Don’t let education hinder self-reflection


Albert Camus, a French author and philosopher who received a Novel Prize for Literature in 1957, once wrote that “beginning to think is beginning to be undermined.”

For Camus, the idea that each and every question leads to another – in an infinite regress, to the point where one does not know what to think – is the beginning of wisdom.

Camus obviously knew that thoughtlessness was not an option, yet he saw that people are caught between the impossibility of clear and final knowledge and the desperate need to seek the truth; and seek the truth we do.

The great enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant also explored the importance of seeking truth, stating that “true enlightenment is simply daring to think.”

Kant, in Critique of Pure Reason, urges us to ask three questions: What can I know? What am I supposed to do? What may I hope for?

Such reflection is the cognitive basis of human meaning; it involves constant questioning of what is behind ordinary life.

Only through such self-reflection can students understand the many constraints education and society imposes on their intellectual interests; it is through this reflection that students can regain control over their intellectual lives.

Paradoxically, there exists in our “knowledge society” a radical resentment towards knowledge: curiosity.

This obsession to know, at least for some, suggests a scandalous and ultimately fatal transgression.

And all the while the pursuit of knowledge is so humanly fulfilling it is often seen as a threat to authority.

What must survive, however, is the raw joy of learning.

I agree with Plato, who many years ago argued that every student is a light, a creative spark, just waiting to be of use in dispelling the darkness.

All of us are much more than we suspect of ourselves.

But we are taught to ask very few questions about ourselves and the nature of life.
Thus, the great mystery that we are peers out into the greater mystery that is out there.

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