Self-Educating

My experience has been that the more I learn, the better I get at setting a curriculum for myself.

This might be a more positive version of that bleak cliche which asserts simply that the more we learn the more we’ll see how little we know.

Learning is hard work, and takes much time. Being strategic about what to learn, then, and when to learn it, is one of the most valuable and powerful skills that can be attained.

A beginning on the path to possessing that skill might be one of the best things a person can take away from any sort of formal education.

In my experience, three of the most effective things to hone in on, in setting a curriculum for myself, have been philosophy, history, and languages.

The study of philosophy gives benefits in our inner thoughts and also in our discussions and engagements with the world around us.

It is good to study the origins of philosophy, to see what it is in its greatest purity.

It is also good to study the progression of philosophy down through the ages, both for the sake of absorbing the philosophical elaborations that take place on the original Socratic project, and also for gaining the ability to discern the layers of philosophical sediment that inform so many thoughts today, whether common or educated.

It is worthwhile, next, to dive into key historical moments such as the Peloponnesian war, the French Revolution, World War II. These studies teach us about human nature, about the nature of politics and war. They also help us understand how the world as we know it has come to be.

And languages, lastly, have the power to open up whole worlds to us. Think of how many important texts are untranslated, or poorly translated, or are available only in dearly expensive translations. In those situations, the knowledge of different languages is a superpower.

The three are also mutually supporting and reinforcing. The study of philosophy is always, to some degree, the study of (philosophical) history. In turn, all historical study is premised on debatable propositions, approaches, assumptions, which require philosophical training to adjudicate responsibly. And of course a knowledge of languages is of great service in the study either of history or of philosophy.

This sort of self-education is a long, slow process, full of traps and tricks and temptations along the way. But with a little patience, a little persistence, I think a curriculum like this can offer us an education like no other.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.