Eros and Education
Some Introspective Reflections on Self-Education
by Robbie McClintock
Unpublished: Written November 1980.
Length: 35,100 words
Early in the 1980-81 academic year, the Chairman of my department, requested that I prepare a dossier presenting my work for potential review for promotion to full professor. It has become a standard ritual of academic promotion and tenure. This letter was my initial response. I post it with some hesitation. It has a petulant tone, in retrospect sounding like a spoiled kid who didn't know how good he had it. I am posting it, nevertheless, because it puts forward some ideas that I think may have value and because it shows, possibly in a somewhat representative way, some of the strains affecting the inner life as the controlling tone in major institutions shifted from one of expansive confidence to a sense of caution and contraction.
My first ten years as an academic had been blissfully free of career considerations, for I had started out, without giving it conscious forethought, under very favorable market conditions. My recruitment and tenure experience, which just seemed to happen, would be unfathomable today. Having barely begun my dissertation, a major university unexpectedly asked me to interview for an assistant professorship, which resulted almost immediately in an offer and my acceptance of the position. Two years later, still a year away from defending my dissertation, two other universities asked me, unsolicited, to interview and I joined the Teachers College faculty at Columbia. In 1971, promotion to associate professor and tenure followed after a very casual request for my CV and publications, I thought as part of fund-raising for the Institute of Philosophy and Politics of Education. Shortly afterwards, conditions began to tighten, not as a matter of explicit policy, but through a series of ad hoc responses to various pressures, economic and institutional. The pace slowed and became more formal, all in a somewhat Kafkaesque way.
It slowly dawned on young academics like myself that what formerly had just happened, would now require increasingly careful anticipation and management. The realization induced some confusion and a bit of panic, represented in the tone of what follows. Objectively, the situation was not all that bad, but relatively it was disconcerting. It led into a few difficult years personally, which made it more difficult for me to adjust to the professional uncertainties. What I expresses in 1980 reflected considerable confusion about the criteria that were emerging as the basis of judgments of promotion and tenure, criteria that have since become highly formalized and routinized. Adjustments to them, which a generation of scholars have been making, have had significant cultural effects, I think, discouraging scholars from taking intellectual risks. This document reflects my feelings of impatience and a blustering effort to adapt decisions made in one context serve in another one that I had failed to anticipate and found very unclear.
In November 1980, I gave this document to my department chair, along with a dossier of supporting documentation, which I had carefully organized, something that I had never thought necessary before, and described in a postscript. The chair, solicitous of my best interests, asked me to prepare a shorter covering document just explaining what was in my dossier of work. I did that and do not know who if anyone beyond the chair saw this essay, which at the end I said should be thought to be a short book on Eros and Education, which a decade earlier I had promised would be forthcoming. Despite its complaints and pleadings, Eros and Education may have some continuing interest as a view of a situation and as a reflection on cultural aspiration, one set within subjective reactions to historical changes that have deeply affected academic work and life. My impatience and self-doubt arising from the academic juncture set the tone of this "letter," but I put it forward after more than thirty years as it may speak all the same to a few issues of lasting importance, independent of the state of mind I was then experiencing.
Eros and Education
November 14, 1980
I am very glad, heartened, to learn that my senior colleagues have decided to review me for possible promotion to full professor. In what follows, I speak fully and frankly my feelings about a promotion review, in doing so explaining why I feel I ought to be reviewed, giving an account of my concerns, accomplishments, and plans that I believe should be thoughtfully considered in such a review.
To begin, I must recognize that I am upset and angry about the situation. It has been over ten years since I was promoted to associate professor and exactly ten years since the last time my colleagues thoroughly evaluated my work when I was considered for tenure. During those ten years I have gone through a lot; I've done many different things from which I draw a sense of accomplishment; and I have failed to do things that at times expected of myself and led others to expect of me. I feel a review, whatever its outcome, is overdue.
Thus I do not come to a promotion review with the innocence of someone surprised by the sudden prospect of unexpected recognition. I noted some time ago the general slowdown in the pattern of promotion throughout the College. I have pondered whether that change results from mere penny-pinching or discloses a conscious and articulate stiffening of standards. I have sought to discover the criteria upon which promotion to full professor is based. I have mulled and mulled my case and find that neither it nor the situation is simple. Hence I write at length. In doing so I aim, not only to state my own case well, but to help clarify a destructively confusing situation in the College
My first perplexity: I am not sure what questions I should be addressing; I am not even sure that those who will be assessing my presentation know what questions are at issue. On a previous occasion, in submitting material rather casually for a "review of my review-ability," I think I made a serious error by not knowing that I did not know what the important questions were. And since then, I have found it difficult to learn with precision what the criteria for promotion to full professor are. Consequently I find it difficult to analyze my situation realistically and to present effectively those things on the basis of which I would hope a judgment, positive or negative, will be made.
I have heard only one, approximate statement of criteria for promotion to full professor, a response Jonas made several years ago, with some apology for its imprecision, namely, that promotion to full professor represents a judgment by ones seniors that in a professionally significant sense one has "arrived." My immediate but silent reaction to that criterion was to remind myself of Cervantes' saw—"the road is better than the inn"—and to muse that the only place anybody clearly arrives at is the grave. On reflection, however, I found I had to admit provisionally a degree of everyday meaning and applicability to this enunciated criterion, and consequently I have prepared to present my work in part with reference to it. But I am not convinced that this ends the problem of criteria, for I am convinced that in my case, at least, a different criterion and a different set of questions will ineluctably intrude into deliberations assessing the possibility of my potential professionally significant arrival. Let me explain.
Whether someone has effected a professionally significant arrival calls for an impersonal assessment of accomplished performances in the spirit of legal-rationality. Thus, the repertory of actions and achievements should be inventoried, the requirements of the office set forth, and the meaning of "professionally significant" and "arrived" should be given public, consistently applicable content. Then the accomplishments should be measured against the specifications objectively, impersonally; no matter who does the measuring, the results should be the same. This is, of course, the ideal-type, but with a criterion of performance such as "professionally significant arrival," the actual assessment should be in substance and spirit as close as possible to this standard. Above all, unique expectations that may have once been formed about what the particular person in question should do; personal disappointments and perplexities that may have been felt when the unique expectations have not been fulfilled; and speculations about why the person seems not to have satisfied those unique expectations: all such personal matters should be held rigorously in abeyance, if the judgment is going to assess whether a person's accomplished performances qualify him for an impersonally defined office according to a public, consistently applied, impersonal criterion. By such an impersonal criterion, I think my actual performances qualified me for the office of full professor some time ago.
Be that as it may, I am not sure that a performance standard applied in the spirit of legal-rationality is in fact the standard. Nor am I convinced that it should be the standard. Nor, even if it is and should be, am I confident that it can be brought to bear with public, consistently applicable specifications for meeting it, in my case at least. At a minimum, elementary prudence, an elementary prudence that I have not to date observed, compels me to recognize that I have been present in the Department and the College for a long time, over eighteen years as student and professor. Many of my senior colleagues have been my teachers; and I appreciate—in both the sense that I realize and I am grateful that—all of them long ago formed definite, inspiring expectations about the possible course of my professional development. To date, my accomplished performances substantially differ from those that would be anticipated according to those well-formed expectations. In elementary prudence, I must recognize that this disjunction between my actual accomplishments and those anticipated makes it difficult to assess the actualities impersonally, and it raises significant questions about my development in the minds of those assessing my work.
Let me be more direct. A performance criterion has been enunciated to me, requiring, if I understand it correctly, an objective assessment of my actual accomplishments. Although I have not been privy to discussions of my work that may have taken place, I am nevertheless convinced that questions about my development will be next to impossible to exclude. Inevitably, expectations previously formed of me will enter into an assessment of my impersonal performance, turning what should be public, consistent, objective specifications, whatever they may be, into a set of special standards applied only to me, in which my performances are weighed against an estimate of my unique, personal potential and expectations of how, if all has been aright, that potential ought to have unfolded. Simply put: I feel I am known too well to be assessed merely as a behaving black-box, but not necessarily known well enough for a sound, sensitive evaluation of the process and prospects of my development to be made.
After pondering this problem, I have concluded that I can best avoid it if I state a developmental standard possibly suitable for structuring a promotion review, one complementary to the performance standard that has been given me. Then I can present my case relative to each, and finally invite my seniors to use either or both in their evaluation of me. I am ready to submit my achievements to judgment as achievements, actual performances to be measured according to impersonal standards. I am also ready to submit my inner development to the fullest scrutiny, as a development, as a process of intellectual growth that measures up to the very highest expectations about my capacity for growth that might have been formed of me. Accordingly, in what follows, I will first introduce my conception of a proper developmental standard, showing why I think it could either replace or complement the enunciated performance criterion. I will then stake my claims on the performance standard for professionally significant arrival in the domains of publication, teaching, and service to the profession and the College. From there, I will turn, at considerably greater length, to analyze my intellectual growth according to the developmental standard. I ask only that in deliberations assessing the quality of my actual performances, expectations about my unique potential and speculations about possible problems of inner development, which some may think I have encountered, be rigorously excluded. I ask that in considerations of my trajectory of development, all due care is taken that these be founded on full information, not passing impressions. I do this, not because I think the case for my development is stronger than that for my performance. I do it because I am sure that questions about my development trouble some or all of my senior colleagues and that unless these questions are brought fully into consciousness and spoken to effectively, the chances are high that they will unconsciously intrude into efforts to assess my performance and undercut my case for promotion.
Let us begin, then, by considering criteria further, with the aim of complementing the performance criterion of professionally significant arrival with a criterion of development. Generally, a scholar is promoted to full professor when 35 to 40, thus achieving his or her full, unqualified admission into a community of academic peers. Review for this promotion culminates a series of reviews, and is the threshold to a 25 to 35 year period of sustained, unfettered scholarship, teaching, and professional activity. One might find it shortsighted to make evidence of "arrival" the criterion for crossing over into the long period of professional maturity, for that would seem to invite professors to treat the many years of their academic majority as an anticlimactic period in which they work upon a plateau. To earn tenure, a scholar must rightly show evidence of significant intellectual accomplishment. The criterion of "arrival" merely invites the scholar, at the doorway to professional maturity, to contract the habit of self-repetition, for by this criterion, promotion to full professor basically requires the scholar to repeat the sort of accomplishments by which tenure was earned. To my mind, therefore, promotion to full professor, something which initiates a comparatively very, very long period of self-directed work, could properly be based, not on a criterion of repeat performance, but, like the judgments early in a person's career, on evidence of further promise—of the demonstrated determination to develop, deepen, and extend significantly the repertory of skills and capacities through the exercise of which tenure was already earned.
That, I think, would be the essence of a workable developmental criterion. In the judgment of ones seniors, since being tenured, has a person notably extended his professionally significant skills and capacities, thus creating a reasonable expectation that the work of his professional maturity will be significantly better, more fruitful, than that of his professional apprenticeship? I think much can be said in favor of this criterion as one worthy of general adoption, for its effects would be constructive both in encouraging a person's intellectual vocation and in stewarding a community of scholars. Further, I have internalized something like this criterion as the one controlling much of my effort. At 41 I have some 30 years, plus or minus as the fates may be, to bring to fruition the best work that I can mount through such a determination to develop my abilities. I do not introduce this criterion, however, to plead my case on special grounds, but rather for precisely the opposite reason, namely, that, whether I like it or not, I have been a special case in which perplexities about my development vitiate my possible claims to significant performance. To make my claims for achievement, I must speak to both performance and development in such a way that the two matters cannot be merged in one mixed and damaging decision. I begin with actual accomplishments.
As I see it, the most significant area, with respect to my potential promotion, and to me professionally, is that of scholarly publication. To think and to write is what I like best; I can do it well; expectations about my prospects as an academic writer have been high; here, I sense, the doubts about my development lie: why have I not followed my book on Ortega with a second such performance? D'accord, my shortest route to making unquestionable my least evident arrival would have been to publish more than I have of late, at least a little book—it matters not how absurd, crabbed, trivial, it may be—or a few more substantial articles; let it be something, anything, to prove that the first effort has not left me burnt out, that I have not since suffered from monumental writer's block. It seems so simple, yet simple is it not: I will not prostitute those capacities that I hold most essential merely to publish something to make promotion unquestionable. I have written much in the past ten years, but published little—there is neither burn out nor writer's block, but a process of testing, experiment, self-criticism, and search: where it leads time alone will tell. A review of that writing, the published and unpublished, will follow anon in its proper place. I have written much and published little, experimented and criticized and filed away numerous pieces, because I find no model of the academic writer I seek to be and no ready vehicles for the publication of what I aim to write. That I have chosen not to finish some pieces I have started; equally, that I have chosen not to publish some pieces I have finished: these choices are not relevant in determining the quality of my published corpus. I stake my claim: by the criterion of professionally significant arrival I long ago met the requirements for promotion with respect to publication.
Until now I have not rightly sought credit where credit is due. I have a corpus, still to grow, the center of which to date has been one large, solid book. I have been unabashedly critical of Man and His Circumstances: Ortega as Educator; such self-criticism has been essential to my further development, but also highly prejudicial to the proper assessment of my accomplished performances. I have wanted to go beyond the Ortega book, to write works very different and much more difficult. And until I began to reflect on the enunciated criterion for promotion, I assumed that the book was irrelevant, for, after all, it already had entered, as a work in press, into my promotion to associate professor and my review for tenure. So dismissing its relevance, however, makes sense only with reference to the criterion of development, with respect to which Man and His Circumstances serves merely as a starting-point in a struggle for renewed growth in which I try to move substantially beyond what I there attained. But I do my performance a grave injustice by not taking this book into account. On the academic performance-ladder, one first demonstrates "promise," then "significant achievement," and finally "professionally significant arrival." If my first book, in its various stages from larva to pupa to adult, is good enough to carry the burden of each of these demonstrations of achieved performance, then it should serve as such.
[*] In the Post Script, I give a fuller review of the reception of Man and His Circumstances: Ortega as Educator. For Wohl's remark, as well as certain reservations about the book, see Robert Wohl, The Generation of 1914 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979), p.268, n. 1.
[†] My writing of the last ten years, published and unpublished, is available as supporting documentation in Binder B. (B1, B2,...) gives the section of the binder in which the piece referred to can be found.
When I was reviewed for tenure, Man and His Circumstances was in page proof, if I remember correctly. As such it could evidence significant achievement, but whether it would evidence my professionally significant arrival as an academic writer was then entirely moot, for it was then unknown how relevant reference groups would receive the published book. Since the tenure review and the actual publication of the book, it has achieved a status, which can properly be described, I think, as one of having, in a professionally significant sense, arrived. Someone as prominent as Salvador de Madariaga said of it in Los Domingos de ABC, "Suffice [for my point] the excellent book by Professor McClintock, which every student and follower of Ortega must read" (9/30/73, p. 7). The English educational critic, G.H. Bantock, has seen fit to deal with it with some care, albeit critically, as is his wont, but also respectfully, as he saw was its due. The book was reviewed carefully in German by the educational historian Günther Böhme, as well as in diverse American journals. A prominent intellectual historian, Robert Wohl, has recently described it as "the best guide in English to Ortega's life and the literature about him." On the strength of it, the University of Chicago Press invited me to edit a book of essays on Ortega, an invitation I turned down, and also on the strength of it, I have had several invitations to speak on Ortega, only one of which, last summer, have I accepted. In response to it, The New Republic commissioned a piece from me for its prestigious "Reconsiderations" series (B8), which I wrote, and publishers have asked me to translate Ortega further, which I have declined to do. Whether I like it or not, I have become the American authority on Ortega.
[‡] I am aware that some may grant my arrival through the book but question the professional significance of that. I will show clearly in the Post Script that the book is held to be significant by people of the educational profession and by people not of it but concerned with it, among others. To hold my arrival with the Ortega book to be not professionally significant in the face of such evidence would be to read my work and those who respond to it as professionally significant out of the profession. To be sure, I do hold that an academic community in extreme situations faced with fundamentally dangerous ideas does have a responsibility to identify those dangerous ideas as beyond the pale and to give convincing, public reasons for so doing—with due process and an equally public opportunity for those propounding the offensive ideas to meet the criticisms mounted against them. An argument of professional irrelevance or professional perniciousness made in camera, with no intention to uphold it in public, one made in the face of prima facie evidence of professional relevance and value, would seem to me, however, to be an intolerable invasion of other people's freedom to teach and to learn.
Clearly, with Man and His Circumstances, I arrived as a writer; clearly with my frequent rejection of resultant opportunities I refused to stay put in the secure niche at which I had arrived. The arrival is a matter of achieved performance, to be dealt with as such; the refusal to stay put is a matter of my development, to be dealt with at length below. Here my achieved performance is the question and my basic claim is simple: my book on Ortega is a publication that has not merely shown "promise," nor simply "significant achievement," but one that has further, in a professionally significant sense, "arrived." One should not say, in effect, "tant pis little fellow, it is nevertheless a first book and first books don't count with respect to promotion to full professor; you 'arrived' but you did it ahead of schedule and therefore we won't believe it unless you do it again." Such reasoning would subject me to double jeopardy in this domain, it would require in my case, and only in my case, that I prove capable of a second coming.
