Sentences to ponder

by on August 18, 2014 at 3:21 pm in Education, History, Philosophy | Permalink

“Always assume that there is one silent student in your class who is by far superior to you in head and in heart.” This is the counsel Leo Strauss, among the most consequential teachers and scholars of political philosophy in the 20th century, offered an advanced graduate student who had asked for a general rule about teaching.

In a short essay published in the early 1960s, “Liberal Education and Responsibility” (based on a public lecture he gave), Strauss elaborated on his exquisite advice. “Do not have too high an opinion of your importance,” he said, “and have the highest opinion of your duty, your responsibility.”

There is more here, by Peter Berkowitz, via Andrea Castillo.

John B. Chilton August 18, 2014 at 3:29 pm
Urso August 18, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Does the same rule apply to bloggers vis a vis their commentors?

John B. Chilton August 18, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Key word: “silent”

RR August 19, 2014 at 3:05 am

+1.
Like “unheard melodies are sweeter” , “uncommented” comments are more meaningful?

Norman Pfyster August 18, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Easier said at the University of Chicago back in the day than on the internet. Although I suppose there is at least one person reading this blog who is superior in mind and heart.

charlie August 18, 2014 at 4:11 pm

What is the straussian reading of this?

triclops August 18, 2014 at 4:21 pm

+1
Nice one.

Nikki August 18, 2014 at 4:20 pm

What a missed opportunity to put this over a stock photo of a tree along with a “Pin it” button.

Alan August 18, 2014 at 4:59 pm

“and have the highest opinion of your duty, your responsibility.”

An acquaintance of mine who is an academic once told me that he could never put in his best effort supervising Ph.D. candidates because he was training future competitors. Would anyone be surprised if I told you that he is an economist?

Andrew M August 18, 2014 at 5:09 pm

That’s the same problem in any job.

Boss: “Hey, we’ve just hired this new guy. Can you show him how to do everything that you already do? (By the way he’s a lot cheaper than you.)”
Me: “Umm, it’ll take years to bring him up to my skill level.”

bon_supp August 19, 2014 at 12:00 pm

That’s funny, I got to the C suite by teaching other people to do my job. Now I fire people who don’t play along and teach their subordinates. Looks like there is a new incentive in the game.

Robert August 18, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Strauss is “among the most consequential teachers and scholars of political philosophy in the 20th century” because his students have constantly repeated that he was “among the most consequential teachers and scholars of political philosophy in the 20th century” and have basically based their entire careers on the claim that they were students of “among the most consequential teachers and scholars of political philosophy in the 20th century”.

Jimmy August 18, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Ok, I’ll bite.

As somebody who doesn’t yet have a tenure track job in political theory but does have a few Straussians among his teachers, I’d love to hear what departments in the US are willing to set me up with a career if only I too am willing to make this claim about Strauss.

Thanks!

honkie please August 19, 2014 at 1:49 am

Strauss ≠ Straussians

freethinker August 20, 2014 at 8:48 pm

yeah, like Friedman/Keynes is a great economist because his students have constantly repeated that he was a great economist and have basically based their entire careers on the claim that they were students of a great economist

dearieme August 18, 2014 at 6:42 pm

A bit syrupy, don’t you think? It must have been intended for Americans.

Art Deco August 18, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Strauss is “among the most consequential teachers and scholars of political philosophy in the 20th century” because his students have constantly repeated that he was “among the most consequential teachers and scholars of political philosophy in the 20th century” and have basically based their entire careers on the claim that they were students of “among the most consequential teachers and scholars of political philosophy in the 20th century”

Who has ‘based their entire career’ on that?

blackswan August 18, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Paul Wolfowitz comes to mind.

Art Deco August 19, 2014 at 1:24 pm

No. There are clowns who are obsessed with the datum that Paul Wolfowitz took some courses from Leo Strauss more than four decades ago. That’s not Wolfowitz’ fault.

Nyayapati Gautam August 18, 2014 at 9:41 pm

While I have not heard of Leo Strauss, and as a consequence have no clue about his intellectual credentials or the reasons for his fame/infamy, the point that he makes seems very valid.

Humility in a teacher, combined with a sense of duty toward the students, would go a long way in making the classroom experience richer.

Darren Johnson August 18, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Coffee at Politics and Prose, just let me know when Tyrone

Darren Johnson August 18, 2014 at 9:56 pm

You are the worst teacher ever.

Darren Johnson August 18, 2014 at 9:59 pm

Free classes and no course credit.

Kent Guida August 19, 2014 at 9:36 am

The quote comes from the new book, Leo Strauss and the Problem of Political Philosophy, by Catherine and Michael Zuckert. The book is the subject of the review by Peter Berkowitz.

Any readers of this blog with an interest in political philosophy should check it out:
http://www.amazon.com/Leo-Strauss-Problem-Political-Philosophy-ebook/dp/B00KQFX5Y2/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1408454929

londenio August 19, 2014 at 9:39 am

I once heard that Bach always imagined a big composer sitting among the peasants while he was playing the organ during service.

Eric Falkenstein August 19, 2014 at 10:44 am

On the other hand, what about the Dr. Fox effect (see here http://www.er.uqam.ca/nobel/r30034/PSY4180/Pages/Naftulin.html) , where if you are really confident, you come across as more knowledgeable. Thinking about this smart guy in the audience might diminish that confidence.

Kent Guida August 19, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Ah, yes, to speak freely and magnificently as befits one who knows — the ambition of every sophist. But Strauss was suggesting it would be better to aim at something else.

bbis August 22, 2014 at 2:44 am

This sounds like someone who chooses to create an exaggerated image that allows them to feel they are evincing a correct degree of humility. The exaggerated nature of the image means it is easily ignored and would have no real impact on a person’s perception of their abilities or knowledge. It seems it would be better to assume none of us are particularly intelligent and even the best only differ from the average by a small amount in very few areas.

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