Friday, September 26, 2008


What would you do? Or, maybe more fun, what would Yoda do?

So, the first time that a student said this to my face was some time ago, but it wasn't the last time and I suspect many more students think this than actually share. The essence of the comment was

I don't care what Aristotle has to say about anything. I don't want to understand Aristotle. There is nothing Aristotle could say that could possibly change my mind about anything. I can't think of any good reason to become familiar with anything he had to say

Now, of course, this is heresy to me, the philosopher, but I suppose I get that some people may not find Aristotle simply self-evidently interesting. But, I'm curious, how would you helpfully respond to such a student?


Haley B said...

I don't know if I could helpfully respond to a question such as this but I can definately relate to this. To me, it is like history class. I have never really been interested in history and have had a hard time understanding why it is important to know. But what I have realized is that I have to respect it and simply acknowledge other important times in our world. This could even allow me to appreciate the present or even have a newfound appreciation for the past that I never would have known had I not paid attention.

Not sure if this relates to the issue, but I thought I'd leave an input!

lynalyn said...

I would have to say something along the lines of "Alright, if you don't want to learn Aristotle just learn him, then use him to your advantage. Make it relevant to you somehow--use his principals to make your arguments stronger."

Mostly I'd rather tell the kid to fuck off, however...sorry. I'm not particularly tolerant of slackers and close minded people.

chrisfrankstein said...

Just because this person doesn't want to absorb the teaching of a long-dead philosopher doesn't make them inherently slacker-ish (?) or close-minded. As to Aristotle, to give him his credit, he seems like a pretty smart and timeless fellow with good things to say. However, I've found other and more current ways to think about subjects outside of his realm of teachings (this being apparent in my lack of knowledge of any of his works), and I think I'm doing ok as a person.
I suppose, in a circumstance such as mine, the most effective response would be something along the lines of academic power words; for example, the mostly abused "grade" and the dreaded "fail" in connection with words such as "your" and "you will" given no effort on their part to learn about Aristotle.

jayellsbrg said...

I think Yoda would say this child is too old. They've already developed traits that will lead them to the dark side.

In terms of a specific response, I'm not sure what I can offer, but I hope this helps:

Either they're close-minded, or worse, they're using apathy as an excuse to not seriously consider the material; they're just going through the motions to fulfill an aoi (if they're in the class). It will take carefully chosen words and examples that personally address their life.

I say examples instead of arguments, because if you argue, they enter a defensive state which is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to work around. Instead, try to guide them to reach their own conclusion.

(On a side note, what you think of this defense idea? How accurate do you feel is this approach?)

JMc said...

Okay, I have emailed each one of you a very thoughtful and witty reply and have just now realized that you probably didn't receive said reply. So, when I'm feeling particularly thoughtful and witty, I'll respond to each of you here.

Chris Martens said...

Yoda would say as such, "All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless.” and then tell the student to wander into the swamp and face his enemy, Aristotle.

I think I would respond by saying that if the Founding Fathers had said that there should be no Bill of Rights in the Constitution you wouldn't care? I would consider this student very close minded if he said yes he didn't care what the founding fathers said because his right to free speech would be very much limited. I would compare Aristotle to a founding philosopher and some of his ideas have helped shaped the ideas of society and philosophers today! If it weren't for discussions that Aristotle had and documented, who knows where our concepts about morality would've come from. I would explain to him that great figures in history usually become great because of the ideas and ideals the embodied. These ideas are something each of us have in common today and we can all relate to on some level.

marinachkatake2 said...

Even if this person doesn't care about what Aristotle has to say (I can only assume it's because they think Aristotle is outdated? anachronistic? what have you?), no person can really consider themselves truly educated and can read/evaluate anything worth their time (the New Republic, the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, intelligent and witty political commentary) without having read foundational works such as N. ethics or Politics. At the expense of perhaps my grades and senior year free time, I'm forcing myself to take Classical Political Theory (we read Aristotle) because I think that my education would be a poor one where I to leave college without having read the classics and because I want to be able to fully understand reading the things that I truly enjoy (the authors of my favorite pretentious magazines have a tendency to make allusions to all sorts of philosophical frameworks/ideas).
And, perhaps more importantly, philosophy is not so much about "knowing" what someone has to say as it is learning to think and analyze from different perspectives. And, let's face, thinking is always useful and marketable. My best friend is a philosophy major at KU and I always tell her that learning to THINK is far more important than sitting in an accounting class and crunching numbers. She may laugh awkwardly and worry about the future now, but when the rest of us change jobs 9 times throughout the course of our lives and she transitions seemlessly because she understand how to approach IDEAS, she'll probably have the last laugh (and a hearty one).