In the comments to my previous post on clarity, a number of good points were made, especially about the relevance of teaching and teachers. It seems to me that we need to emphasize more seriously the relationship between philosophy and pedagogy, and I don’t just mean the educational institutions and the threats they are under in terms of public funding, their corporatization, etc. (although these are certainly important and relevant points), but rather I mean the essential relationship between philosophy and pedagogy itself. One of the consequences of the German university reforms of the early nineteenth century was that it resulted in a split between teaching and research. This split is manifest in our very academic institutions, as we academics know all too well. We have the research one institutions where there is a reduced teaching load and where much of the teaching and student contact hours is transferred to graduate students, and then there are the universities that emphasize teaching, and where teaching loads are such that it is not expected that one would be able to produce the same type of research as a colleague at a research one institution. But even at the teaching institutions (and I teach at one of these) the split is still apparent and is integral to tenure and promotion decisions, for example, or it is reflected simply in the general attitude of professor themselves, many of whom would rather be researching than grading exams and papers.
Perhaps this split is an inevitable consequence of the emergence of science and the growth of disciplines and sub-disciplines that have followed in its wake, but as I see it it is a historical split that can be largely credited to the German university reforms themselves. From my admittedly limited knowledge of these reforms, philosophers were initially given the task of legitimizing knowledge within the curriculum, a legitimacy that is reflected in the fact that one can get a doctorate of philosophy in a particular discipline and not others (one cannot, as far as I know, get a Ph.D. in paranormal psychology). The task of researchers, therefore, is to contribute to the body of legitimate knowledge, and perhaps thereby create new forms of legitimate knowledge along the way. The task of teachers is to impart this knowledge to students. Pedagogy is thus separated from the processes that create new forms of legitimate knowledge. Moreover, as this process has developed since the German reforms, it is scientific knowledge that has emerged as the hegemonic possessor of legitimacy (this has even appeared recently within the discussions of speculative realism with people like Brassier calling upon the legitimacy of scientific knowledge as a counter to other unclear, potentially illegitimate philosophical discourses).
My point is not new of course. Foucault claimed to be anti-scientific, and for much the same reason—namely, he was not opposed to the findings of science or to its benefits (he certainly did not deny himself medical treatment in his final days), but rather to its hegemonic, centralized power as the sole arbiter of legitimate knowledge. However, by rethinking the relationship between pedagogy and philosophy, one consequence will be that one need not begin with a clear sense of what is or is not a legitimate practice, a legitimate knowledge. One need not begin with a clear lesson plan. Even my claims here, paradoxically, do not offer a clear mandate that legitimizes one practice over another. In other words, we need not begin with a Kantian critique whereby the legitimacy of our metaphysics needs to be determined before we get down and dirty doing our metaphysics. This is not to say, however, that legitimacy is unimportant, or that we should be promiscuous in our philosophizing. To the contrary, if philosophy is inseparable from pedagogy then one does not begin with the clearly defined limits to what is or is not legitimate knowledge, what is or is not a legitimate pedagogical practice, but only by working through the pedagogic process itself, a process that may render previously clear points obscure and obscure points clear, may we then achieve some clarity and legitimacy, if only provisionally so. By separating teaching from research, the German university reforms were initially beneficial to philosophy since it was the task of philosophers to determine through their critical apparatus the legitimate bounds of knowledge. In the end, however, these very reforms have been, in my mind, a detriment to the health of philosophy in contemporary society. The continuing impact of these reforms is thus an important subplot to the other important discussions regarding the institutional support, or lack thereof, we currently find in society for philosophy and the liberal arts in general.