Teaching Philosophy, Honestly

As best I can recall, Wittgensten wrote a short letter to Norman Malcolm when Malcolm earned his Ph. D.  It went something like this:

Congratulations to your PhD.  And now may you cheat neither yourself nor your students.  Because, unless I am very much mistaken, that is what will be expected of you.

There may have been a bit more.  My memory fails me.  But just this touches the problem.  How can you teach without cheating yourself or your students?  Exasperated a little by my students, I wrote to them today and said:

You have to decide:  do you want an education–a real education, or do you just want a diploma?  And if you just want a diploma, go and get it in someone else’s class, please:  I don’t care a whit about your diploma.  But I do care about your education.

The problem here is a kind of knot.  Our students all too often want us to cheat them, or are willing to let us; and we all too often want them to want us to cheat them, or are willing to let them want us to cheat them, or be willing to let us cheat them.  And so it goes.

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