I claim, therefore, to have met, by the early to mid 1970's, the enunciated criterion for promotion with respect to publication. During the mid 1970's I claim to have met it with respect to the other three domains—teaching, and service to the profession and the College. Briefly, I will review my case in these three areas, beginning with teaching. During the past decade my teaching has matured: in a professionally significant sense I here too have arrived. The short courses I give on Rousseau, Marx, Nietzsche, Weber, and Freud draw a respectable enrollment and have a significant content, and I have even attracted substantial enrollments for such short on figures with less contemporary cachet but of no less significance in substance—Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Locke. In the mid 1970's, my doctoral students started to complete their degrees, and I have been able, under adverse recruiting and placement conditions, to attract, guide, and place a modest flow Of students interested in the intellectual history of Western education. Most important, with respect to the domain of teaching, I have demonstrated sufficient breadth of competence, adaptability, and, if you will, modest charisma, to have reasonable confidence that I will be able to carve out for myself in the College and the University adequate pedagogical niches, thus ensuring that I will be able to do my part in dealing with the instructional vicissitudes that we will have to face. Evidence of this: the way I was able to step, unbidden, into the seriously deteriorated situation in the politics and education program, helping considerably to prevent an intellectually sound and fiscally productive program from going down the tubes. Without diminishing my role in the history and education program, I ran an aggressive search for a political scientist, articulated a potential side of my teaching that can fit constructively into the politics and education program, and helped move students in the program to completion. All this—adequate College-wide appeal, sound doctoral mentorship, and pedagogical adaptability—I take as ostensible signs that I have arrived in a professionally significant sense in my role as a teacher.
Likewise, I make the same claim with respect to service to the profession, even though in this area I have not aggressively sought opportunities to perform. Nevertheless, since my last promotion, I have delivered papers at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions (B12), at the American Educational Research Association (B20), at the Pädagogikseminar of the University of Frankfurt (B23), and at a symposium jointly sponsored by the Syracuse School of Education and its School of Library Service (cf. B27). In addition I have recently given a series of three lectures at New York University (B46) and was the principal speaker at a three-day symposium at the University of San Francisco (B47). Most recently I have become a member of the Advisory Committee for a project on Independent Scholars sponsored by The College Board and funded by FIPSE. Most important in this domain, however, was my service, for the better part of 1976, as a significant member of the immediate staff of the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, David Mathews. In this capacity, I participated, on a more or less daily basis, in policy discussions at the highest level across the whole range of issues pertinent to HEW, from questions concerning the long-term fiscal integrity of the Social Security system, from problems of hospital cost containment, from dilemmas of genetic engineering, of welfare dependency, of civil rights enforcement, of how to keep the letter of laws and regulations from countermanding the intent of desegregation policies, of how to cajole officialdom to communicate in plain English, to the impossible problem of how a temporary head gives significant leadership to a mammoth, public organization of permanent employees and ensures their genuine responsiveness to the diverse publics they serve. During this time I helped organize and fully participated in a major national conference on higher education, a regional conference on human services, and numerous internal HEW conferences in Washington and major regional offices on problems of bureaucratic responsiveness to citizen participation and the complexities of clients' needs (cf. B31). All this—the various papers and other engagements, as well as the work at HEW—constitutes clear evidence that I have, in a significant way, arrived with respect to professional service, and to me this arrival is particularly noteworthy because I did not actively seek opportunities in this area. Normally such opportunities do not fall in the lap of an historian of European educational and political thought; they have in my case and I have been able to rise to the occasion to make good use of them.
To complete the case for my arrival: when I was promoted to associate professor and tenured, service to the College was a complete void in my record. I had done nothing more than attend departmental meetings with modest regularity. In the mid-1970's I decided to become active with respect to College-wide questions. For the academic year 1975-76, I served in the College Policy Council and was Chairman of the College Relations Committee. In this capacity, I initiated and drafted a fairly substantial, thoughtful report on the relation between the faculty's capacity to exert national educational leadership and the College's capacity to raise endowment funds (B28). In this report, we proposed certain efforts that came to little, although I still think that in principle there was, and is, much to them. In 1977-78 and 1978-79, I again served in the College Policy Council and was an active member of the Faculty Caucus. For the latter group, during the Fall of 1977, I wrote a substantial report on the TC budget situation (B37). This report was, I think, a useful, needed, and effective analysis, the direct results of which were marginal, although the indirect effects of it were, I believe, very significant. At an important time, it disseminated a broader, more realistic comprehension of the College's fiscal situation. In doing so, it provided a great deal of common ground, at a time when such common ground was needed. Further, it helped establish the rationale for significant changes in long-term policy directions, and it facilitated transforming a confrontational, unproductive acrimony surrounding budgetary questions in the CPC into a more productive, cooperative effort to take significant initiatives centered in the faculty. The following year, during 1978-79, I was chairman of the Agenda Committee, and during the past and present academic years I have been—ho hum—one of the College's two elected representatives to the Columbia University Senate, serving on its Committee on Education. In short, I have performed virtually every role in faculty self-governance, performed well; hence in this domain, too, I think I have clearly evidenced professionally significant arrival.
To me, this brief review of my accomplishments, of my potential arrival according to an impersonal standard of performance, shows that I should have been promoted to full professor at the latest by the Spring of 1978. But I am an interested observer and what has in fact happened clearly contradicts my judgment; hence I ask myself why I have not been promoted. I think nothing concerning my performance as a teacher has to do with my not having been promoted, unless by chance, only my Fall enrollments are looked at when the question is considered—the College's data producers do habitually take the Fall as a surrogate for the whole year, a practice which in my individual case will create a deceptive impression. Be that as it may, I'm well convinced that I have been held promotable with respect to my work as a teacher. The problem must have been in the other areas. What was this problem? I suspect simply this: with respect to publication I have been unconsciously held in double jeopardy—I must arrive a second time for the book on Ortega will not count—while my evident service to the profession and the College has been unconsciously discounted through a judgment—probably correct but probably improper, given the task of impersonally assessing accomplishment—that whatever I have done or will do in these areas is not significant because it is, as such, irrelevant to the inner man in me.
I have already explained my feelings about double jeopardy with my publications; I should here explain my sense that my other accomplishments, those in service of the profession and the College, have been unconsciously discounted. This discounting resulted, I think, from a reaction to the manner in which I have pursued these activities, combined with a friendly judgment, made by people who think they know me fairly well, that the really important things that I might do in my work, the really significant activities to me as a person, do not fall within these domains. With respect to service to the profession and the College, my performances have been difficult to anticipate. Sometimes I did these things without fitting consistency; I have been unpredictable—either a very good committee member or a very bad committee member: rarely have I seemed to hit the seemly mean. When asked to serve on this or that, I have often delivered either considerably more or considerably less than what was expected. Confronted with such behavior, intelligent people who have known me for many years have asked themselves what is really going on. They have probably concluded, probably rightly, that service to the College was not really what I have been doing even though what I did may have been of service to the College. Somehow it has seemed that I have been playing my own game for which the College happens to be a suitable sidewalk; I'm testing, experimenting, at what nobody has been exactly sure.
Such an assessment is at least in part correct. Analyzing budgets is not my prime passion. I do not aspire to manage HEW or any other large organization. I find committee meetings hopelessly wasteful of intelligence and energy. I do not do these things for their own sake, for the sake of the College or the profession, but because I want to test something in them and in me. As a result, no more private side of me exists than my apparently public activity. I do not object that others try to make such judgments, that they try to penetrate beneath the surface, to begin to approach the real springs of what I am about; rather I welcome such efforts for through them substance can develop in our rhetoric of collegiality. I do object, however, when such efforts enter unsystematically, probably even unconsciously, into a putatively objective assessment of external achievements. Either I should be assessed on the publicly apparent, face value of my work—given what this man has done, does it amount to a professionally significant arrival?—or my inner development should be probed au fond—given that this man has demonstrated significant achievement, can he convince us that he is in the process of driving himself to a substantially more complex, productive level of significant achievement that we can expect to unfold in the maturity of his career?
We come here to an important transition. I have spoken to the impersonal question of performance, showing how, in my view at any rate, a review of the ostensible achievements should have resulted several years ago in the recognition of a professionally significant arrival. I think I have met that standard, or whatever legal-rational standard it approximates, if it can be applied to my case in the precise spirit of legal-rationality. But when I simply present my accomplished work in its various dimensions on the assumption that a repertory of performances will be objectively measured against clearly defined, consistently applied requirements for promotion, I engender, I fear, numerous doubts about my development, for the accomplished work looks different than what those receiving it learned long ago to expect. Owing to this disjunction between actuality and expectation, the assessment comes to turn, not on the work and its quality relative to the standard, but on why it differs from what my seniors once expected and what that difference implies about my inner development. And here, precisely where the question turns ad hominem—"What on earth happened to the good ol' Robbie?"—I have been left in the deliberations without a voice. To regain that voice, should this diagnosis be accurate, I have been setting forth my alternative, or complementary, criterion of development. Should questions about my professional development have been entering into my senior colleagues' assessment of my performance, they should straightforwardly adopt a standard of development and ask that I give an account of my growth relative to it. Anticipating that request, I open the black box as fully as I can, so that a clean, legal-rational judgment of its actual performance again becomes possible.
To approach this potential development properly, let us begin at the heart of the matter, the question of publication. If there is something special to me, it is or will be in what I have written and will write. Ten years ago, the expectations were that I would move forward to become an academic writer of real prominence. My teaching has worth as a backdrop, a foundation for what I might do as a writer; everything else gets discounted as tangential to what I expect of myself and what others, believing they know me, expect of my writing. That I pick important subjects, write about them well, and build up a corpus that must be contended with: that I hold important, and that has been expected of me. My apparent failure to fulfill that expectation raises questions, not necessarily about my performance, but about my development. As far as anyone can see I have made no progress in the direction of winning further prominence as an academic writer. My recent publications are not negligible; yet all the same, they are thin relative to my performance in the past, and I have accumulated numerous unfinished and unpublished manuscripts. I have appeared reasonably stable in the development of my teaching; but with everything else, I may well have appeared to be careening first here and then there, endlessly starting projects, completing a very few of them, dropping most half drafted, wasting all sorts of effort compulsively engaging myself in activities that those, who putatively know me, judge trivial to my real work. Such appearances engender doubts about my inner development, which I aim to explain, but to do so is no simplistic matter. Before turning to particulars, I need to set forth certain concerns, certain recognitions, a self-imposed limiting principle, and certain drives, all of which I find compelling relative to my task of self-development. Only after explaining these concerns, these recognitions, this limiting principle, and these drives, can I turn to my efforts during the past ten years and to their significance to my growth as a scholar.
Yes!—My basic concern is to write, but not to write just any thing, but to write certain things that have certain effects, ones that I believe are important. In writing the most difficult art is to write so that a work has the intended effect. I have sorely criticized my book on Ortega because, outside of isolated instances, it failed to have the intended effect, not, I concluded, because of perversities in its readers and non-readers, but because of fundamental flaws in the book relative to my intent. The easy way out, the tactic adopted above—give up the intent and declare the work a glorious success on whatever grounds come to hand. With respect to the question of arrival, I happily do so and have solid grounds for it, but with respect to that of my continued development, to do so would be to give up entirely too much entirely too quickly. Know you do not know; recognize that every "arrival" is no real arrival, but a prelude, a brief rest before the morrow's journey.
In writing Man and His Circumstances, my capacities, my knowledge, my art, my daring were all inadequate for effecting the intent I had. Having come to recognize that my first big effort fell far short of the one needed, I see no prudence in merely doing the book again, with the milieu, characters, and topics suitably altered, but the capacities, knowledge, art, and daring behind the effort essentially on the plateau that had already been attained. Rather, my truly prudent course was to set out to develop myself further: deepening my knowledge, sharpening my skills, extending my reach, searching above all for a more effective form. All this I have tried to do; all this I perhaps have done, or at least I have made real progress at it. Without yet being able to say precisely how I will effect the intent, I am much closer to being able to do so now than I was ten years ago. But this cannot be very clear yet, for I have merely announced a consistent intent without either stating what it is or explaining what I mean through a bare statement of it.
To state this intent, let us reflect. Somewhere Nietzsche said that man was the most powerful animal because he had the largest memory. In doing so Nietzsche gave a neat, rather original, definition of the uniqueness of man among the animals, and he pointed to an important matter for anyone who might aspire to serve the education of the public: we need to cultivate the human capacity to remember much well. Now a good, capacious memory consists not simply in an endless storeroom crammed with an infinite clutter. A good memory, in contrast to a bad memory, is one that can recall, clearly and efficiently, the appropriate ideas and information, to bring them to bear with constructive effect on the matter at hand. But—we live in an Alexandrian age in which our capacity for publicly useful, good memory seriously decays, not because we are failing to preserve our cultural heritage, but because, in the heat of events, be they world politics or a trivial annoyance, we cannot effectively recall it. We store anything and everything, but retrieving the right thing and giving force to it at the appropriate moment, making it a useful, comprehended, conscious presence in the public domain, has become extremely difficult. An example, to which we may return: our present-day recovery and preservation of classical history and culture infinitely excels that achieved in the eighteenth century, but our present-day ability to use our comprehension of classical culture and history in the conduct of public life falls infinitely short of that attained in the era of democratic revolutions.
I want my writing to serve this intent: it should be an effective agent for recalling to public awareness selected elements of our heritage; it should so recall these elements that awareness of them becomes a useful resource in the conduct of public life. Here is, I believe, the mission of the cultural historian: to recall to public awareness the appropriate parts of our cultural heritage that people need at hand in their historical juncture to deal more effectively with the issues that press upon them. To do this one must be sharply savvy about current issues, deeply knowledgeable about the tradition, confidant and acute in critical selection, alert to the nuances of timing, powerful and persuasive in artistry. I'm not sure that this intent can in fact be achieved, by me at any rate; but I do know that this intent must be pursued by people like myself; otherwise a most important, basic human capacity—a good, working, shared memory—will fall further into decay. Hence, I have resolved to pursue this intent to the best of my capacity.
To exemplify what this intent entails, note that I will pursue it at every occasion that presents itself, including this one. It requires of me in this letter that I not simply state my case for promotion well. In requires that I do it in such a way that pertinent, useful concepts from our heritage are recalled effectively to the minds of us all, recalled in such a way that these concepts will be brought to bear, improving the exercise of authority in our collegial activities. Our conduct of life within the College well exemplifies the general incapacity of us all, as we are caught up in the relentless flow of activities, to stand back and reflect, to remember useful resources at the appropriate time, so that they can be used in the press of business. All my senior colleagues know the conceptual distinctions that I have been insinuating throughout this letter. All of us from time to time incant the name of Weber, but he is not there in living, working memory as a messy situation festers on, not only in my case but in many others as well.
Promotion is a classic instance of the exercise of legitimate authority. The College has, in the not so distant past, changed the rules and practices, the standards, or something, governing promotion to full professor, in effect changing it from a step that was more or less automatic, and therefore generally unquestioned, into something far from automatic and therefore into something that will be observed and questioned. This change has been effected without appropriate care for its legitimation. The new standards have been obscurely articulated; they spring not from tradition, not from public, objective agreement. Legitimation of them has been left absent-mindedly to the charisma of groups that lack the charisma needed if junior faculty members are to internalize the standards simply through inspiration from their seniors' luminous examples. Procedures of promotion, in short, can be improved by better memory, by the effective recall of appropriate ideas from our heritage, a recall that will clarify problems in the exercise of this authority and help it bear better fruit in our life.
If I can, through this letter, provoke others to recall what they know, to bring this knowledge to bear on a problematic situation so that they can deal with it more effectively than they are at present, then I will have, in this bit of writing, fulfilled my proper mission as a cultural historian. To achieve my basic intent here as a writer, I must so put my case that it recalls to your minds ideas through which you will see that the authority you are exercising is being perceived to have dubious legitimacy, which you need to correct. I need to bring back into operation concepts by which you will recognize the entailments. If you must rely on charisma, then you must reach into yourselves and somehow become more charismatic. If you will rely on legal-rationality, then you will become clear, public, consistent, and explicit. If you should articulate tradition, the great tradition, the ideal of Lehrfreiheit und Lernfreiheit, then you should discuss and counsel with sensitivity and openness. And if you might somehow combine all three in an efflorescence of coherent humanity, ah! then..., then we will have a great and truly collegial College.
