Saturday, February 09, 2008

Rhetoric and Philosophy

The other day my wife and I were talking about the gift of rhetoric and the example given by (Socrates?) about the ability for a philosopher skilled in rhetoric to convince a less informed crowd about his/her superior knowledge. The example given was a philosopher convincing an uninformed crowd about some medical procedure he knew nothing about and a knowledgeable doctor without the gift of rhetoric being unable to convince the same crowd of the truth.

I could take this example and show how it plays itself out daily in poilitics, education, and religion, but for the sake of this post I have a confession to make. I am currently living in Jerusalem and studying Hebrew (and other subjects) at Hebrew University. This is a University that prides itself in its level of education but it is one that holds dearly to a "German-Style" evaluation and grading proceedure. In other words, comprehensive exams without any subjectivity are preferred. This means that one cannot B.S. his/her way through the exams. For a person like me, this is troubling. Because I have spent most of my education in Humanities where I have the luxury of waxing-eloquently through the course material, my style of limited studying for exams is having its limits tested.

In addition to my exam-preparation techniques, I have the added workload of being a good father, husband, and tourist. All this to say, I feel like I am learning at a break-neck pace but my grades in some classes (especially Hebrew) are not ones to write home about. The fact that I am learning the language will be helpful when I return to America and use "rhetoric" to show my knowledge of the subject but it simply does not help the ego here and now that you know the truth, please do be impressed there.

I am a firm believer in aquiring knowledge in all areas (remember my quest to get rid of uneducated Christians), and I enjoy the process of learning new things. But I am also a believer in the adage "knowledge puffs up" and I have a pet peeve against those who live to show others how smart they are. So I guess I am saying that for all those (like me) who like to use rhetoric to show off their knowledge, just keep in mind that you are not as smart as you think you are. in fact, I reccommend that you spend time with people who make you feel dumb to help keep the ego in check and to remind you that pride comes before the fall. So here's to all of us that feel "dumb" sometimes. Don't give up the pursuit of knowledge and truth but please do not ever feel like you have arrived.... because you probably haven't. ! מזל תוֹב

1 comment:

derek said...

I speak for many when I say, "You are the person who makes me feel dumb".

And to this I say thank you.