The Power to Think

I must apologize to my readers for neglecting my “search for truth” through these posts in the last few weeks. I was taking a Kierkegaardian leap of faith and living life passionately. Carpe Diem.

In any case, I wanted to contemplate the following article: http://www.economist.com/node/17723223, as well  as the fact that I am graduating in two months’ time. Critically evaluating education seems to be in order, even if it is a general analysis. I’ve been told to pursue my masters’ degree because an undergraduate degree gets you nowhere fast since you know so little and a doctorate actually does the same but that you know too much and can no longer be ideologically shaped. A desk job is what I want to avoid (though that’s impossible) and thus, the narrowing of focus/field for my brains is to my advantage. However, I still believe in pursuing education for the sake of the love of knowledge (philo-sophia) and Socratic/Platonic curiosity, which has been made evident by my blog. Also, the Millian idea of human development, that is, constant improvement of the self through the study of epistemological, ontological, and ethical realities providing interesting challenges to human existence with its rhetorical questions. In other words, it’s not always about the money.

In university, it is a race to find identity, though granted one has to be at a certain income level or social class to be able to enter university. Marginalized groups (gender, race) find expression, political and religious views are championed or cast off, and the process of maturation quickens with intellectual and experiential stimulation (though in some cases, I have seen it reversed). Is it really necessary to make this mad dash for authenticity of character? To try on and discard personas like underwear? That there will come a time when we become set in our ways?

And the last question is what worries me. Is university then a process of becoming set in one’s ways, of solidying the thought processes to think a certain way and to hallow that as the only way to think? That you were the best judge at 18-25 of what was the right way to think, judging from all the others presented? Knowledge should be a constant process of liberation, a constant emergence from Plato’s cave. One’s identity should change insofar as what we know is challenged and therefore, we must adapt to the new evidence.

However, the mad search for identity should ultimately be concerned with finding values/principles because there is a certain nobleness in holding ideals. Granted, ideals change within the framework of experience, but it is a test that looks at which are still left standing after one has weathered the annals of time. If none stand, then we can truly label it fickleness.

So how do we reconcile the constant thirst for knowledge and the authenticity of character? Should we pay homage to the university institution for giving us the tools to do so? As Foucault said, power is productive in its subjectivity. The university grants us the power to think – for our future employer, for our future thesis mentors, for our future clients, for our civil society/government.  At the same time, it is self-defeating in its power. My dearest hope is that it has also given us the power to think for ourselves.

One thought on “The Power to Think

  1. This is a profound reflection… Identity can be confining and close-minded, or it can be welcoming and challenging at the same time… Kant talks about the productive “discord” between different passions and interests in human society that builds up the society and there is Hegel’s idea of dialectic too, which I understand in the human person as the conflict of drives that build up to a steady, ethical, and imaginative character.

    But there are ways of uniting these passions, needs (like the need to have a job that pays money for food!) desire for a “place” socially and politically AND the other things that we associate more with ethical and authentic programs…

    If there is a reason for the special thirst and massive swings between vulnerability and uncertainty and adamant confidence of 18-25 year olds, I think it is in hormones as much as anything else – and it’s important to exploit these passions as a part of building a broad (and not just a narrowminded, specialized, and unimaginative and non-humorous!) character over TIME… it seems like you have the ingredients for this character : )

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