Perhaps the sermon is out of place—my apologies; I mean it to illustrate the intent and the difficulty of achieving it. To speak compellingly to a problematic situation, one that is real, concrete, in the world; to recall actively to mind, for those engaged in the situation, cultural resources that seem to me to be of probable value in mastering events; to provoke the will, the energy, the intelligence, needed to overcome the drift: such is the intent. But I do not want to do that only within narrow circles of friends. The public memory is the memory that is most cluttered, paralyzed, untrained, uninformed, and sorely incapable of effective, appropriate recall. Issues before the public are ones in which historical memory must be active in the process of decision or else we will wander into the brave new world as barbarian bands with neither culture nor character. But here, in the attempt to activate public memory, the intent becomes very, very difficult. To break into the public awareness, selectively, intentionally, takes great energy and art. In this aspect of the matter, I had to recognize that there are no models, no well-charted courses to follow. I saw that my book on Ortega did not simply fall short of the intended goal, but in a much more radical sense, it failed even to point toward it. It was not a problem of inadequate sales, inadequate attention to it; had it been a best-seller it would have surely failed, for whether read by few or by many, the stuff it carried was such that it would largely sit inert in well-stocked minds, inactive in their conduct of life. My careening from this to that resulted from my search for a solution to this problem: deepen my knowledge, improve my skills, and penetrate the ways of the world, while I find the artist in me.
Following publication of my book on Ortega, certain recognitions about the difficulty of actually executing my basic intent dawned on me. I recognized that to be effective in recalling selected ideas to public awareness, one needs to choose carefully the ostensible subject of a work and the literary form adopted for its presentation. In the Ortega book, I had tried to write something more than a book about Ortega via a book the ostensible subject of which was simply Ortega, and I essentially accepted as a given the established form of intellectual biography, which I tried to make as capacious, expansive as possible. Relative to my intent of writing so that certain ideas regain their working currency in the shared effort to deal with the problems of public life, my choice of subject and form was inappropriate. The choice of subject meant that the book would primarily reach only those aware of having a pre-existing interest in the ostensible subject, and the choice of form entailed that for the most part a reading of the book would result primarily in my speaking only to that pre-existing interest. On finishing Man and His Circumstances and recognizing its deficiencies, the compelling task ceased to be that of getting on with my work, and became that of figuring out how to get on with it. And in this search I recognized that I was on my own. A variety of more mature writers—Walter Kaufmann, Jürgen Habermas, Daniel Bell, Robert Nisbet, Jacques Barzun, Lawrence Cremin, Alvin Gouldner, Jacques Ellul, Hannah Arendt, and many, many others—could serve as inspirations to the effort, but none provided a ready model clearly showing me how to proceed.
Thus my basic recognition: in pursuing my mission as a cultural historian, I had to discover creatively how to proceed, to solve imaginatively the crucial problems of defining the essential subject about which I would write and of finding the truly effective form for writing about that subject in a sound, compelling manner. I had to search, and in that search, I have adopted an important limiting principle. Over the years, I have reflected on a certain amount of information theory. That theory calls attention to the problem of noise: to communicate efficiently and effectively, noise must be minimized. The problem of noise besets our networks of thoughtful, scholarly communication, and I believe that whoever earnestly aspires to participate in those networks assumes, as a responsibility entailed by that aspiration, a duty to refrain from contributing to the noise. The categorical imperative of scholarly publication: publish only that of which one can say sincerely that if everything else on the subject was in an instant lost forever a full and just knowledge of the subject would survive through this work alone. It is a scandal, terrible and destructive, that academic procedures of evaluation reward unnecessary publication, encouraging all to rush everything they can into print, creating an academic din in which little can be heard, either well or clearly.
To be sure, I am aware that the limitation I have just voiced is an example of precisely that reaction which enables bad money to drive out good when debased coinage freely circulates. But I am also aware that Gresham's Law points to the necessary solution: one must work to revalue the currency on a sound foundation. I believe we need to revalue the currency of scholarship. With that end in mind, I take this occasion of my own promotion review most seriously, and with that end in mind, I have tried to shy away, in my search for the right subject and the proper form, from overly easy answers. To me, in order to revalue the currency of scholarship, we each and all need again to learn that in our careers as publishing scholars and thinkers we properly seek to climb a ladder of ascending aspiration. We aim first to write one good book, a book that meets the imperative stated above, that does solid justice to its subject. We then aspire to write a truly original and powerful work, one that commands the attention of its ideal audience of readers and makes them think productively, afresh about matters of real significance. And then, those who accomplish this prior aspiration should reach for the topmost rung, to write a work of world-historical significance, one that not only commands the attention of the present, but equally restructures the valuation of the past and wins the enduring respect of the future. I think I have written my good book, and I still tread the road preparatory to attempting my truly original and powerful book, aspiring to the second rung.
Before describing my preparatory road as I have so far traversed it, I want to introduce one further set of reflections, some consideration of the way we walk a path when uncertain of our destination. Here we come to the matter of drives, the basic, vital impulses that give rise to self-development. Genuine inquiry and self-development is still a mystery: if we know what we are looking for why are we looking, and if we do not know what we are looking for, how can we look? To me, at any rate, the best language for talking about this mysterious process is still that of Socrates and Plato. In order to describe the process of my self-development over the past ten years, I want to introduce their concepts, particularly those of Eros and the daimōn, for through these concepts, I see some sense and progress in what I have been doing.
These concepts, Eros and the Daimon, lead to a sophisticated description of trial and error. It is sophisticated because they describe how the pursuit of particular trials relevant to a perceived problem is generated and how the probability of prospective error is recognized prior to the experience of a disaster that will avert both the trial and the possibility of further trial. A process of truly random trial and error, one not modulated by anticipations of impending error, one not structured by an attraction to a particular, potential trial, a trial desired for its promise of possible fulfillment, would always consist in an initiation of spastic, unrestrained, violent behavior ended abruptly by the error of inadvertent self-destruction. The rat in a maze seeks food at the end, but along the way, at each parting of the path, it must somehow feel attracted to one possibility rather than the other, attracted to a certain beauty perceived in the chosen path, an intimation of potential fulfillment sensed in it. Likewise, from time to time, the mute beast must respond to some equivalent to an inward, warning voice—caution, my friend; this path looks alluring, but you've seen the like before and be sure it will trip you with troubles. Now the Platonic Eros is the psychologically immediate recognition of a potential fulfillment through something one perceives, a compelling attraction to make a trial of that perceived possibility. And the Socratic Daimon, far from being the moralized conscience it is often mistaken for, is a recognition, as psychologically immediate and compelling as Eros, that the potential trial should be avoided or ended because the fulfillment it promises will be false, excessive, or destructive.
Let us take an elementary example. We are conversing in the cafeteria; I'm alert to your expression as we talk. An attractive woman walks a path in my peripheral field of vision; my gaze, directed by Eros turns to attend to her briefly, contemplating a certain potential fulfillment I see through her. No sooner has Eros acted, however, to postulate the trial, the Daimon counter-acts, not to the woman, declaring her ugly, dumb-looking, or what have you, but to the postulated trial, intuiting it compellingly to be fraught with useless error—my gaze returns, once again attracted by your expression as we talk.
Note one most important feature in this elementary example: it starts with someone in the peripheral field of vision. Our theories of consciousness, whether dealing with the stream of conscious attention or the plane of sustained concentration, do not give due weight to the analogous field of peripheral consciousness. As we are always seeing much more than that which we are looking at, we are always thinking about much more than that which we are attending to or concentrating on. The field of peripheral consciousness is essential to our cultural and intellectual creativity. Without postulating a peripheral consciousness, we cannot explain the fantastic movements that occur continuously in our conscious attention any more than we could explain the continuous shifting of our focused vision from this to that as we are ever alert to the totality of the peripheral field.
Something in us must have access to this total field of peripheral consciousness—this is first Eros, the great yea-sayer; Eros continually scans peripheral consciousness for attractive potential trials, offering us endless projects through the pursuit of which we can activate our powers. Ever yearning, ever activating, Eros fills us, each day, each instant, with a vast variety of projects, large and small, base and beautiful. Eros generates all the intents in all we do—the project of scratching my ear, of flirting with a secret love, of working, working, working on a chosen aspiration. Eros spawns all its projects from the totality of the person's psychic resources, from the whole peripheral consciousness; it is the yea-saying source of every word we utter, every move we make. But a consciousness that could merely affirm, one that could only generate projects for potential action, one endowed only with a yea-saying power, would be a consciousness bent on imminent self-destruction. Hence, there must be something else in us with access to the total field of peripheral consciousness—this is the Daimon, the great nay-sayer.
To each potential trial that Eros affirms, the Daimon will react with its own scanning of peripheral consciousness, but it will speak compellingly only against those for which it intuits the prospect of significant error. The critical power is the dependent power, dependent on the yea-saying power, not for its information, but for its reason for being. Thus Kant: "no one can think a negation determinately, save by basing it upon the opposed affirmation.... All concepts of negation are thus derivative." Eros initiates everything, affirmatively projecting from the totality of consciousness its endless urges to possibility; then and only then, to each such urge, can the Daimon speak with the compelling power of negation, should it find grounds for that through its own, independent scanning of the total peripheral consciousness. As Eros can insinuate many urges that move us without our prospective awareness of them in focused consciousness, as well as set others clearly before us in the full, impassioned articulation of purpose, so too can the Daimon whisper its warnings silently, as in the mute rat, as well as thunder them imperiously in full and focused consciousness. But for every urge Eros generates from the totality of peripheral consciousness, great and small, the Daimon will react, deciding, as it sees the totality, either to warn or not to warn, whether early or late in the process of self-activation. Those things that Eros proposes and against which the Daimon does not speak—those are the things one really seeks to do in life: they may be structured by careful planning and pruned by prudential calculation, but they are each person's chosen experiment at living.
In the course of that experiment, the cumulative interplay of Eros and the Daimon builds up an erotic structure to ones activities, a hierarchy of operative attractions. In youth, the two interact to define basic fields of interest and activity, to delimit and organize the total field of peripheral consciousness within which the person's on-going self-formation will take place. The youthful Eros exuberantly proposes diverse trials, and the Daimon, still callow, speaks late as the trials unfold, but out of it, certain firm preferences form: increasingly, the maturing youth finds particular domains of activity consistently attractive and the Daimon finds nothing to say against these favored domains, however much it may warn against particular, misconceived projects within them. Thus, in such a manner, through my youthful experiments, I have found myself with a powerful, operative attraction to the sweep of Western cultural history, as an encompassing field of interest for my conscious life, and with a drive to become a reflective writer working out of that tradition in the way described above. These have become constants of my character.
From the early 1960's until the present, my over-all field of peripheral consciousness, of my intellectual scope and concern, has remained remarkably constant. The categories, and the relation between them, organizing both my personal library of books and the library of my mind have remained stable, although what is shelved within them—in the former I'm sure, in the latter I trust—has grown steadily in weight. During the past ten years, however, within this broad field of peripheral consciousness, I have had to continue along the path of trial and error, guided by Eros and the Daimon, in the search of further self-definition. These experiments, attempted and aborted, have centered on the needs I have felt to define more effectively the problems, the basic subjects, on which I want to write, and to conceive the most compelling possible literary form for presenting such subjects to their proper public. Eros has projected many attractive, large projects of activity within my over-all interests, and I have responded to many of them until the Daimon spoke. So far, the Daimon has been insistent that nothing I have proposed will suitably allow me to deploy all my powers in the way I intend, with the result that I have backed away from many a beginning. From this pushing forward and pulling back, whatever self-development I can claim to have achieved in recent years has resulted.
One last example to show how self-development occurs from this process of trial and error. We all function, day in and day out, within working libraries filled with many more books than we will ever be able to read. Each of us is continually scanning this library as it is present in the peripheral consciousness. Eros will attract one, at a particular moment, to the project of reading this rather than that. Sometimes the Daimon will speak against the projected reading, sometimes not, and those books not vetoed will be read. As one reads, Eros will propose subsidiary projects—attend to this closely, or hurry through, or take notes, or check this against that, or what have you. Again the Daimon will or will not speak against each such possibility: thus the book will be mastered or skimmed or studied selectively or put aside. According to how this is done, the book will re-enter peripheral consciousness in a new form, not merely as a title there in our potential awareness but as an intellectual content within that awareness, a substantive addition to all that of which one has had a particular, concrete experience. Thereafter this content will be available in the peripheral consciousness to be part of the scanning by both Eros and the Daimon in a new way, potentially enabling the former to propose more fulfilling projects, potentially enabling the latter to speak or be silent with more far-reaching foresight. Everything that one does and can hold within peripheral consciousness, I believe, becomes integrated into ones potentiality in this way as a part of ones cumulative education. For that reason, we learn from trial and error, and the value, for a life, of each particular trial should never be equated merely with the success of its outcome. I want now to describe the trials I have made, and their contribution to my cumulative education, as I have sought for a way to write work that will be of a markedly higher order of significance than that I attained in Man and His Circumstances.
First let me say something in general about the material there in my peripheral consciousness: my basic interests have been well defined since long ago—the sweep of Western cultural history. Reading projects that attract me fall within this domain, or get integrated into it as I absorb what I read. During the past ten years I have spent some time studying the history of the ancient Near East, reading in the major source collections, studying a number of the major works of scholarship, and very tentatively probing the journal literature. I have a good map of the area drawn in my mind, generally a large-scale map, however. My reading on the ancient Greeks, in contrast, has been far more intensive. I am well grounded in the sources, particularly the philosophical. I've internalized numerous scholarly studies; and I can work the journals with a vengeance for my purposes—here my mental maps are drawn to a small and detailed scale. My reading on Rome through the high middle ages has given me an awareness of the literature more detailed than that which I have for the ancient Near East, but not as minute as that I have for Greece. Of the major books, I have absorbed many, but of the sources and the journal literature, my knowledge, while not negligible, is nevertheless not systematic. My next area of intensive interest is the Italian renaissance: many of the major sources, particularly Machiavelli, I have studied extensively and intensively; I've read and reflected on the major books; I've not mastered the journal literature.
From the reformation on, it is more or less a continuous fabric, woven finer in some places, looser in others. I have a well formed understanding of the movement of political thought from the Cromwellian revolution through the American. I can claim incipient authority on Rousseau, and confidence with the English empiricists, Diderot, Kant, Goethe, Fichte, Hegel, Pestalozzi, Schleiermacher, Marx and Engels, Nietzsche, Dilthey, Weber, Freud, not to mention Ortega. European literature I have well sampled. I've read widely in the history of science, the history of communications, and the history of social thought. I have an unusually large, unusually detailed map of the twentieth-century currents of speculative and critical thought. In addition to all this, I have done fairly extensive reading, and partially integrated it into my over-all awareness, in the demographic, socio-economic history of the West, and in the major works of American political science. Over all, my peripheral consciousness is most deeply grounded in the ancient Greeks and most extensively grounded in the intellectual history of the past hundred years or so. In most everything I have written over the past ten years, a reader will find me attempting to mobilize information and ideas, acquired from these domains of study, in an attempt to inform efforts at educative and political action in the world about us.
[§] A chronological listing of these pieces, will be found following the Post Script. Most of the material is in reasonably readable form and all of it has been organized as supporting documentation in a binder, and locations for cited pieces in the text will be identified thus, (B1, B2,...), indicating the section in the binder where the piece will be found.
During the past ten years, I have written a considerable amount; I base my analysis of my development as a writer during this time on some forty-seven pieces, in varying degrees of completion, which total to some 300,000 words in length. Here, I do not want simply to run through this material, essay by essay, fragment by fragment. Rather, I want to concentrate on the process of significant development potentially apparent in all this work, however egregiously unfinished much of it may be. As I have suggested, this development has resulted through a process of testing and experiment, essay after essay in the root meaning of attempts, in which I have tried to better define my basic subjects and searched for more powerful artistic forms. Eros has driven this process as possible articulations of a subject and potential forms of literary presentation have welled forth from my peripheral consciousness and I have found myself compellingly attracted to them as potential ways to self-fulfillment. My Daimon has modulated the process, as it has spoken at one stage or another, silently but compellingly, whispering in my ear, early or late, "this isn't it, this isn't it." As yet there has resulted no fulfillment at what I truly intend; there has been no professionally significant arrival at that second rung up the ascending ladder of aspiration, a really original and powerful work. At that I am not yet discouraged, however, for I believe I have moved significantly toward the goal, as I seek here to demonstrate.
For me the problems of subject and form are integrally linked. Any project to which Eros attracts me entails writing on a particular topic in a particular way, articulating some part of my knowledge and thought with a certain art and skill as a result of which I can hope that my intent will find fulfillment. But to analyze my development, I need to separate the consideration of subject from the search for form and discuss each in turn. Now the problem of finding the right theme, the proper subject, comes down to the problem of finding those relatively inclusive, broad topics that I can address with conviction and authority out of my stock of knowledge and thought, topics that I see intersecting significantly with real problems in the conduct of life in the world in which we find ourselves. In this I have a marked preference for large topics or topics that I can treat in an expansive manner, drawing not on a special fragment of my knowledge, but on the whole of it or as much of it as I can manage. This preference goes deep—the Daimon screams at anything too narrow. This preference is a constant of my character, one that complicates my work, but one that also, perhaps, gives it a distinctive cast.
