Thus Have We Made The World

Thus Have We Made The World February 18, 2018

I remember the scene in the movie The Mission in which one of the characters responds to the statement “thus is the world” by saying “no, thus have we made the world – thus have I made it.”

I wonder whether we do the same thing when we who are academics in the postmodern era analyse everything in terms of power struggles.

I appreciate very much the fact that so many disciplines in the humanities and social sciences have turned a critical eye on areas in which power dynamics were neglected, and systems of inequity were treated as simply the outworking of objective and/or inevitable processes.

But I’ve also noticed a penchant for my colleagues in these areas to view university administrators as well as other faculty colleagues with hostility, reflecting the assumption that all their actions are simply matters of power.

Analysis of power dynamics is crucial – but it should not lead us to assume that no one acts collegially or even benevolently, that no one genuinely cares about the good of their institution and their students and wants the best for it – or at least, that no one else does, or no other department does to the extent that we do, or that faculty do but administrators (many of whom were or are themselves faculty) do not.

On Valentine’s Day, another academic shared the image below on social media. It seemed to me to be perfect to accompany this post. It is absolutely appropriate to approach love in a variety of academically rigorous ways. But most if not all academics are also aware through experience that there is at least the potential for there to be more to it than that.

Education cannot exist without love, at least in the social and historical context in which we find ourselves today. It requires a level of commitment to the acquisition of knowledge, and helping others to do likewise, that goes beyond the level of compensation that most educators receive. Education requires sacrifice on the part of the one learning and on the part of faculty and staff who facilitate learning that others experience.

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  • John MacDonald

    James said:

    It is absolutely appropriate to approach love in a variety of academically rigorous ways.

    My former friend and professor, Dr. David Goicoechea, organized a ten year long set of Philosophy conferences years ago at Brock University about the Philosophical/Theological concept of Love. He planned in his retirement to publish 10 books reflecting the ideas presented at these conferences, but he was only able to publish 4 before he died. My favorite of the few that got published was “Agape and Personhood: with Kierkegaard, Mother, and Paul (A Logic of Reconciliation from the Shamans to Today) (Postmodern Ethics Book 2).” It’s here if anyone wants to check it out!: https://www.amazon.com/Agape-Personhood-Kierkegaard-Reconciliation-Postmodern-ebook/dp/B01ETZPD9E/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1518973952&sr=8-4&keywords=david+goicoechea

  • Great point! I have considered education as a field, as it was recommended to me by the career center at college, my dad was a professor, and my mom thinks I may have the gift.

    I also think of how studies show that without education, it is harder for one to get out of poverty, and how it empowers people. I also think of hadiths (sayings of Muhammad*), “Go back to you people and teach them” (Bukhari 3:25), “Let him who is present impart knowledge to him who is absent” (Bukhari 3:37), and “Knowledge is maintained through teaching” (Bukhari 3:10). In addition, the Qur’an says, “Whoever is given knowledge is given abundant wealth indeed” (surah 2:269).

    In the N.T., we are told that we are to use our resources to help those who lack them (1 John 3:17).

    In my own case, due to being raised Fundamentalist, I wasn’t able to go to college at 18, and am instead getting my degree in my early 30’s. So, I appreciate the opportunity.

    *No, I am not Muslim, but am a Christian. Nevertheless, I find these meaningful.

  • Netizen_James

    The whole postmodernist concept of ‘subjective reality’ is an attack on science itself.
    No, there is not a ‘female’ or ‘POC’ or ‘LGBT’ reality that is different from white-male-cisgender reality. There’s only one reality. The issue is the extent to which we allow our personal and tribal cognitive biases to alter our perception of that reality. Sure, the slave-owner sees whipping his slaves differently than the slaves do. That’s a matter of perspective, not entirely different ‘realities’.

    See Shawn Otto’s excellent book _The War on Science_ for more about this. Science is being attacked from all sides – left, right, and center, because science is inherently revolutionary and anti-authoritarian. Which frightens those who benefit from the status quo.
    (https://www.amazon.com/War-Science-Waging-Matters-About/dp/1571313532)

    A salient quote from a related SA article by Mr. Otto:
    “Such confirmation bias has been enabled by a generation of university academics who have taught a corrosive brand of postmodernist identity politics that argues truth is relative, and that science is a “meta-narrative”—a story concocted by the ruling white male elite in order to retain power—and therefore suspect. The claims of science, these academics argue, are no more privileged than any other “way of knowing,” such as black truth, female truth or indigenous truth. We can’t know, a Minneapolis professor recently argued, that Earth goes around the sun, for example, because these sorts of worldviews have been dislodged by paradigm shifts throughout history. Thus, each of us constructs our own truth, and the job of an educator or a journalist is to facilitate that process of discovery.
    The ideas of postmodernism align well with the identity politics of the left, and they have helped to empower disadvantaged voices, which always adds to the conversation. But what works in this case for political discourse is demonstrably false when applied to science. A scientific statement stands independent of the gender, sexual orientation, ethic background, religion or political identity of the person taking the measurement. That’s the whole point. It’s tied to the object being measured, not the subject doing the measuring.” (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-plan-to-defend-against-the-war-on-science/)