Rather than post my final paper in a fit of pride, narcissism, and a lack of alternative material, I thought that I would take this opportunity to rant about the utter lack of intelligence that it apparently takes to become a community college professor (which in no way serves to further my egotistical worldview, I swear). Now, I'm not saying that this is true of all community college professors—my English professor from last year is an incredibly intelligent person who is a famous Puerto Rican author, for example—I'm only saying that apparently the bar is low enough that people like my philosophy professor this semester are able to saunter over it. Also, pictures from a certain hypertrek to Egypt many years ago! Some of the pictures were taken by Scott, Matt, or Jeff: hovering over the photo will reveal more detail.
And not to say that my philosophy professor—let's call him 'Ted'—is completely unintelligent. There are of course different types and degrees of that sort of thing. But in my opinion, one of the most important types of intelligence, especially in an educational setting, is the ability to admit that you were wrong about something and then to integrate the information that you were wrong about. I realize that when you're in a position of authority, it can be really bruising to have to admit when you're wrong, especially to some snot-nosed student. But I feel like it's even more important to exhibit integrity in such situations because you're setting an example. Learning is a process, not an end game; just because you are old or have a degree in philosophy does not mean you will always be right. Imparting the idea to your students that it is okay to make mistakes so long as you're willing to change your position rather than hold on to an incorrect idea is probably the single most important lesson that an educator can impart, and the best way to do that is of course by example. So on to what it is that happened that completely made me lose respect for Ted. It was a writing-intensive Ethics (ETHICS!) class, and we had to write a three page paper every week on some subject or another. This particular paper had to do with Kant's Deontology, and the idea that our worldviews can be attributed to any one particular ethical system. From the beginning of the class I took the position that no one deduces their own moral system from any one particular school of thought, and Kant was frequently my foil in this regard because he had some severely rigid views about morality, which was based on a rational system called the Categorical Imperative and not on any particular worldview. I also, of course, never tried to hide my own atheistic worldview and I think that Ted is a Catholic, though my only evidence for that is that he got his degree from a Catholic University. In any case, despite my assertion that I wasn't going to lazily post a school paper, it is necessary to here paste an excerpt from it.
As far as [Kant's] claim that right and wrong ought not be determined by any particular worldview, I’d agree wholeheartedly as it is in line with my personal philosophy that every case must be judged on its own merit, preferably devoid of any preconceived notions. However, that is also a worldview—though perhaps an ill-defined one—and as such perhaps this Kantian axiom is unrealistic, if not impossible. If someone sincerely believes in the veracity of the Bible, they would never be capable of seeing the world in any other way than in the rules for right and wrong they gleaned from it. If someone such as myself were to believe whole-heartedly in a scientific materialist worldview (though of course my view encompasses more than just that—but for the sake of argument) then they would never be able make moral judgments not based entirely on known facts. But in truth, no one wholly belongs to one worldview over another. Scientific Materialists, on the face of it, ought not to value human life any more than any other form of life since there is no real evidence that there truly is any intrinsic value to it, and yet we do. Christians ought to be hating their parents and abandoning them to follow Christ the minute that they are old enough to do so, and yet they don’t. Our morals do not come only from what we believe to be our worldview, and so perhaps in this sense Kant is correct, though only ex post facto.
Great detail and analysis of both Kant an Capital Punishment.
I really appreciate that go beyond the page limits others often keep to, as it allows for me to evaluate a full paper, even after I've 'red-lined' your diatribes on religion that just sidetrack from otherwise really great submissions.
"Christians ought to be hating their parents and abandoning them to follow Christ the minute that they are old enough to do so..." Hmmm - only if they have a seriously impaired view of Christianity, or at least of Christ's role as a Jewish Rabbi. In any case, such talk undermines your point about worldviews. A good editor would say "delete the second paragrpah and your paper is improved -- clear, concise and on-point"
What? I was so confused. I was in no way bashing religion there and was just trying to make a point about something else. Here is my response (don't worry, this back-and-forth doesn't go on for very long at all):
Hi professor, I just wanted to reply to your comment about my Unit V paper. You cited the following line saying that it was an anti-religious diatribe and sidetracked from my point: “Christians ought to be hating their parents and abandoning them to follow Christ the minute that they are old enough to do so...' Hmmm - only if they have a seriously impaired view of Christianity, or at least of Christ's role as a Jewish Rabbi."
But that is actually the opposite of what I was doing there. I was referring to an actual Bible verse, Luke 14:26, that says "If any man come to Me and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple." And I was using it to illustrate that even Christians don't get the entirety of their worldview from a single source, the Bible. This was a part of my larger point in that section of the paper that, as rigid as moral philosophers tend to be about their worldviews, the fact is that no one is in practice that rigid, and I even cited how we Scientific Materialists are not as rigid as we pretend to be! Best, M.
Right? So, If he thought that I had simply misinterpreted that particular Bible verse (although, I rather unfairly suspect that he was probably unfamiliar with the Bible verse to which I was referring in the first place) I would have welcomed some clarification, and in any case I could then have replied "oh sorry, my bad, I should have chosen a different example"... such as when Jesus tells people to only beat their slaves as much as they deserve, and yet most (modern) Christians find slavery immoral to begin with—let alone the idea that beating one "just a bit" is anything other than moral quibbling. Therefore neither Christians NOR Scientific Materialists (atheists, for all intents and purposes) get all of their morals from a single source, etc etc. But guess what his response instead was [sic]:
I'm sticking by my point -- the paper is better with the paragraph is excised out.
That's it. No discussion, no acknowledgement that he may have misunderstood me or that while my point may or may not have validity, he simply disagrees with it. Nope, just cut it out, he's right and I'm wrong, end of discussion. He's sticking to his point even though he never actually made one. Using the Bible's own words against the actions of people who claim to believe in the immutable truth of the Bible is not making any kind of a valid point, but using reductio ad absurdum against Scientific Materialism is just fine. GAAAHHHH!
I also find it rather unbelievable that a college professor doesn't know how to double-check his own syntax but whatever. Clearly this guy is in over his head. Although to be fair, most of the students in the class seem to have enrolled in Community College in order to take remedial High School, so I guess he's adequate enough for those purposes. I guess that doesn't say much about me, sigh. At least I still got an A in class... would have been extremely depressing to get anything less. Well, out with the old and all that. I shouldn't really make fun because I'm taking remedial algebra next semester... always my worst subject in High School. But I want to take some higher science classes and I can't unless I've taken College Algebra... which I also can't take until I've mastered Elementary Algebra. God I'm such a hypocrite. Happy New Year!