years of my life. Instigating conversation in religion, origin, politics, philosophy, areas of science, people on the whole just have no time for deeper thinking and are mentally exhausted after a short time.

    An important point I make, I think, is the knife that divides as I mentioned above – when new knowledge collides with personal preference, like confirmation bias, we listen to what supports our views in general and avoid that which may undermine our views, or destroy them entirely.

    I've lost count on how many times I've heard; when trying to initiate a discussion about beliefs or practices in many areas of life, the impulsive and often defensive remark, 'I don't want to argue.'

    Funnily enough, neither do I in the sense of ranting or abuse hurling, yet this reaction is employed as a means of avoiding a conversation entirely by muddying it ahead of time.

    The smarter we get, the more intellectually refined we become, the gap between who we are and who we were widens. That void is inevitably insurmountable for some and so Schopenhauers remarks about moral virtue and popularity, intellectual virtue and unpopularity ring very true indeed.

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