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  • Pierre Smith Khanna

What I Learnt at Uni


What have I learnt from my years studying at university? It seems as though I have not learnt anything until I put any of it into practice - and how

might one do so when what was learnt were the liberal arts? Politics Philosophy and History... other than becoming a teacher and perpetuating the same cycle - as if the only purpose of learning something was to then teach it. How do I apply any of it?

All I did at university was learn to form opinions about what other people had said.

Now, this may be viewed by some as an extremely valuable skill to possess. Certainly it has enabled me to impress and intimidate on more than one occasion. A certain power is gained by exercising one's capacity to behold abstract thoughts and convincingly argue for or against almost anything. Is this the value then in my education?

Nor is it any exaggeration that this forming of opinions is all I gained from university. When I think of it - perhaps especially in the case of Philosophy - we were asked to learn what x y and z said thought and argued, demonstrate we understood it, and explain its value in our own words - which wasn't unrelated to the question of its understanding. Truly 'grasping' what it is Mill meant by "the greatest happiness possible for all" was to understand that Ethics has been divided into the sub-categories of consequentialism and non-consequentialism with Mill situated in the former, and that the later had persuasive spokesmen whom's arguments one should know with as much detail as Mill's. If one is lucky, attention would then be drawn to how humans in fact behave. Not in terms of whether we act in accordance with generating the "greatest happiness possible for all" but in terms of what we act upon. Yet even then, we are sent back into the same movement of learning about it by demonstrating understanding of Hume's argument, Kant's critique, and perhaps one or two others' contributions to the "reasons for actions" niche of analytical philosophy. Never does it occur to encourage an inner reflection of how we act ourselves.

Doesn't it start there?

#Essais

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