[**] My published articles from the Fall of 1971 and earlier are available in the second half of Binder A, identified (A33, A34, ...).
As a benchmark for the discussion, let me define the thematic structure I had attained in my work at approximately the time I completed Man and His Circumstances, about 1970. I had by then, pedagogically, articulated a strong interest in self-education, which I expressed most directly in important sections of that book, in my essay "On the Liberality of the Liberal Arts" (A37), and in several of my Robert Oliver pieces in the TC Record (esp. A45 & A46). In addition, my work then showed a firm interest in a cosmopolitan political vision, the basic theme of the latter half of Man and His Circumstances. This theme was also reflected in a Trans-Action article on "The Fall and Rise of Modern Europe" (A34), and in three grant proposals, essentially for the same project, written in 1968, as I began to look ahead to what I would do after finishing with Ortega (B1 & B2). Finally, I tried to link these two themes, self-education and cosmopolitanism, through a concern for the proper role of cultural institutions as the best setting both for self-education and for the actualization of a supranational, cosmopolitan environment, a link most explicitly, concisely drawn by Robert Oliver in "Towards the Separation of School and State" (A50), but apparent in my book and other essays as well.
Characteristically, my articulation of these subjects had a certain prophetic quality. We should, we shall, rediscover the value of self-education. A cosmopolitan world is looming on the horizon of history and the nation-state will increasingly be but a vestigial idea, shorn of its historic charisma. Our cultural institutions, led by the universities, will be the institutions structuring this new cosmopolitan reality, by which man's creative power, generated from the aggregate of self-education, will once again surprise the course of history. I care not to deny outright these prophecies, but the thematic development of my work in the past ten years has consisted in a sobering of these themes, in a turn from prophecy to process. This concentration on process first appeared in work devoted to the theme of self-education, which has remained a central subject in my work. The change occurred as I learned to be more attentive to the process by which self-formation occurs and less content to proclaim with oracular certainty the importance of letting it occur. Second, my concern for the role of cultural institutions also became far more concrete. It moved from a vision of those institutions as leading in a new organization of public life, to a preoccupation with the problems and possibilities of actually leading those institutions in the world as it is, within the present organization of public life. Third, the slowest to develop but probably most significant, the political theme informing my work changed profoundly from a concern for a visionary, cosmopolitan alternative to the nation-state, to a deep interest in the pedagogical implications of different modes of public organization, particularly in the educational implications of various operative definitions of the political status of the person.
These three changes in the subjects of central concern to me developed as a result of a significant shift in my intellectual orientation that occurred early in the 1970's. Up until then, I had based my theory of the relationship between education and history largely on a close study of Werner Jaeger's Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture. Jaeger taught that history is made through education as people learn various ideals that structure their aspirations and activity, and his great three-volume work gave an account of the evolution of Greek ideals from Homer through Plato and concomitant changes in life and education that correlated with this evolution. The proposals I made in 1968 for a three-volume study, "Power and Pedagogy: A Study of Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism in Western Pedagogy, 1715-1970" (B1 & B2), show clearly the dominance of Jaeger in my thinking. I sought to study the evolution of modern European political paideia. The prophetic quality pervading my work grew out of the Jaegerian conviction that educational change and a concomitant change in public life came about as thinkers and critics inspired people to alter the ideals by which they structured their aspirations. By 1970, the Daimon had begun to speak against this project, as is shown by a radically different version of it that I submitted to the Committee on Basic Research in Education at the beginning of 1971 (B3). This proposal indicated a diminished interest in the evolution of compelling ideals and a heightened curiosity about the conceptual development of different currents of thought and criticism. This change should be described with some care.
In my book on Ortega, I perpetrate an ambiguity, perhaps mine, perhaps his, perhaps both of ours, about the precise nature of the civic pedagogy I attribute to him. Sometimes I describe him as concerned primarily with the effective insinuation into public consciousness of a repertory of concepts that he judged were needed if Spaniards were to conduct their common lives more effectively. At other times I describe him as trying to change through persuasion the ideals orienting public activity in Spain and Europe. I think the facts about Ortega made me often describe him as a disseminator of concepts, but I think that up until around 1970 my own internalized sense of the historic importance of education was derived from Jaeger's work: to me the transformation of motivating ideals was the educator's essential activity. Around this time, however, I began to internalize my own study of Greek cultural history more thoroughly. I had already read Bruno Snell's Discovery of the Mind, a fair amount of the history of pre-Socratic philosophy, and major analyses of the oral tradition in Greek poetry. A friend, who had bought Moses Hadas's personal copy of Paideia, had told me that Hadas had seen fit to annotate the margins at key points with not a few swastikas. In short, the pernicious a-historicity of Jaeger's work had begun to dawn on me and the Daimon began to speak against emulation of his effort.
[††] Bruno Snell, "Review of Werner Jaeger, Paideia: Die Formung des griechischen Menschen," gelehrte Anzeigen, Vol. 197, No. 9, September 1935, pp. 329-353.
Since then I've found Bruno Snell's extended review of Jaeger's first volume, showing how Jaeger throughout anachronized, at best projecting a late Hellenistic conception of paideia back onto early Hellenic times and how, in doing that, he made it impossible to grasp within his terms the properly historic developments in the emergence of Greek thought and culture. In addition, I have read a great, great deal more and become increasingly convinced that the intellectual phenomena important in history are not ideals, whatever those may be, but concepts, the proper tools for man thinking. This is the basic change in my work over the past ten years, a change compelled in me by the Daimon, and it has led to considerable change in the way I understand my central interests in self-education, cultural institutions, and political life. The search for a better definition of subject has been an effort by Eros to redefine its interests in these three areas as an interest in concepts, not ideals.
I find it difficult to reconstruct for myself the precise chronology of this reorientation away from preoccupation with the propagation of ideals to a concern for the historic power of various concepts. I think it had taken definite root in my work by 1970 or thereabouts, although at first I was not self-consciously aware of it: that awareness built up only slowly throughout the last decade. At any rate, the intent to define my subject as the study of the historic influence and present power of concepts first appeared in a series of essays the common topic of which is the concept of self-education. In the first, a very substantial essay published at the end of 1971, "Toward a Place for Study in a World of Instruction" (B6), I tried to explain and illustrate a concept of study as the basic concept that will enable us to apprehend the human experience of education and appreciate its role in life. Through the first half I elucidated the concept historically through a flow of free-associations among past examples of men studying, and in the second half I brought the concept to bear on present possibilities, aiming to provoke more effective use of it in contemporary educative efforts.
This essay evoked some public response—it was a professionally significant arrival as a writer closely associated with Man and His Circumstances. I continued pursuing the concept of self-education along lines developed in it, most significantly through a shorter essay, written for the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, on "Universal Voluntary Study" (B12). In this, I explained what I took to be the proper purposes in state-mandated, universal, compulsory schooling and argued that these might be better attained by developing a system of state-supported institutions based on a concept of universal, voluntary study. In addition, through the first half of the decade, on several occasions I reflected on the potential uses of encyclopedias as aids to self-formation, culminating with the 1975 essay, "Enkyklios Paideia" on the 15th edition of the Britannica, written for the National Academy of Education (B27, cf. B4 & B24). I distributed to friends and colleagues in the Spring of 1977 my last major effort on self-education to date, a substantial, unpublished essay, "Man and Judgment: Studies of Educational Experience and Aspirations: A Prospectus," (B36). In earlier work on the theme, I had found the autonomous power of judgment exercised by the student to be central in self-cultivation. In this piece I reflected on the concept of judgment and its uses in life, intent on generating an ambitious set of historical inquiries into the subject. This last essay, although not at all as finely written as "Toward a Place for Study," shows considerable intellectual development with respect to the theme. The thinking combines a greater scope of reference with more restraint and control, a systematic view of the subject that more fruitfully generates further topics for inquiry. That was its problem: too fruitful, it generated an overwhelming agenda of work.
I have by no means exhausted the subject of self-education in my writing, although I have nothing further specifically devoted to it on my immediate docket, except, perhaps, for one piece, for now left unidentified, presently in progress. I have probably written enough about self-education from the distance of the tentative essay—if I take the theme up again, I should go after it without reserve or restraint. I see three ways of unreservedly addressing the theme and putting it into wide public awareness, although all three carry a high risk of failure. The first would be a knock 'em, sock 'em, wham, bang, delightfully readable, thoroughly definitive biography of Rousseau, one that would do justice to his immense powers of self-education, one that would present him with sufficient art and excitement to become a widely popular book. The second would be a volume of genuinely sensitive, thought-provoking letters to a youth on life and learning that would in effect be a moving treatise on self-education. Unfortunately this possibility cannot be written on plan according to specifications, but must somehow grow from a real and significant occasion, or it will become dull, falsely sentimental. Finally, the third possibility would consist in some extraordinary work of popularization, about which I have some preliminary concrete ideas—more on this anon.
Self-education is not, however, an isolated subject in my mind. In "Toward a Place for Study in a World of Instruction," I contended that the proper starting point for those responsible for providing formal and informal opportunities of instruction should be the assumption that the receivers of the efforts are necessarily and totally engaged in the human task of self-formation. Thus I see an integral link between an effort to clarify and accentuate the concept of self-education and the effort to give sound direction to our cultural and educational institutions. Early in the last decade, as I have mentioned, I pondered the educative functions of encyclopedias, and in "Universal Voluntary Study" and the brief essay, "Some Thoughts on 'Permanent Education"' (B16), I discussed the over-all structure of educational institutions designed to take full account of the pedagogical initiative exercised by students. During my sabbatical in the academic year 1974-75, I reflected at length on problems of academic leadership in post-Hitlerian Germany, and summarized my conclusions for myself in the draft essay-letter, "Reflections on German Higher Education" (B25).
Two developments in the middle of the decade contributed to a rather sharp shift in the way I handled this subject. The first occurred in my sabbatical and is described in the draft just mentioned (B25): I realized I was an American, not a European, academic, and this disposed me to engage myself more in the concrete issues of academic leadership I found in my immediate surroundings. In another piece I composed then, in German, a lecture given at the Pädagogikseminar, "Über Horace Mann" (B23), I suggested a rather sophisticated rehabilitation of Mann's work in the face of revisionist critiques. I pointed out that indeed Mann had a two-faced rhetoric, one message for the rich and one for the poor, a two-facedness that had bothered me since 1962 when I first read Mann. The automatic assumption that such rhetoric belied bad-faith had come to seem too facile to me. I insisted that one had to entertain the possibility, however difficult it might be in the face of our prevailing skepticism, that this two-facedness was an important reforming strategy. Perhaps Mann aimed, not to control the poor in the service of the rich, but rather to control the rich in the service of the poor. His pedagogy, which was genuinely liberal, based on the assumption of the self-active student, one designed to maximize that self-active quality, was one not at all adapted to the mere maintenance of the given order of wealth and status and was irrational if he really meant to control the poor in the service of the rich. I concluded therefore that his two-facedness actually disclosed an artfully progressive Bildungspolitik, one still quite relevant to post-industrial conditions of life. This position represented a considerable reversal for me on Horace Mann, and it opened the way for me to consider an activist, as distinct from an exclusively critical, role with respect to American educational issues.
On my return to the United States, a second development occurred through my recognition that constraint was settling heavily on cultural and educational institutions, with the result that the avenues to significant initiative were drastically narrowing. If under conditions of constraint there was to be an outlet for my ideas about the proper function of educational institutions, it would arise primarily as I acted on concrete issues in my immediate environment. This shift was evident in my increased participation in academic self-governance and the various resultant reports (B28 & B37), in my curiosity about the managing of HEW (B29, B30, B31, B33, & B35), and in my brief credo, "In Defense of Ideas" (B40). Conditions of constraint required, it seemed, defensive initiatives: in the long-run that will flourish which weakens the least. Defend the curriculum, the intellectuality of people teaching; mobilize as best one can the dwindling resources for the preservation of cultural substance; maintain, as much as possible, good conditions for people seriously studying. As long as the present situation of general constraint lasts, grave problems will impede expansive, active efforts with respect to the missions of educating institutions. Hence, in times of constraint, as simple defensive prudence, one needs to speak out compellingly for that which one thinks is right, necessary, or productive, but this will be best done, not according to an over-all blueprint for reform, but simply as the occasion at hand seems concretely to require it.
During the decade, I have made one further important change in my general thinking, a change which has affected both how I view the importance of self-education and what I take the proper aims of cultural institutions to be. This change affected what I have tried to do with respect to educational leadership, and I am still in the process of elaborating positions with respect to proper educational policies that I think follow from it. Hence, I should explain the change with some care. Up until about 1970, Eros strongly attracted me to articulate an active negation of therapeutic modes of thinking. To be sure, I held as a principle that passionate negations were suspect, but I had great difficulty bringing this principle to bear on my passionate negation of the therapeutic: I think now I was simply drawn to rationalizing through it certain deep-seated evasions I wanted to preserve. By the therapeutic, I mean first inquiry into causalities that operate within, and on, a person in ways held to be destructive of the person's development and second efforts based on such inquiry to alter the operation of the causalities by inducing social and psychological change. I would passionately contend that inquiry into such causalities was irrelevant, for, in my Jaegerian manner, ideals were what counted; historic improvement developed as people altered these, not as people altered diverse conditioning etiologies.
Early in the decade, the Daimon began to speak on this matter; negation was its business, not that of Eros. My work on self-education made me confront the question of the teacher's proper role, if self-formation was the driving force of education. I had given up my Jaegerian errors. I had started my courses on Rousseau, Marx, and Freud, three great therapeutic thinkers, and began to see how basic to modern Western criticism the therapeutic outlook has been. The little essay, "Pestalozzi" (B21), represents something of a break-through for me in 1974, when I broke away from the passionate denial of the therapeutic. This helped me articulate a two-fold mission for the professed educator. The first responsibility is the substantive one, to present the best possible selection from the cultural resources, inviting people studying to acquire it. The second responsibility is the therapeutic one, to help the student, as much as one possibly can, clear away impediments, both internal and external, to the successful pursuit of study. This view of the task, I expressed most concisely in 1976 in the talk, "On the Conditions of Acquiring Culture" (B32). See to it that the curriculum offered for study is as intellectually nourishing as it can possibly be and see to it that the blockages inhibiting its effective study are as minimal as they can possibly be. These are the goals of sound educational policy; these have been the goals of the initiatives I have sought to take within College affairs. We cannot stand by as economic and demographic constraint ineluctably erodes the capacity of the faculty to offer a stimulating curriculum, infused with as much cultural substance as possible. We cannot let those same constraints sap potential students' will to study and raise mounting financial barriers impeding those who do still have the will to study from acting fully on it.
Most recently, I have worked on a book that grows out of this view of educational policy, Rousseau and American Educational Scholarship (B44), an extended essay on the intellectual foundations of the proper study of education. In essence the argument is fairly simple: if the proper goals of educational policy are as I have described, then American educational scholarship needs profoundly to reform itself, for not only does it habitually ignore the important questions, it more radically lacks the intellectual skills needed to address them consequentially. The curricular problem I take to consist, not merely in finding the most artful way to organize a given body of material so that it may be learned easily, but rather in selecting, with good reasons, from the totality of possibilities, those cultural achievements that can be, with maximal effort, feasibly studied and that will, for those who acquire them, prove most fruitful in their conduct of life. The therapeutic problem I take to consist, not merely in finding those techniques for adroitly spoon-feeding knowledge into empty minds, but rather in mounting a politically effective, economically feasible, socially acceptable, and psychologically compelling critique of all those conditions out there in the world, and in there within schools and other educative agencies, that impede or block or distort people's efforts to acquire character and culture and to give shape to their lives, private and public.
From these remarks one should infer that I want Rousseau and American Educational Scholarship to serve as my scholarly manifesto. In it I want to chart a line of work that I feel should not merely be something, amongst many other things, done in schools of education. It should—if educational scholarship is to reach its full potential—become fundamental to everything done throughout those schools and central in their relation to the larger world of pedagogical practice. My work on this study has slowed, however, because the Daimon has begun to utter warnings, not that the views are wrong, but that the time for expressing them with effect may not be at hand. The discussion shall return to these warnings below. Suffice it here to observe that I have had to face somewhat uncomfortably a certain conflict. I am sure it would be good for me professionally, in a narrow sense of self-advancement, to publish this study. But I am also aware that my sense of its personal timeliness may be confusing my thinking about its public timeliness. Publicly it may be the right time to publish such a manifesto, as schools of education, under pressure of constraint, look for a better sense of purpose. But then, publicly, it may be precisely the wrong time, as the manifesto will demand that schools of education significantly extend their intellectual reach and the constraints may make such recruitment of new ideas and the people who command them into schools of education seem impossibly difficult. Hence I have been wondering whether the would-be reformer should really listen to Rousseau and have the patience to gain time by loosing time.
