coromandal


absolutely certain of nothing

My Restoration prof said that, at the end of an undergraduate course you should “know that you know nothing.”  Good advice.  Here, in the same vein is Bertrand Russell’s rules for teachers.

In his view, a good teacher is a person with little interest in power who uses wit, avoids the use of authority and sometimes subverts it, challenges orthodoxies, is quietly fearless, never obsequious nor pandering, often quirky, rejects passivity, and risks all for the truth.

From Russell’s Decalogue:

Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it. The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:

    1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
    2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
    3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
    4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
    5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
    6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
    7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
    8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
    9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
    10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

A Liberal Decalogue, Bertrand Russell, December 16, 1951, The New York Times Magazine

from A Liberal Decalogue: Bertrand Russell’s 10 Commandments of Teaching, Maria Popova, Brain Pickings