Thursday, January 23, 2020

Paideia, Schole, Paidia: Then and Now :: Philosophy Philosophical Essays

Paideia, Schole, Paidia: Then and Now ABSTRACT: Aristotle centers the citizen’s education (paideia) on leisure (schole). Its features, especially of play (paidia), are evoked to remedy deficiencies in three contemporary philosophies of leisure: classical, critical and communitarian. Paideia, the citizen's education, is extensively tied up with liberal studies in most of Aristotle's discussion in book eight of the Politics. But this tie-up intellectualizes the leisure at their root in the first few chapters of the book. While my undergraduates in leisure studies always need to be drawn up from their sole focus upon sport, perhaps my philosophy colleagues need relief to de-intellectualize paideia back down to schole. There are dimensions of Aristotle's comments which are remedial to contemporary streams of leisure theory. This paper will recapitulate his comments, then apply them to three types of contemporary theory. His first chapter justifies the reason why politics is not meddling when it takes an interest in the formation of its citizens. This is because any constitution will not be workable unless citizens' characters, their virtues, are compatible with it. His second chapter opens what should be taught. Without doubt, useful things should be taught. But not all useful things: useful things which "vulgarize" the citizen should not. To vulgarize is to make one less fit for the practice of virtue, the city's concern. Any occupation, art or science can vulgarize. An occupation will, if it is paid employment; that degrades the mind by absorbing it. An art will, if it deforms the body; the Spartans did that, by their excruciating and savage routines. And a science will, if it is pursued to its perfection of detail. Our bywords about workaholic compulsions, steroid stars, and nerdy scholars, show that we experience the three instances he speaks of, even if paradoxes appear that do not trouble him. Why learn anything at all that is useful, if we can't earn a living at it? How is it virtuous to be never the master but ever a dabbler? Is it not inherent in science to drive us to its ultimate details, one way toward its principles and another toward its applications? These three are more localized problems, however, than his fourth limitation on useful education. That the very same activity is first excluded from the teachable useful, and then is re-included merely by a change in its object, touches our Aristotle with an anachronistic subjectivity, whereby the subject constitutes whatever identity the object has.

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