Let us now turn to the political theme, which has always been present in my work, but which has gone through the deepest transformative development of the three general subjects central in my writing. To explain this development, I need to reach far back in my past. The first discussion about political principles that stuck in my mind and produced further thought occurred sometime, I think, when I was in high school. I was talking with my father in his study, saying something naive and idealistic about how one day the UN would be a world government and nations would no longer go to war. My father suddenly delivered himself of one of his occasional pronouncements, a nugget of his considerable study and reflection, which he habitually kept to himself. "I don't know, Robbie, what the UN will become, but I do know this—governments exist only where there is a relation between the people governed and the people governing. The members of states are people, not governments." In a deep sense, the political theme of my work as it had developed up to 1970 grew out of that conversation. I kept my idealism, looking for some supranational political order, but I also accepted his conceptual realism, searching for an order that would meet the fundamental criterion of consisting in concrete relations between the people governed and the people governing. The cosmopolitan vision I developed consisted in recognizing that everyone, to some degree, is involved in educational institutions. This involvement consists in direct relations between people. The stuff of those relations concerns knowledge, which should be universal, not uniquely national. Therefore, if they developed rightly, the cultural, educational institutions should become those that can best give a cosmopolitan structure to public life, one that consists of relations between people, not governments. Now of course I was—and am—acutely aware that things-as-they-are are precisely the reverse, that the national structure of public life everywhere gives a national character to educational institutions. But I was—and am—inclined to put a certain faith in history, to recognize that these things are not now forever fixed. That the realities differ from what one thinks they can and should be constitutes no evidence about the validity of ones estimate of potentialities. It simply points out what matters need to be investigated further, namely the sources of human initiative in changing the structures of life that people find given to them.
This concern for the source of historical initiative had led me, with respect to pedagogical matters, to study the process of self-education, not only as something done by auto-didacts, but further as something potentially, and often actually, fundamental in all educative activity. In the course of this work, I developed a pair of opposing ideal-types—the active student and the passive learner—as tools for investigating the process of cultural change through education. Early in the decade, in essays devoted essentially to this pedagogical polarity, I kept brushing up against an analogous polarity in political thought. In "Toward a Place for Study" (B6) I repeatedly observed an interaction between public needs for functionaries and the educators' proclivity to assume they work with passive learners. And I concluded the essay with some important questions about the changing character of authority, questions I think I more successfully raised than settled. In "Universal Voluntary Study" (B12), I found my reasoning about a comprehensive system of educational institutions designed to promote universal, voluntary study leading to important reflections about the meaning of cultural democracy: what sort of participation in culture must be attained to realize a cultural democracy? My next substantial essay was "Rousseau and the Dilemma of Authority" (B20), a good essay on Rousseau, but rather inconclusive in what I explicitly drew from him in it. Rousseau was, then, and still is, for me one of the great figures who successfully linked his educational theory and political theory. Clearly the active student was fundamental to the former and the ideal of the participating citizen basic to the latter, although at that time I was still struggling somewhat to clarify for myself the relation between them.
Then came my sabbatical, followed not long afterwards, by my work at HEW. My sabbatical was not particularly zweckrationell, for I did not accomplish much goal directed work in it (see, however, from the last months of it, B22, B23, B24, & B25). I did consolidate various ideas and certain skills, however, and these have been highly fruitful since then. In particular, my ability to make my own use of systematic reflection, philosophic and social, improved. This improvement came about indirectly, as the residue of my having thrown myself into a highly unusual experience. I went spontaneously and suddenly to Frankfurt—without pre-preparation, with one suitcase, no books, enough money to eke on for six to eight months, no responsibilities, no apparent role or function, no friends, acquaintances, only one tenuous contact, an imperfect command of the language, but the firm resolve to rely only on it. I rented an unfurnished room and furnished it with a lamp, two orange crates, two rolls of thin foam rubber, one for sleeping on, the other for sitting on, two blankets, a pot and pan, a plate and some utensils. My being there was gratuitous; I had to construct a life there for myself out of the one substantial thing I brought with me—myself. It seemed like an eternity, but before long that life there began to take shape as I explored possibilities and made choices, as I came to know people and made friends, as I searched out intellectual stimulation and established fields of inquiry, reflection, and study. As this life took shape I could recognize the continuity between it and the life I had left behind and could say better and more fully that both were thus mine, my construction, my creation, and that the way to proceed in both was through a basic trust in myself.
Prior to this experience, I wrote virtually nothing that has not been published except for proposals, almost all of which were "published" in the sense that they were submitted to the audience for which they were written. Since this experience, the great bulk of what I have written has not been published, often has not been finished. Further, prior to this experience, I seemed to be charting a relatively predictable course. To be sure, after finishing the book on Ortega, I was spinning my wheels somewhat trying to get a second big project underway. But it seemed clear that what I was heading for, once I could get the wheels to grip, would be a second big project exploring the intellectual history of Western education, broadly conceived (major proposals prior to and during sabbatical: B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B11, B13, & B24; since sabbatical I have generated only B37, a far more unorthodox one). Since this experience, an experience of the condition of being unconditioned, my course has been far less predictable—the better part of a year deeply involved in HEW and an even longer period of preoccupation with problems of the College. Clearly this experience was somehow deeply formative, for better or for worse—and making a judgment about the "or" is undoubtedly the business at hand. Either in experiencing the condition of being unconditioned, I lost grip on my sense of purpose and am still floundering to regain it, or I developed a new confidence and strength with respect to it, and have begun to explore it in ways I would not have attempted before. What I have written since 1975, finished and unfinished, published and unpublished, is fundamental to resolving this question. Central in this writing is a philosophically-grounded, methodological outlook by means of which I have sharply redefined the political theme in my work.
Behind its fragmentary and unfinished appearance, this work has a significant conceptual unity. That unity consists in my having thoroughly internalized, within the context of many other acquired considerations, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, particularly the way he formulates the "analogies of experience," most particularly the way the second and third analogy give rise to two basic, complementary ways to form experience from the stuff of life. This I first set forth explicitly in 'The Civic Interest and the Purposes of DHEW" (B29) and it runs through, sometimes implicitly, often explicitly, the ensuing work. Through that ensuing work, I labor at ideal-type formation in an effort to clarify various aspects of political and cultural activity. The type-construct—passive learner, active student—derives from construing pedagogical phenomena via, on the one hand, the principle of causality, and on the other, the principle of reciprocity. In the same way, I develop a parallel type-construct applicable to political relationships—functional subject, participant citizen—and throughout much that follows I explore how these and derivative type-constructs can be brought to bear to clarify historical activities.
In all this, I thoroughly reconstructed the political theme in my work. Commitment to a cosmopolitan vision of a possible political order has come to seem uselessly, perhaps dangerously, Utopian. Far more important that we take care for the possibilities manifest in actual political processes, and doing that requires that we acquire the repertory of concepts by which we can comprehend with the maximum clarity and fullness our political experiences. At any particular time, the given historical conditions will thrust upon people through socialization many of the concepts they need in order to comprehend their experience. But other useful, productive concepts will not achieve spontaneous dissemination, for the given world works against these: these are the concepts that require special care. As I see it, given our conditions, the concepts needing such special care are the political concepts deriving from the principle of reciprocity, community, that of the mutual interaction of things. The most important of these political concepts is that of the participating citizen, acting on his or her own cognizance, within a community of peers.
While working at HEW, I began to come to grips with this redefinition of my political theme. My situation there was unusual; my informal title was "scholar-in-residence." One primary responsibility I had was to comment on things. Sometimes I would be asked to comment in a very immediate sense—'here is the three-inch thick briefing booklet from the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation on the Social Security issue; tell me tomorrow in five minutes what you think about the problem.' Most of the time I was expected to comment from a long-ranged perspective, to reflect in situ on what I saw and heard. Two essays, one reasonably finished and polished, the other still unfinished, were the main fruits of this expectation: "From Problems to Predicaments: Reflections on the Paradigms of Social Policy Formation" (B31) and "The Executive as Educator: Toward a Renewal of Public Policy" (B33). In the former, I examined the limits of problem solving through reasoning from the principle of causality and argued that genuine social policy and historic improvement of social conditions depends in large part on care for reciprocal influences and the willingness of all to participate in the midst of them. In the latter, I started to work out for myself a clear distinction between the function of the executive and the administrative. I argued that the executive properly served a particular role within the goal-determining process, a role comprehensible primarily with reference to the principle of community, while administrative activity performed functions in goal-determined processes, functions comprehensible primarily with reference to the principle of causality. This essay was a rather rigorous exercise in ideal-type construction, which I did not complete for three reasons. The draft was sufficient for its immediate purpose. I had worked out in it what I had wanted to work out for myself. And I had doubts whether it would be wise to publish ideas easily susceptible of misapplication in such an abstract manner.
In a number of recent efforts, I have concentrated on making explicit the links between my concepts of the active student and the participating citizen. This effort began with the draft introduction to a contemplated work on the history of Western education, "Power and Pedagogy: The Citizen and Subject" (B38). It continued in the draft encyclopedia article, "Education, History of" (B39). In "The Dynamics of Decline: Why Education Can No Longer Be Liberal" (B41), I drew the link rather concisely with a fairly rich conceptual and historical application of it latent behind a very economical exposition. In all three of these essays, I made a basic error: reifying experience structured both by the principle of causality and by that of reciprocity. Language always tempts historians and social theorists to hypostatize their conceptualized descriptions, and I have for long insistently decried such falls from virtue. In these essays, alas, I committed this error, which I tried to redeem in my three lectures given last Spring at NYU on "Citizens and Subjects: Educational Politics in Historical Perspective" (B46).
In these lectures I explained most fully to date the pedagogical and political reflections I have been working on since the middle of the decade. In them I drew heavily on Kant and Weber and extensive reading on the political theory of civic republicanism, which I have been doing with students over the past few years—Ullmann, Pocock, Baron, Hill, Bailyn, Wood, and many others. As lectures these were not successful, for I tried to deal with too much in too abstract a form. As an occasion for summing up for myself an extended line of reflection, they were valuable, however. In them, I avoided reified structures and concentrated on our conceptual capacity to do full justice to the complexity of public experience, political and pedagogical. In my conclusion, I proposed a formal standard, an alternative to the notoriously incoherent concept, "the public interest," to be called "the civic interest," by which we might chart a course for criticism that would bring the principle of reciprocity to bear in a world rife with programs of causal manipulation. "Each effort by persons and organizations to cause effects in the world, whatever the particulars of those actions may be, should be such that the patterns of reciprocal interaction triggered by the causal actions serve to create and to maintain the capacities for constructive public involvement possessed by the persons and organizations affected." My political theme, as I have come to see it, should be an effort to evoke command of the concepts by use of which this "civic interest" can be better achieved.
To conclude this discussion of my search for a better definition of the subject for my writing, I should state what at this point I see it to be. Recall the basic intent of my writing, my mission as a cultural historian: I want my writing to be an effective means for recalling to public awareness the parts of our cultural heritage that people can use to better face the concrete problems of public life. This can now be given content. I want my writing to enhance and develop the capacity that people possess, in acting educationally and politically, to use the principle of reciprocity or community, and its derivative concepts, especially those of the active student and the participant citizen. I want to write to help increase the public capacity to experience the reciprocities in life, the complex interactions continually taking place between everything. By doing so, I can hope and expect that the power of interactions, of reciprocal influences, to determine the quality of life and the possibility of historical initiative, will then be better taken into account in our educational and political activities. In this effort, I have primarily two potential audiences, one of educational leaders and the other of the general public. I would hope to convince the former, the educational leaders, that they should take particular care for the cultural quality of the curriculum in its largest sense and for the task of minimizing impediments to the effective study of that curriculum. I should like to help the latter, the general public, internalize a concept of the civic interest and associated critical concepts, so that these can be brought continually to bear on the diverse fields of public action as a qualitative leaven in the encompassing mixture of effects.
In so stating my subject, note that work based on this sense of my subject need not state it so directly. In my "Citizens and Subjects" lectures, I stated clarifications meant for myself too directly as clarifications meant for the public domain. The careful writer needs to recognize the great difference between writing about political philosophy and writing with a political philosophy, between writing about educational theory and writing with an educational theory. My clarification of subject, which I have been explaining, has been primarily a clarification of those ideas I intend to write with, not necessarily those matters I intend to write directly about. To see how I may write with these ideas, we need to turn to the second major part of my search for a better way over the past ten years, to my efforts to develop a more effective form for my work.
We come now to the problem of finding the proper literary form effective in dealing with these subjects and intents. For many the problem of form may seem rather simple: draw up an outline of the subject about which one wants to write and then plug away at translating the outline from phrases and notes into coherent prose. For me, writing is a very different process—it probably is for everyone. To explain the potential development of my capacity to choose and articulate the proper literary form for saying what I want to say with effect, I start with some general observations about how I write. In doing so, the Platonic vocabulary will further reverberate through my explanation. It will do so, not because I have learned to write by following what Plato teaches, but rather the other way around, because I have recognized that Plato describes the things I experience as I write, things I have experienced long prior to ever reading Plato.
Any piece of writing, really I suspect, any act at all, begins first as an idea, not as the transcendent idea in its metaphysical sense—the GOOD, TRUE, and BEAUTIFUL—but an idea in the dialectical sense, as a possibility generated by Eros, as a pure potentiality, a simple intent, to articulate something in which one perceives goodness, truth, and beauty. The idea is the urge to speak to others about something with certain effects, and one feels that if this can be done, a certain fulfillment, at once good, true, and beautiful, can be approached. Above, in discussing developments concerning my definition of the proper subjects for my work, I was really discussing the idea of the work I want to write. In that process I have clarified two ideas for work, and I can, of course, write more than one book or article governed by each of these ideas. The first idea calls for work addressed to a broad public, the effect of which will enhance our shared political and pedagogical command of concepts deriving from the principle of community or reciprocity. The second idea calls for work directed to the educational leadership suggesting that they should aim to maximize the cultural value of the curriculum effectively offered to potential students and to minimize the impediments restricting students' opportunities to study it aggressively. We need now, however, to move from the idea to the form.
In essence, idea differs from form in the same way that being differs from becoming. Through the idea of a work one determines what the work is to be about, to whom, by intent, it is addressed, and the kind of effects it should have if it reaches its intended audience with an effective presentation of its subject. The idea is fixed and stable. But the mere idea of a work alone in no way moves the work toward actuality: one cannot write the idea. In addition to the idea of a work, Eros must also generate for it a potential form: the form of the work is that which informs the writing of it and eventually makes possible, if the form is effective, the embodiment, the realization of the idea in the actual work.
Writing is a difficult art because the idea of a work does not determine its form. In addition to the idea of a work, Eros must generate a potential form for it, attending closely to the idea, but unable to derive the form directly from the idea. Given the idea of a work, there are an infinite number of possible forms for it, and in arriving at the right one, the Daimon plays an active part: the idea of the work is directly at hand as a controlling reference according to which it can utter its warnings. Often when we speak with an idea of what we want to say, we experience this interplay of Eros and the Daimon. Something in our consciousness puts forward a proposed phrase, a form for partially embodying the idea we want to express, and something else in our consciousness catches the phrase in our throat—"Non! Ce n'est pas le mot juste! L'essayez encore!" Generating the right form is far more difficult than generating the right word, for much more is at take, much more needs to be mobilized and much more, well or ill, is determined, as one determines the form of a work.
What, however, is the form of a work? To answer this question, we need to permit ourselves a certain cubistic consciousness, for the form of a work has a changing existence in the flux of time and if fixed at various instants the form will be something quite different at each of those instants. If we must sum them in an answer to our question, we get a rather ungainly answer, namely that the form, in the totality of its temporal existence, is precisely what the work becomes. Or, to put it another way, the form is an ever-metamorphosing itinerary of becoming. As such, I would suggest, the generation and continuous transformation of a form along a trajectory of becoming is the most sophisticated accomplishment of living consciousness. This makes it very difficult to speak clearly about the form of a work—the idea of a work is fixed, clear, and definite; the form of the work is a program for actualizing the idea, a program that itself must continually alter through the process of actualization. Thus, perhaps, we can see that generating a form of a work is an immensely complicated act of anticipation and the key point in it is the point at which the form is originally conceived.
What to me is most important and difficult in finding the right form for a work is the moment, brief or extended, in which the form is conceived. In this act of conception, one must anticipate, effectively although not necessarily concretely, all the ensuing metamorphoses as the work is, from then on, worked through to actuality. That means, one must anticipate in such a way that for each and every choice that thereafter arises, Eros can generate a solution that will pass the Daimon as a solution that measures up as good, true, and beautiful with reference to the fixed, controlling idea of the work. Let us call what happens in this moment, the conception of a work, realizing that in doing so, we mean "conception" in both its senses. First, it gives rise to the conception of the work, the initial over-all plan and design of what the work should become. And second, it is the moment of conception for the work, the moment at which the idea—"Dear, it's time we had a child"—begins its embodiment as sperm breaks into egg—from then on it is a matter of nurturing the genetic potentiality pooled in the act of conception.
