Academic Autopsy Part 2: Question of Pandering

Little girls and consequenialism are the Devil!

Pandering (v.) 1. the act of expressing one’s views in accordance with the preferences of one’s audience.  In pandering, the views one expresses are merely for the purpose of drawing support, garnering favor, and/or securing advantage and do not necessarily reflect one’s personal opinions, understandings, or values.

Welcome to the second installment in my multipart dissection of an analytic exposition.  In the first post, I implicitly claimed that education on any level amounts to a game that one must play according to a prescribed set of academic rules–if one is to succeed.  The closest I came to supporting that audacious claim was with the anecdotal evidence of the contrast between my primary/secondary education and my years in college.  Well, I’m still not going to mount a real argument to support the game hypothesis, but I will address an obvious objection:

Your “game playing” amounts to pandering to the teaching assistants, preceptors, professors, and administration at your school.  Where is your academic honesty, your collegiate credibility, and your scholarly self-respect?  Put bluntly: you are pandering.  You have sold out!

Such a rebuttal seems to be a moral charge of dishonesty.  We have bracketed off–for the time being–whether game playing is effective, but assuming that it aims to be effective, this claim seems to be arguing that it is never right to write what a grader wants to hear in order to get a better grade.  In moral philosophy this is an absolutist argument–it is never morally defensible to compromise your academic vision regardless of the consequences of doing so.  The opposite position is called consequentialism–it is morally defensible to compromise one’s academic vision if, by doing so, the outcome achieved is preferable.  Consequentialism can also add more provisos to its formulation like “if the outcome is preferable for the greatest possible number of people affected” or “where preferable means the greatest number of people are given pleasure and avoid pain.”

So, if you are keeping score at home, my view of the school game seems to be running afoul of an absolutist sensibility because it seems to be based on consequentialist reasoning.  Consequentialism is also called utilitarianism, pragmatism, or moral relativism depending on the exact nature of the argument’s apparatus and who is complaining–which means that I am all kinds of going to Hell because consequentialism is the Devil.

So, here is the twisted logic of my defense: 1) I come into every interaction with the world as a student, 2) the student’s position is always one of subservience and humility before the teacher, 3) every interaction with the world demands a level of subservience and humility.  Now, you might be thinking, “remembering back to that post yesterday, he doesn’t seem very humble or subservient.  In fact he seems to often think himself a superior judge of the text’s nature and meaning!”  And truth is, Yes!  I do think that my treatment of Hegel’s text is more accurate.  Hegel is not a taught, programmatic, and linear thinker.  The entire dialectical approach of the book suggests that there are multiple interactions causing multiple amendments of the initial premise stemming from each, individual argument.  Hegel is not ticking off boxes that correspond to the defeat of isolated qualities of sense-certainty’s “knowledge”, he is exploding its pretensions to rich and true content by demonstrating that all its qualities are tied to indistinct indexicals: ‘This’, ‘Here’, and ‘Now’.  However, there is humility and subservience in writing the way I have because it admits that I might be wrong, and–in the final rinse–my preceptor and I agree that Hegel is defeating certain premises and I want him to be able to recognize that–something that might not be possible if I wrote as I would have preferred.

So, does my proffered defense hold any water?  You be the judge as we return to my Hegel paper.

“Since sense-certainty’s ‘This’ is composed of a ‘Now’ and a ‘Here’ what is true of ‘Now’ or ‘Here’ must also be true of the ‘This’ that is sense-certainty’s object. In a statement like “Now is Night,” sense-certainty would argue that the truth of the statement rests in the simple, immediate, and essential content of ‘Night.’ However, the truth that is preserved, which continues to be true when noon comes—is the ‘Now’ of “Now is Night” rather than its sensuous predicate. The nature of ‘Now’ is preserved in the face of the Day as the negation ‘not Night’ and so the content of Now is mediated through something else—the predicates not Day—and in the case of “Now is Day”, the implied negation not Night.”

This section of the paper follows directly after the summary we looked at in the last post and attempts to outline and explicate Hegel’s justification for the claim that sense-certainty’s object is not the immediate, passive, and determinate knowledge that it thinks it is.  The version that you see before you is actually the fourth that I wrote and differs from the rest in that, in the earlier versions, I attempted to show that the example of ‘Now’ disproves not only the immediacy of sense-certainty’s knowledge, but also its passive acquisition, and its determinate nature.  Reading the original paragraphs the necessary justifications are all in this first example well before Hegel appeals to ‘Here’ or to the logic of language (paragraphs 94-100).  However, the conclusion that I wrote in my paper was:

“Hegel argues that the sort of thing that is only through negation is a universal proving that sense-certainty’s true content is mediated—through negation—and universal—in that what may be said of it might be said truthfully of all things that exist.”

Why?  Well because he is doing–at least–that much and I might be wrong about how necessary the other arguments might be at proving the contingency of the acquisition of knowledge is or the vagueness of sense-certainty’s object.  I might also be misunderstanding how I am to understand arguments.  Perhaps one does not make an argument if its premises and justifications are not made explicitly.  In essence, I wrote what I wrote in order to communicate with my reader, acknowledging that he and I differ in our understandings of what the text is doing, and finally adopting a bit of humility with regard to my own adequacy as an interpreter of Hegel.  Was I right to do so?  Is my apres vou (after you) ethic problematic or misguided?  Speak now–in the comments section–or I’ll assume I’m right.  (With a certain amount of humility, of course).


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