Let us leave the metaphor here introduced, for there is a basic difference between conceiving a literary work and conceiving a child: with the former our biologic processes do not select the limiting potentialities as they do with the latter. To be sure, the limiting potentialities of a literary work are determined largely in its conception, but this conception is the work of conscious creativity and selection, not of organic functioning. We can, and most of the time do, rely on something like organic functioning in conceiving a work, adopting without much conscious consideration an established genre—essay, biography, textbook, research report, book review, official report, novel, monograph, definitive synthesis, and so on—in the conception of the work. Certainly these are great conveniences and where appropriate they greatly facilitate the conception of a work; they stand around us on our shelves, as established forms, so to speak. Owing to their ready availability, we easily learn not to attend closely to that most difficult part of creating a work, the conception of it. Over the past decade I have become alert to the danger, relative to the idea of what I want to write, of relying passively on established genres, and owing to that alertness, I have had great difficulty conceiving the work I want to write—alas, so many, many abortions! In pointing to these difficulties, however, I point to something that can be examined from two quite different points of view. I may simply, for some reason or other, have been having difficulty conceiving my work, thus churning nowhere with a lot of starts and stops—a possibility to which we will eventually return. Or I may, on the other hand, have been facing up productively to the difficulty in conceiving the work I have to write—a possibility we will explore in what immediately follows.
In writing two works, Man and His Circumstances and "Toward a Place for Study in a World of Instruction," I had, at the outset, a very clear sense of their conception, and the form for them, thus conceived, proved adequate through the process of writing, for I was able to realize, through the writing, something approximating my conception of each work. In the case of Man and His Circumstances, the conception consisted primarily in adopting an established genre, intellectual biography. I conceived that work in the Fall of 1963 in a paper for the Barzun-Trilling seminar in which I described how I could articulate an intellectual biography of Ortega around a presentation of the man and his work as civic pedagogy. This conception of the work determined its structure, scope, and tone, and the extended process of writing and rewriting that followed never significantly deviated from this original conception; it was rather an extended effort to actualize the manifold potentialities latent in the original conception. Much the same was the case with "Toward a Place for Study." The main difference: the genre adopted—the essay, being a very loose genre—had an insubstantial role in the conception of the piece. Instead I somehow sensed a mood and tone, hurriedly wrote some imagistic paragraphs about Montaigne in his study, and resolved to write my way, maintaining the mood and tone, through my cumulative education, to carry the reader through the images I had of the function, frailty, and future of study as the real activity of education. The conception of the whole essay took place within an hour, perhaps fifteen minutes, one Sunday evening, and I still have a vivid sense of that moment in which a complex field of possibility suddenly seemed to organize itself almost like an orgasm of consciousness.
More recently my difficulties conceiving work have not resulted from an inability to repeat the kind of conception that occurred with Man and His Circumstances or "Toward a Place for Study." I can still easily generate interesting, writable forms for most works for which I have an idea. The difficulty that I have found serious arose on my realizing that the function of form continues long after a work is simply written and published. I touched on this matter when I first introduced my personal criticisms of Man and His Circumstances. It is a well-written, good book, but its form is all wrong if it is to be read by the people who I intended would read it and if, on reading it, it is to have the effects I intended it have.
Novice writers learning their craft have difficulty, we know, internalizing the eye and the ear of the intelligent reader as the measure of their composition. The novice writer composes to please himself; in the drudge of drafting he chooses words and frames sentences without distinguishing clearly between what he intends and what a reader, not privy to his inner discourse, will extract from the phrases and sentences. With experience and good tutelage, we learn, with respect to composition, to internalize the other reader's ear and eye. Such training, however, almost always remains confined to the level of composition—we have all experienced how defensive and hurt people become when we start, well intentioned, to pick apart their grammar and diction. What we learn and teach about the composition of a work, we rarely learn and teach about its conception, for to criticize someones conception of a work severely, forcing the writer to see it as fundamentally misconceived from the perspective of its readers, is next to impossible. Doing so engenders too many defenses, too sharp a sense of hurt. Yet, to conceive a work well, we do need to internalize our readers' responses, to conceive a form that will not only work well in writing, but equally well in reading. In the conception of a work, thus, the act of anticipation that must take place should anticipate, not only the choices that must be made as the work is written, but equally those that will determine who will actually read it and what they will extract from it.
If the form of a work is the totality of what it becomes, the form controls not only what the writer puts into the work, but equally what readers will take out of the work. If the form of the work is the continuously metamorphosing itinerary of the work's becoming, the metamorphosing continues long after the work is written and published, operating continuously as long as the work has potential readers. My development, my search for the right literary form, over the past ten years centers on my attempt to internalize this recognition and to learn how to conceive a work, to generate a form for it, so that I anticipate both the writing of it and the reading of it as fully as possible in the light of the idea of the work.
I have made, I think, some progress at such anticipation, although this progress has carried me into regions where things are poorly marked. The form I have conceived for this work, this letter, is to speak about my performance and my development fully and frankly, so I will do my best to mark the regions in which I find myself. To do so, I need to introduce one further distinction: form, relative to potential readers, for work that I might write, relative to my basic intent, separates into two broad categories, categories long central in my thinking, namely that of direct action and indirect action. In conceiving a work, anticipating its being read by its intended audience, the intended result from reading it may be one in which the readers should seek to implement some program of activity suggested in the work. If so, the form of the work should be one suitable for provoking direct action. On the other hand, in conceiving a work, anticipating its being read by its intended audience, the intended result from reading it may be one in which the reader, in doing whatever it is that he or she should choose to do, should thereafter seek to use ideas and concepts, command of which will have been built up through the experience of reading the work. If so, the form of the work should be one suitable for engendering indirect action, the mastery of one thing so that many other things may be done with more effect. The conception of a work, anticipating its reading, will differ substantially, depending on whether its effect is meant to be manifest through direct action or indirect action.
Writing so that effects are ultimately produced through indirect action fascinates me most of all. I think in some matters, however, particularly in those pertinent to my idea of a work addressed to educational leaders, I need to write to provoke effects through direct action. A major part of my recent work falls into this category, namely the draft of Rousseau and American Educational Scholarship (B44). From the point of view of writing, the form of a piece intended to culminate in direct action is a relatively simple matter: one must conceive a form that will put before readers a convincing case for the appropriateness of the proposed program of action. In conceiving Rousseau and American Educational Scholarship, I conceived a work that would explain a severe deficiency in American educational scholarship, show how that deficiency had developed historically, and indicate a path of reform in the graduate study of education that would correct the deficiency and, I hoped, thus renew the intellectual leadership of American education. As I see it, I encountered no significant difficulties with the form of the work that I conceived from the point of view of writing it. Research and composition were moving along; a draft was developing well; I saw opportunities for significant revision of the developing draft to better realize the potentialities of the argument. Perceiving opportunities for revision in the course of composition does not, in my view, indicate inadequacies in the original conception of a work from the point of view of writing it. Quite the contrary: it indicates sound anticipation in the original conception, one allowing for the development of possibilities in the argument that were not consciously apparent at the outset of the writing. From September 1979 through December, I worked most productively on drafting this study.
In January 1980, the Daimon began to mutter warnings about the conception of the work, not suggesting that significant problems with respect to writing it had developed, but that significant problems in reading it were going to arise. The Daimon objected not in an incipient critique of the argument, a declaration that it was obscure or obtuse; rather it caviled at the relation of the argument to the field of action within which the argument, as a call to direct action, would be read. The Daimon asked, given the situation in schools of education, what can readers of the argument be expected to do as a result of reading it? The answer seemed quite clear: very little if anything, for the constraints on initiative were too great. As conceived, the form of the work could lead readers at best to a general "yes, but . . . ," and a few piecemeal initiatives too isolated from one another to amount to a significant departure. I need to face seriously the problem in the conception of Rousseau and American Educational Scholarship as a call to direct action. I might want to complete it despite the difficulties in its form relative to the field of action in which it will be read, for the sake of the record, treating it as a work that might eventually evoke some change through indirect action. But to evaluate whether so plugging on with it would be a good use of my capacity for indirect action can only be judged after we have examined the problem of conceiving literary forms suitable for evoking indirect effects and evaluated other possibilities that may be open to me in it.
We come now to the aspect of writing most central in my work. How Ortega wrote so that effects arose through indirect action, as Spaniards gained command of concepts useful in their conduct of life, was a central topic in Man and His Circumstances. Even the leadership through direct action that I might seek to exercise ultimately has to do with an effort to enhance the capacity of educative institutions to engender the betterment of life through indirect action. I feel drawn to writing primarily as a means of inducing effects that are ultimately concrete by disseminating selected concepts that people can use in shaping their experience. Conceiving effective forms for literary work that will function as such a means of indirect action is a subtle and difficult task. As we observed above, such a form must be conceived so that it effectively anticipates the choices to be made as the work becomes what it can become, not only through the process of writing it, but through the multiple processes of reading it as well. With respect to the distinction between the idea and the form of a work, I should note that most of my writing over the past ten years has been devoted to clarifying for myself the idea that I think should control really original, powerful writing engendering indirect action. Nevertheless, I think I have made some progress with respect to conceiving the proper form for such work as well.
Where shall we look for this progress? It will not be found, clearly etched, in the sequence of my recent writings. What I have written since "Toward a Place for Study", excepting the draft of Rousseau and American Educational Scholarship, has been written without full attention to its form. To be sure, I have composed all of it within the form of the essay, but I have attended to that form only with respect to the writability of certain thoughts, not to their readability in the full sense. Indeed, I wrote much of it for publication, but basically only for publication in the sense of getting something into print and usually for extraneous reasons, and I did not, I must confess, always remain sufficiently dutiful toward the categorical imperative of scholarly publishing enunciated above. So far, I have not yet written anything oriented to indirect action in which I have conceived the work with full attention to the whole process of its becoming, to both the process of writing and the process of reading. Or to put it yet a different way, I have conceived all of this work in the form of McClintock talking to himself, trying to figure out what he thinks. Perhaps, some day, this whole body of work will find a few readers who will read it in precisely that form with interest and profit. But for now, I can only offer it in the form of a discourse with myself to you who have taken on the responsibility to assess my recent achievements. Although the work is written without form, in the full sense that I have come to take seriously, it nevertheless shows some development with respect to the problem of form in this full sense.
First, relatively minor but not insignificant, within the formless work, one finds useful experimentation with the techniques of writing. I have long been able to write good sentences, to link them together well, to craft with them flowing, expressive essays. Generally I write about abstract matters, and although my exposition of abstractions can be vivid and concrete, I usually write with a good deal of book learning at hand and often rely heavily on it to buttress my discourse. Citations have many good uses, but their greatest value as an aid to exposition arises when the work cited is equally the property of both writer and reader. Slowly I have recognized that my book learning can make my work very esoteric, particularly insofar as I intend to write for a general public. When I rely on the full panoply of possible citations as an aid to exposition, I approach limiting my work to an audience of one. My formless work over the past ten years discloses a recurrent effort to wean myself from writing with frequent reference to my reading and to substitute well-formed illustrative images when possible for substantive citations.
[‡‡] See for instance, Man and His Circumstances, pp. 244-5.
Alas—being consistent is often impossible. Here I must cite examples of my effort to avoid relying on citations. I wrote the draft "Reflections on German Higher Education" (B25), concretely out of personal experience although I could have written it as a learned essay summing up extensive study of the matter. Also in "From Problems to Predicaments" (B31), I use concrete images almost exclusively to explain views I arrived at through a great deal of reading and reflection. In earlier work what images I used I generally drew from my reading; more recently I have been trying to develop them from my own experience. For instance, in the draft "Education and Social Thought: Intellectual Mobilization" (B42), I try, not successfully as it stands, to hang the whole essay on an extended image drawn from my experience, a vignette of my least intellectual experience. Behind such experiments, a goal of craftsmanship is being sought: to be able to draw on the totality of ones experience, intellectual and otherwise, in explaining what one has to say—such capacity is the mark, I think, of the complete writer.
Second, and probably more important, my formless work of the past ten years embodies a recurrent discourse with myself about the question of how to conceive good work effective in disseminating to an audience a repertory of concepts that will help in living lives. Up through 1975, I often sparred with this question through the topic of educative encyclopedias (B4, B24, & B27), through the recognition, in the little essay, "Diderot" (B19), that he planned much of his work as a posthumous corpus because he had this intent, and through extensive study of oral poetry and medieval iconographic education, a minimal intimation of which is in the brief proposal, "Man and Judgment in Homer and Early Greek Poetry" (B26). In the draft, composed toward the end of 1976, "Humane Learning and the Future" (834), I organized my thoughts about writing as indirect action with a new-found structural clarity. In this piece, I do some useful ideal-type construction with respect to the character and function of different types of scholarship. Although the exposition in the piece is unusually dense for me, the ideas in it are quite clear and they have remained very useful to me in thinking about how to generate the form of the work I want to do.
In "Man and Judgment: Studies of Educational Experience and Aspirations: A Prospectus" (B36), one finds the most important of these discussions with myself about the problem of giving form to work intended as indirect action. The main part of the piece has within it an extended essay on the function of culture in expanding powers of human judgment, which is precisely what I believe the value of indirect action for life to be. In the latter part I tentatively propose an unusual form for generating a written corpus that is to be fully informed by the idea of indirect action. To be sure, the Daimon soon spoke decisively against what I there proposed to myself. The work conceived there—an on-going series of pamphlets, addressing aspects of the topic, "man and judgment," from diverse points of view, with the pamphlets to be distributed by subscription to concretely interested readers—was a work misconceived. Nevertheless, I think my perception there, of the problem that must be faced in the conception of a fully formed work of indirect action, was a correct perception of it, despite the ensuing misconception of the work. The proposal of a pamphlet series was my first effort to conceive work in such a way that the form of it would be effective not only in writing, but in reading as well.
I want, now, to move forward from that point, to look a bit to the future. That point, remember, is the recognition that there is something problematic in the readily available forms for writing. This problematic condition becomes apparent, not when one considers the forms as itineraries for the mere composition of the work, but when one considers them as itineraries for the reading and absorption of the work. We can refuse, like ostriches—asses upward, heads buried—to contemplate the problem, but it is there and will not so easily go away. Can books and essays under present conditions be read in the manner that a writer of them, with ambitious, high intent, intends them to be read, and if so, how must they be written so that they will be read in the manner intended? Make no mistake: I love to read and I love to write, and I ask this question not to induce self-paralysis in either reading or writing. I ask this question because I really want to write, to write not merely to publish, but to write so that the work finds its intended readers and through them has significant effects. For this, the situation is problematic.
Let me illustrate on the serious level of writing and reading. As I type and pause, looking up, my eyes look directly at the first two shelves of the section in my library storing works on "twentieth-century thought and social theory." The books are stacked by author, and skipping over "minor" writers, I see first a fair selection of Adorno—Schriften 1, 5, 6, 8, 9:1, 9:2, and 11, as well as a few of his separate works. Then comes Arendt, an embarrassingly thin representation of her corpus, and next to her Raymond Aron, merely four of his many, many books. Around the bend to the second shelf, Hans Barth, a woefully under-recognized thinker; to Barzun, Becker, Bell, and Bergson; to the shelf-end where a few of Ernst Bloch's books stand, especially Das Prinzip Hoffnung, which I'm eternally hoping to read, having sampled the three big volumes enough to see it as a magnificent, mammoth work. And the entire section goes on and on and on and ends with Weber, Wittgenstein, and Znaniecki. All these books stand just out of my physical reach when I look up from typing, but each time I look up, I must recognize that in a far more radical sense, they remain, however close, beyond my human reach. I will never do justice as a reader to more than the merest selection of them, and as they stand there they are but the merest selection of what stands there under their authors' names in a real library. Yet each of these writers wrote for readers like myself; the discourse over which they took such pains they wrote for me and their works are standing there clamoring for me to listen but I cannot. All but a few of the beckoning books, no matter how close by, are simply out of reach—life too short, art so long.
But of course, one objects: books have always been out of reach in this way; for that reason scholarship must be a collective, specialized enterprise. True, true, but does it work? Does it bring the thinkers back into the cave coherently? Do the concepts they have struggled to clarify maintain their clarity as they move from the writer's own work through the interpreter's, and then through that of the interpreter of the interpreter, until eventually, partially here and partially there, they move into the full public domain? As things now stand, to conceive adequately the form of a serious work, anticipating all the derivative incarnations it will undergo as it echoes forth into the public, the serious thinker must be a perfect genius at plotting Ptolemaic epicycles. No one can do it; hence so much confusion about who stands for what for which reasons, hence so many ideas become dangerously degraded as they ripple into influence, hence such a terrible gulf between high culture and popular culture. But enough of the problem or we might become maudlin. Suffice it to say that, as far as I can see, under present conditions, to write work that can actually reach the second rung on the ladder of ascending aspiration, that of real originality and power, one must somehow conceive a form for a work by which one can cut the Gordian knot presently immobilizing the book. Let us muse on a possibility, and to introduce it, permit me an incantation to the muse of sorts—it carries with it an important qualification.
Recall the woman passing in the cafeteria, is she the muse? No, she did not cause Eros to urge a trial on me; she at most unwittingly occasioned the brief interplay between Eros and the Daimon that momentarily diverted my gaze. Eros is the muse. From the total field of possibility within and around, Eros continuously, spontaneously, generates manifold projects in pursuit of potential fulfillments. These projects, not their objects, are what attracts us; they are what motivates us and Eros is their unconditioned cause—unconditioned until, that is, the other unconditioned, the Daimon, should speak. In the attractive project, the woman—ah! Dulcinea!—at most symbolizes some far-off fulfillment, but the project itself does the moving and the project itself is what the Daimon scrutinizes. Ah! Dulcinea! And poor Quixote!—poor Quixote, comic slave to the muse, the man endowed only with a powerful Eros while having for a Daimon nothing but the paunchy Pancho.
At times we can each appear to be Quixote, all Eros, swept up in a glorious project without a Daimon to mutter warnings. Eros is powerful for it works with the totality of peripheral consciousness, and from out of that, from accidental, trivial triggering occasions, it can generate startling, inspiring, very powerful projects that sweep a person up in real enthusiasm. But so too, in real people, unlike the great fiction, Quixote, is the Daimon powerful, for it too works unconditioned with the totality of peripheral consciousness, and, quickly or after due delay, it can speak, if it must, authoritatively against the grandest projects and soaring enthusiasms. We all risk appearing as Quixote when we speak from the enthusiasm of Eros during that time when the Daimon has held back in due delay. We turn now to a project that has still to pass the Daimon, yet the Daimon will be silent on it, seemingly absent, holding back in due delay. A conception of a work will burst forth, forth after long, long preparation, described as the pure work of Eros, seemingly Quixotic, for the Daimon has fitly chosen to be slow with it in deciding whether to speak or not to speak. So we turn to pure project, the unmodulated enthusiasm of Eros in its full quixotic appearance—perhaps I need a Pancho and perhaps I do not.
Observe the triggering occasion. Over the summer, the pullulating books in my possession over-run my office and convert a stimulating clutter into a paralyzing mess. To start the academic year with some room to think, I decide to carry home all my books on the ancients, several hundred altogether, so that books stacked all over the office floor can at least be shelved. The classical library I have moved home, I put in pride of place, a wall of shelves in the living room, from the center of which protrudes the television. A horrible juxtaposition: out peers the grandiose Zenith System 3, replete with cable, tempting source of all the trivia of the popular culture, surrounded by my printed icon to the genius of Western civilization, close packed shelves of the Loeb Classical Library, the green Greeks and the red Romans rising in a column to the right of it, a long row of shelves devoted to the Greek philosophers capping it, another column to the left of it, sturdy with stout histories of the Greeks. I scheme to move the television, but time for executing the plan evaporates as the term begins and I learn to live with the juxtaposition.
With the new term comes a close reading of Thucydides through September: what a great history and what economy and courage Thucydides achieves in the mimesis of his famous speeches! With the new term comes also the renewal of a habit, ending the day of intense intellectuality with mindless escape, watching re-runs of Kojak on Channel 5 at 11:30. Perhaps owing to the symbols of culture surrounding the tube, slowly the escape begins to loose its mindlessness. I become fascinated with the craft of the series. I watch the techniques of visual narration, how the personalities of recurrent characters are made to unfold to maintain interest, how the plots are constructed, not around the question who did it, but around the question of how Kojak will figure out who did it. Above all, I begin to watch the character of Kojak, to reflect on him; during ads my eye wanders to the shelves, to Guthrie's Socrates, to Magalhäes-Vilhena's Le Problème de Socrate, to Verseny's Socratic Humanism, Tovar's Vida de Socrates, and Socrates by Taylor, and again by Blum, and yet again by Santas; the mind wanders up to Plato and over to Xenophon and down to Aristophanes. Yes, I grow convinced, the creators of Kojak have based Kojak on Socrates; Kojak so proudly Greek, the Greek cop: he knows himself and will follow his questioning wherever it leads; he is ugly but somehow beautiful, tough but sensitive, steadfast and incorruptible, reflective and compassionate, cool and self-possessed. The search for the logos in the criminal chaos of Manhattan South is no different than the search for the logos in the sociopolitical chaos of Socratic Athens. Kojak even gropes on occasion with the problem of definition—justice, if it is justice, must apply equally to all alike, whether whore or heiress. Kojak is ever ready to be martyred if he must, true to his search for truth; he is continually showing those, whoever they may be, who think they know, that they don't; and he is ever the teacher, the Socratic teacher, to the members of his squad. Finally like Socrates, Kojak is the man completely of his city who seems never, except perhaps once, long ago in military service, to have been anywhere but on its streets.
Such recognitions are cause for meditation—is Kojak as Socrates adequate redeeming value for the series? Perhaps, but something still bothers me. I, who know Socrates, can see Socrates in Kojak, and as I do so I somewhat raise the series above the least common denominator on which I start to view it. But will it work the other way around, I wonder; what will happen with the person who knows Kojak, should they chance to encounter Socrates? Ah, there is the problem—they will see, not Socrates in Kojak, but Kojak in Socrates, and that would be to subordinate the greater to the lesser. With that, I muse that Kojak is not a good mimesis; it is instead another interesting instance of the exploitation of the cultural tradition by the popular culture. Kojak on its own terms is entertaining, but it does not lead well to anything beyond its own terms—as an image of Socrates, Kojak is diverting, inadequate, deceiving. To be sure, all we have of Socrates are images of him, versions by Aristophanes, Xenophon, and Plato, and these too are somehow surely diverting, inadequate, deceiving, but these were derived, well or ill, from the real Socrates and Kojak is far, far removed from them. Should Kojak confuse efforts by people to perceive, to comprehend these better images, . . .—can I now think Socrates without at the same time thinking Kojak too? is not my mental picture of the hirsute Socrates somehow transforming itself into a picture of Telly Savalas's shaven head and face—should Kojak impede the way to Socrates, must we not say that Kojak is culturally bad, intellectually destructive mimesis?
Suddenly I come up short—what is this good and bad mimesis that I am talking to myself about? By this time in the term I am reading Plato's Republic with my class, specifically at this time his critique of the poets, and obviously I'm talking to myself about the bad mimesis Plato argued against. But what has this to do with today? Scholarship since Aristotle has followed a simplistic reading of Plato here and systematically shunned mimesis or at most dealt with it at safe remove through critical discourse. Wasn't that expulsion of mimesis from the work of reason the laborious ascent out of the cave, the world of flickering images? Hasn't the whole soaring upward of Western scholarship been an ascent along the Aristotelian version of the path Plato conceived, an ascent in which the residue of mimesis in Plato's conception has been rejected, stifled, avoided? Yes, but, and a big but at that, isn't the soaring free of reason now precisely the problem with scholarly discourse? Haven't we scholars gone so far out of the cave that we cannot descend back into it, having left in desuetude the art for doing so? And here is the sharpest irony: scholarship now finds it cannot even approach the cave, the marketplace of ordinary men and women, without relying in reverse direction on precisely that series of falsifying imitations which Plato originally decried in mimesis. Thought starts first with Weber in his convoluted, powerful complexity. It moves then from Weber to Bendix, somewhat simplified and more easily apprehended. From there it shifts to H. Stuart Hughes, the common coin of well-read non-specialists. And finally it jumps to an endless series of semi-popular allusions, some precise, some deceptive, but none controlled by any dependable standard.
But what did Plato say about good and bad mimesis? Did he council the Aristotelian program? Who knows? Perhaps that might have been his tantalizing, "unwritten philosophy." Did Aristotle, for that matter, council the Aristotelian program, or is the appearance that he did so merely an accident which resulted because only his esoteric texts survived? If we had Aristotle whole, what would his example appear to be? And we do have those parts of Plato that the surviving Aristotle seems to set off on a long course of implementation in a very one-sided way. Plato did not banish or avoid mimesis; he called simply for a good, true mimesis, one that could give an account of itself, that could take responsibility for its effects in the midst of the vicissitudes of life, there in the cave among all the falsifying flickers. And what was mimesis? What was it that Plato sought to make good and true? Nothing but cultural imitation in the diverse forms of entertaining art—attic tragedy and comedy, the ritual festival of poetic traditions, the mysteries and processions celebrating the gods of the cities and the common games of the people. These things, already beautiful, were to be made good and true—that was Plato's program.
Can we achieve a true and good mimesis? Pregnant question: the sperm breaks the egg and a tiny form is conceived, a minuscule zygote that might or might not grow into something real and substantial, a mere sentence:
The form of well-conceived humane scholarship should enable the writer to create and justify a good and true mimesis, an entertaining art that compellingly attracts the broadest possible audience, one that brings to them a cultural imitation that the most learned will be convinced is sound and true, one that has effects on its audience that all who rationally consider the matter will recognize as good and constructive.
Here, hence, is how Eros has for me conceived a powerfully attractive scholarly project. What is conceived here is not a simple television series; not an historical Cosmos. What is conceived here is a new form for a scholarly work. Once this form is embodied well and fully, embodied so that it is there upon our shelves and before us in mimetic art, it will become the form defining the ambitious efforts at scholarly synthesis. Fulfillment of it will become the goal of our collective intellectual enterprise. Through this form, if it can be embodied, we can redefine the controlling questions and establish a new measure of achievement; through this form we can revalue the currency of scholarship. Remember, the Daimon has not yet spoken on this project, neither in this letter nor in my inner life: hence I speak of it a simple enthusiast, following, like Quixote, the attraction of Eros unchecked. But let that be as it must: we begin now, in a most preliminary way, to sketch a work that might, after much labor, manage to embody the form, both as it might be written and as it might be read and experienced.
Our form is yet but a mere sentence—the form of well-conceived humane scholarship should enable the writer to create and justify a good and true mimesis.... Let us expand the sentence to grasp more fully what it suggests. The form should enable the scholar to create a mimesis: this means the form must enable one to create an entertaining, popular art. Today, this means a media presentation, preferably the type of media presentation that attracts the most sustained attention from a popular audience, the prime-time network TV series—week after week, sometimes nightly, a devoted mass audience. The form must allow for the creation of a prime-time series that is not popularization in the normal sense: not a special production that people are cajoled to watch because it is deemed good for them. Mimesis, to be mimesis, must be genuinely popular, something that attracts popular attention, something endowed with a beauty to which the everyman in all of us responds. We aim at a series that Mr. Silverman will perceive as pure gold and will, slotted in the new season, soar to the top of the Nielsen ratings and hold that place. Only in this way, only by creating the most popular mimesis of all, can the philosopher aspire to censor the poetry of the people; by any other means the philosopher will at most create something that is in essence something other than the poetry of the people. Let us contemplate the possibility of attempting the prototypical embodiment of our form in a TV series tentatively called The Athenians.
Hold here a moment: why The Athenians? The choice has to do, not simply with a tentative judgment that an effective mimesis, a truly popular series, might be crafted on this subject. More importantly, the choice arises from early anticipations about the second part of the form we have conceived, anticipations that with The Athenians we might not simply be able to create a popular mimesis, but further we might be able to create and justify a good and true mimesis. Let us look at this potentiality first relative to our own historic juncture and to the dangers and possibilities that arise with the fact of life that popularity does create a de facto censorship of concepts and ideas. Recall the wonderful scene in Hugo's Nôtre Dame. The cardinal of the cathedral, a scholar, proud but troubled possessor of those new wonders, printed books, speaks in his study to a learned stranger, who remarks on a printed book among the manuscripts upon the cardinal's table. The latter sighs, grasps the book, walks to the window and points with the book to the cathedral adjacent—"Ceci tuera cela."
Note: the cardinal points the book, not at the manuscripts, but at the cathedral. What the book will kill is not the vehicle of man thinking, the carefully written word. The modes of writing thought will merely be somewhat transformed. What the book will kill is the established system for giving the fruits of men thinking a living presence in public consciousness through popular mimetic art, which is what the cathedral was, a vast structure of engaging, meaningful, iconographic communication, and would cease to be. As the medieval mimesis suffered its death pangs, great, historic opportunities unfolded. Tremendous changes in life flowed into history, as men, through inadvertence and careful forethought, created a new mimesis, a new popular culture, and endowed it with evolving concrete content, making the renaissance, reformation, enlightenment, and era of democratic reform. Fundamental consequences will always emerge as the whole public chooses, through diverse trials and many errors, the cultural content of its prevailing mimesis.
Never can the whole public simply legislate the cultural content of its prevailing mimesis. Always, it must create that content from within itself as various creative artists embody selected cultural contents in mimetic forms and popular audiences respond to these diverse possibilities, attracted to some of them more than to others. In this process, no one can persuade the popular audience that it ought merely to like what is deemed good for it. In creating a mimesis, the creator must try to craft something that will spontaneously attract popular attention. Hence any potential discourse justifying a mimesis as good and true at first has nothing to do with determining the allocation of attention by the public to the diverse works of mimesis put before it. That allocation depends on the comparative beauty of those various works, their comparative capacity to attract people as entertaining art. But a potential discourse justifying an effort at mimesis as good and true may, from the outset, have a great deal to do with the allocation of effort among the possible creators of mimetic work. Here, at any rate, is the fundamental proposition: if in the long process of creation, a work is conceived that has the promise of attracting genuine popularity, and in addition can have articulated for it convincing reasons that the genuine popularity of the cultural content to be embodied in it would be both good and true, then creative talent would gravitate to the production of this particular work. And the secondary proposition follows from this: if this particular work could be fully embodied, with its potentialities as entertaining art fully realized in a way consistent with the reasons for holding its cultural content to be good and true, then, on experiencing it, its popular audience will perceive in it something more than its basic character as entertaining art, appreciating it as something not only beautiful, but also good and true, and the popular audience will then acquire a new standard of quality and start to seek more such work.
These propositions, both the fundamental and the secondary, are statements of faith, a faith in people, a dubious faith, and we empiricists can brook no resolution of the dubiety except that of a thoroughgoing test, which means someone must act as if the faith is true. Whether true or false, however, we can at least derive from it operational standards for what we mean by good and true mimesis. Thus, the discourse justifying a particular mimesis as good will be a discourse the aim of which is to persuade a community of knowledgeable persons that the cultural contents of the mimesis, the ideas and concepts imaged in it, are indeed ones that ought to be imaged effectively to the general public. Thus, too, the discourse justifying a particular mimesis as true will be a discourse the aim of which is to persuade a community of knowledgeable persons that the imaging of the cultural contents of the mimesis, the presentation of the ideas and concepts embodied in it, is such that it will not deceive the audience about them, such that instead they will be presented with an accurate and true representation of these. And now to return to the question: why The Athenians? Now we can answer: because we anticipate that with this subject we can not only create a genuinely popular mimesis, but we can also put to a community of knowledgeable persons convincing reasons why the ideas and concepts to be conveyed in that mimesis are ones that ought to be conveyed to a broad public and that the way they will be conveyed to the public through the mimesis will be accurate and true, presenting those ideas and concepts in a way that does not deceive the public about them.
We can now see that the work conceived here is something far more complicated than a set of scripts for the episodes of a forthcoming TV series, The Athenians. We are aiming at an esoteric work of scholarship that will carry within itself a careful specification for an exoteric TV production as well as much more about the reasons why the exoteric work should be created in the way suggested. I will call this esoteric work of scholarship, Power and Pedagogy: Athenian Perplexities. The form of it, not of the mere series, The Athenians, is the original and powerful form here conceived. Intellect is estranged from mimesis because it always appears too late, after the act is over, in the guise of the carping critic. The form here conceived invites intellect to participate from the creation through the consummation. By embedding the production script in a well-reasoned rationale and justification, the writer permits knowledgeable critics of the medium, of the subject, of the cultural situation, all to leaven the production through their disagreements, caveats, comments, and criticisms. Power and Pedagogy: Athenian Perplexities will be read by its esoteric audiences in the manner intended because the members of these audiences will perceive that it both threatens and promises to bring their esoteric discussions to resolution as a fait accompli of everyday life.
Power and Pedagogy: Athenian Perplexities, if it can be rightly written, will surely be rightly read. But I must admit, despite my quixotic enthusiasm, to having at this point certain perplexities myself about its form. Recall that we began this long investigation of the problems inherent in the proper conception of scholarly work by recognizing that in conceiving the form of a work, one had not only to anticipate the process of writing the work in such a way that the work could indeed be written, but one also had to anticipate the process of reading the work so that it would in fact be read effectively by the audience for which it was intended. The new form, set forth here in a preliminary way, seems to have great promise as a powerfully effective form through which a large audience, exoteric and esoteric, can experience the content of a work. Thus it seems to be a form that anticipates the process of reading the work unusually well. What is perplexing at this point, however, is how this form can be made to function well in the writing of the work—the form seems to call for the composition of an extremely complex text.
Let us leave as moot the question of how such a text might be effectively organized. Instead, let us inventory those different things that need somehow to be organized coherently within the single work, Power and Pedagogy: Athenian Perplexities. Once we know the pieces we can think better about how to arrange them rightly. As we have seen, there are three major pieces: a script and production instructions for a major TV series, The Athenians; a discussion justifying the cultural value of what the series will present; and another discussion justifying the truth of the presentation. The Athenians will be a form of historical narrative, created under the constraints that it must be entertaining, of significant value in present-day culture, and correct and true in the depiction it gives, not only of facts and events, but of ideas and concepts as well. These are constraints under which the writer of historical books normally works, and the difference is one of the ultimate medium through which the historian composes and it will entail that the historian think about his sources in a somewhat novel manner. The first task therefore will be to go back over the sources, coming to grips with some new questions of evidence and exploring new possibilities for the combination of evidence. In this context, the basic question to be posed of the evidence is simply this: what can I truthfully picture as having happened on the basis of this evidence?
Take as an example: the text of Aristophanes Clouds survives in its integrity and we know fairly dependably when the play was produced. Does this evidence give us grounds for picturing a scene from its production? Probably—assume for now that it does. The first task is to read over the sources with this question in mind—On the basis of this source, what can I picture having happened? In doing this, problems of inferential picturing will be encountered. For instance, can we properly picture Socrates in the audience of the Clouds? Probably not, but in a written history we can make a statement of probability: Socrates probably was in the audience of the Clouds. Is there a way to picture the probable but uncertain as precisely that, a picture of the probable but uncertain? Once the sources have been re-studied with the potentiality for proper picturing on the basis of them firmly in mind, then it will be possible to start working out the form of The Athenians. Stories are to be told with the narrative resources of the picturing potentiality in the sources. Within the constraints of this picturing potentiality, one has to conceive episodes that will be effectively entertaining and substantively instructive.
How would one conceive these episodes? One would not, no more than the historical writer does, take the picturing potentiality of the sources passively and simply "reprint" Thucydides, so to speak, on the screen and sound track. Nor would one "adapt" Thucydides in an expanded fiction, as Laura Ingalls Wilder has been adapted in Little House on the Prairie. Rather one would compose historical syntheses on the basis of the totality of the picturing potentialities of the sources, Thucydides and everything else, constructing episodes much as the cultural historian constructs chapters, at once to tell a good story, to make a good point, and to contribute something significant to the whole account. One might construct some episodes around a significant person, Nicias, Alcibiades, Cleon, who have you; others around an event, the Athenian capture of Pylos or the trial of Socrates; yet others around problematic situations, the role of fraternities in politics, the uses of rhetoric, the treatment of women or slaves or prisoners, and so on. One would need to construct each episode, not only as powerful entertainment, but also as effective communication of the ideas and concepts that the topic of that episode has associated with it in Western civilization. Thus an episode on Nicias, one constructed making full use of the rather extensive sources—Thucydides, Plato, tragedy and comedy, Plutarch, inscriptions, excavations, and on—would need to convey well to the audience the problems and concepts generally associated with the character of Nicias—the political uses and abuses of cultured moderation, the danger of misplaced credulity, the costs of indecision. All the episodes together would need to be carefully articulated, one with the others, as a good historian would his chapters in composing a large historical synthesis, both so as to maintain interest and to give a full, properly balanced account of his over-all subject.
Let us assume that an entertaining set of historically responsible episodes is possible. The esoteric work, Power and Pedagogy: Athenian Perplexities would need to specify these in their fullness through written scripts, presenting the narrative to be realized through the editing, the dialogue and action, and the camera's eye, the mis en scene. In addition to this, the esoteric text would need to provide justification to knowledgeable audiences that the episodes, if produced as conceived, would present a mimesis of Athenian experience that was both good and true. The justification of the mimesis as good would take the form, I would anticipate, of a long introduction and conclusion to the whole work, and of prefaces and relatively extended instructions to actors, director, editors, all of which together would seek to explain what, in addition to good entertainment, is being aimed at and why it is important, for the world in which we live, that it be in fact achieved. The justification that the proposed mimesis is true would take the form, I would anticipate, of notes to these texts, and to the scripts of the episodes, addressed to scholars, explaining the relation of what is proposed as mimesis to the sources as we have them, justifying the choices of interpretation and synthesis much as writers of normal histories have long done.
To date, I can say no more about this project, this newly conceived form for a work, to which Eros has suddenly attracted me. Except for this: the choice of The Athenians, the whole conception of Power and Pedagogy: Athenian Perplexities, is controlled by my basic idea for a work in which I try, through indirect action, to increase the public capacity to experience the reciprocities in life and to improve the quality of life as a result. Greek thought and the Athenian experience is the well-spring of the Western ability to understand interactions, to search for the logos by which "all things are steered through all things." Reciprocities were the principium, the beginning, origin, foundation, and first principle, of their life and thought. And also to say this: if the work can be successfully embodied, it will be a most powerful call to direct action to educational leaders to maximize the cultural power and substance of the curriculum, there in the marketplace of daily life, and to clear away the greatest impediment to study—the esoteric manner in which serious matters are usually presented. For if a work such as Power and Pedagogy: Athenian Perplexities can be fully realized, not only in print but in the full televised production it carries within it, the work will point a way, not through words alone, but through an example as well, by which the constraints of the present pedagogical juncture can be decisively over-come. But can the work be written? That it seems to me is still most moot, and the Daimon will neither speak nor not speak until this possibility has been further explored.
Let me, therefore, leave this project standing there across the room—seductive, alluring, tempting—and try to draw a brief account of where I now find myself in an effort to explain my foreseeable scholarly plans. I have described a rather extended process of trying to rethink the subject of my work, a process which seems to have culminated in the idea of two works, each of which may eventually spawn many books and articles and even other things. The first idea leads to work that will call educators to courses of direct action the aim of which is two-fold. First, maximize the conceptual, cultural richness of the curriculum that can be effectively offered to people in search of opportunities to study. Second, minimize the impediments that hinder people in search of opportunities to study from effectively acting on that intention. The second idea leads to work that will operate itself as a form of indirect action in our public world. By effectively presenting to a large, diverse public, it will activate important political and pedagogical concepts that have historically developed within our tradition and that, I judge, it is imperative to keep alive as vital concepts in the present-day conduct of life. Pre-eminent among these are the concepts that allow people to understand their experience, and to act in accordance with that understanding, by means of the principle of reciprocity, or community, more appropriately taking account of the complex interactions surrounding them.
Controlled by the first idea, the call to educators to direct action, I have conceived a work, Rousseau and American Educational Scholarship, which I have partially drafted. The Daimon has raised doubts about it, however: unless the constraints change the call cannot be heeded and the work has no chance presently to have effect. This has led me to consider the current choice with respect to it. One possibility is to complete Rousseau and American Educational Scholarship, not for the present, but for some future time, when, I trust, the constraints will be less severe than they are at present. The other possibility is simply to set the work aside, another in the string of aborted dreams that the Daimon must bear upon its conscience. Setting aside that particular conception of a work does not necessarily mean, however, setting aside its controlling idea. Even if I take this course, I anticipate that Eros will remain alert to the possibility of other forms through which the controlling idea can be better embodied.
With respect to the second idea, an effort at indirect action in which selected concepts from our cultural heritage are better recalled to broad public awareness, I have had difficulty conceiving a form appropriate for such an endeavor: the established forms seem to me inadequate to the prevailing situation. Recently, as I have just described, I have conceived the possibility of a new form for such an effort, an attempt to create a genuinely popular cultural mimesis and to justify the proposed mimesis as one that will in fact effectively image valuable concepts to its audience in a way that does not deceive them about those concepts. As we have noted, this form seems very promising from one point of view, for it promises to have powerful effects, of the sort intended, on a large and diverse audience, if the work can ever be fully embodied. From another point of view, however, the work seems problematic, for the form conceived may call for a text that is too complicated to be written: it will have to combine into a single whole diverse discourses in a manner for which there are no existing models. At this point, however, I do not take this difficulty as a reason to demur at the conception, but rather as an indication of the problem that needs to be probed far more fully in further preparatory work: through the problem, I see promise in the form.
At this point, as I see it, the ensuing step most attractive to me will be to undertake preparatory work exploring the feasibility of Power and Pedagogy: Athenian Perplexities. Either such work will grow into a full and confident effort to bring the study to fruition, one in which I can concentrate virtually all my interests and abilities. Or it will eventuate in a compelling caution from the Daimon, in which case, I would either go back to Rousseau and American Educational Scholarship or on to some other project the possibility of which Eros has not yet put compellingly before me. Thus, my priorities:
- To probe the feasibility of Power and Pedagogy: Athenian Perplexities, and if feasible to let the project grow into my major preoccupation, my effort to climb onto the second rung of ascending aspiration.
- If this project must also be aborted, to assess where I then stand, either returning to a contextually lamed Rousseau and American Educational Scholarship, perhaps to essay the definitive yet popular biography of Rousseau mentioned so far above, or to take up some project the possibility of which has yet to occur to me.
That completes the account, to date, of "my development," as I see it having unfolded over the past ten years. Before closing, however, in the spirit of fullness and frankness that I have tried to adopt, I raise one further consideration that I must to be full and frank, namely that what I have described as a development may be nothing of the sort, being possibly instead an elaborate rationale cloaking an incapacity to commit myself and follow to completion the mundane work before me. I raise this consideration, not simply because I have encountered it voiced to me, from time to time, in both my personal and professional life, but further because it is a consideration of which I am inwardly aware and which I do try earnestly to take adequately into account.
If I were to voice this consideration to myself in the light of the account here given, I would say to myself something like the following. Beware, the ten years in question began with a series of deeply disorienting experiences. You first finished a long and arduous project and were left wondering what next to do. Your father then died suddenly, and any psychologist will tell you that a father's death can let strange things loose in the psyche that take a long time to bring back into order. Then, unexpectedly and suddenly, your marriage broke up, the accustomed, stable context of your entire adult life, from 22 to 34. And then you plunged into a stressful, highly unusual experience of a year, radically alone, without responsibility or function, in a foreign place. Then, my internal warning continues, you have on top of all that, adopted for yourself a peculiar psychology of development, this Eros and the Daimon, working mysteriously with "peripheral consciousness." Look, look sharply at how this peculiar psychology sets you up for an unending sequence of soaring aspirations and feverish work followed by the mutterings of self-administered discouragement, all of which leads nowhere and all of which serves only, deep within, to mask from yourself and the world your real depression and disillusionment.
I cannot categorically deny the potential probity in such warnings. Yet I am no more able to accept them. I can only recognize them and examine why the utterance of them is not compelling, why they echo in my mind without the authority of the Daimon. A conversation from my experience, typical of the genre:
"Warum kannst du nicht normaler Mensch sein?"
"Was meinst du, 'normaler Mensch?' Ich bin kein Kook."
"Nein, Dummer! Der normale Mensch ist der tägliche Mensch, der gewöliche Mann. Meinst du, es gefällt ihm, die 'Kinder, Kinos, Küsse'—die heutigen 'Kinder, Kirche, Küche'."
"Weiss ich nicht. Vielleicht, weil für mich ich der normale Mensch bin."
In the end it comes down to the question of what one takes the measure of the normal man to be, and that question comes down, as far as I can see, to what we take the nature of commitment to be. Here I feel that I am indeed out of step with most of the world, stubbornly convinced that my cadence is the right cadence to the right tune, even if I am only tapping it on my treasured tin drum. Most people, it seems to me, think that commitment can somehow be willed—from the apparent possibilities pick the most pleasing, the most prudent, the most promising, what have you, and resolve consciously to pursue the course they seem to chart and once resolved brook no deviation from the goal. In this view, I should act with more discipline, more conscious commitment—take the commissions for my work that come my way, resolve to fulfill them, do so as best I can, and let things, a career, build in this way, a series of well-executed, unexamined accomplishments. Never have I been able to act well in this way. "The boy stands astonished, his impressions guide him; he learns sportfully, seriousness comes on him by surprise." Never have I been able to experience a commitment as something that I make, knowingly and willfully; commitment happens instead by surprise.
For me, always, a commitment has been something that happens, a compelling attraction against which no doubting Daimon speaks. The willingness to wait for commitment to happen is what I take leading the examined life to entail. The inner sense, if permitted, will scrutinize everything far more rigorously than any prudential calculation can, and the attractions that pass that inner scrutiny will be the commitments that happen, the fruit of an examined life. This way is to me the way of the normal man. Had I only the experience of the last ten years upon which to base this conviction, I might doubt it inwardly, but I have a longer history than that and I have experienced commitments that have simply happened, and happened happily, productively. Guided by Eros and the Daimon I wandered into college and along many aborted paths—seriousness surprised me and I left with high honors and a prize. Then again, I wandered into graduate school, disoriented, angry, frustrated—slowly commitment happened, a commitment that eventuated in one good book and the foundation of a professional career. Again the wandering, far deeper, more prolonged wandering, a wandering, however, not without an apparent internal course of movement, a resolution to real questions, an achievement of a much more demanding definition for my work. Along the path of trial and error, I perceive real movement, constructive movement; true, I have not arrived on the second rung, but I think I have arrived in the district of its environs.
Should I choose now, now that I sense commitment again about to happen, to deny the way of proceeding that for me, through difficulty and success, has always been the way of the normal man in me? I think that would be a terrible failure of nerve, a collapse that I feel too strong to permit. I am grasping for the second rung, real originality and power, and the environs of it can only seem strange, if original, and frightening, if powerful. The psychology by which I have allowed myself to guide myself may be peculiar, and it may perhaps cloak profound self-evasion. Yet it is the only psychology that seems to speak well about the creative potency of life, from the simplest mystery of uttering a word with intent to the deepest gropings after yet unachieved accomplishment. And it is a psychology, however peculiar it may appear, that I find myself not alone in holding. Even the popular mimesis propounds it, however incompletely—"Luke, trust the force"—and not only does it derive from Socrates and Plato, but it resonates there, movingly, from so much of our heritage, Augustine, Dante, Rousseau, Nietzsche, resonates too from the work of the great Goethe, from the work we quoted not long ago—"No one knows what he is doing while he acts aright; but of what is wrong we are always conscious." And Goethe went on in Wilhelm's indenture to state precisely the dilemma of the normal man that anyone willing to wait for commitment to happen must face:
Whoever works with symbols only is a pedant, a hypocrite, or a bungler. There are many such, and they like to be together. Their babbling detains the scholar: their obstinate mediocrity vexes even the best. The instruction which the true artist gives us opens the mind; for where words fail him, deeds speak. The true scholar learns from the known to unfold the unknown, and approaches more and more to being a master.
Now, finally, to return to the beginning—"the road is better than the inn." All this, to the best of my ability, has been an account of the road I have tried to travel. It began, on finishing Man and His Circumstances with the recognition that my capacities, my knowledge, my art, my daring were inadequate for effecting my intent. Since then, I have re-examined and significantly transformed the subject of my work, and struggled to conceive the right form for my work. I have claimed, I think rightly, to have made some progress along this road; at any rate, I should like to think that this letter itself shows some development in my capacities, my knowledge, my art, and my daring from the point at which these stood some ten years ago. Be that as it may, the road here described is the road on which I shall seek to keep traveling, whatever the outcome of the review at hand. I should like, however, to make one final point with respect to that review.
Recall my basic contention: I feel that according to a performance standard, impersonally applied, I have some time ago qualified for promotion. I sense, however, that the promotion has not come about because the performances have not been those expected of me, and, whatever their quality, they have evoked a certain cognitive dissonance that surfaces as doubts about my development. My prudential strategy in the face of this situation has been, albeit at the risk of yet another unexpected performance, to push the question of development out of the realm of potentially tacit speculation so that it cannot intrude unconsciously in assessing the accomplishments of the black-box. Here, in closing, I want to complete this strategy of encapsulation.
One of the inns I've tarried at while traveling on my road, one of the inns at which I claim a "professionally significant arrival," is as a student of the process of self-education. One of the performances properly expected from a theorist of self-education is that he should give a thoughtful account of his own self-development. And it may further be particularly appropriate that he attempt the account in mid-course, while the major outcomes are still uncertain, for by doing so, the attempted account becomes susceptible at some future date to retrospective analysis in the light of ensuing developments. Hence, whatever the outcome of my planned and hoped for work, I claim with this letter to have written something, even if for now at most semi-public, that will be of major professional significance to students of self-education, among whom I have already arrived independently of this piece.
In "Toward a Place for Study in a World of Instruction," I promised a short book on Eros and Education, a promise that I have here moved a step toward fulfillment. True, its ultimate publication will be delayed, long delayed, I hope. But as a posthumous publication its eventual readers, should there still be some interested in the theory of self-education, will be able to ask of what it argues far more powerful questions than would present-day readers be able to ask of an impersonal treatise such as that I originally planned. Thus I claim here, for this letter, a significant performance, unorthodox, hard to evaluate, but one that demonstrates a continuity of concern, a deepening of thought, a more subtle command of form—on it, and previous accomplishments, I will for now stand.
Post Script: A Review of my Reviewers
Above, with respect to the performance standard, professionally significant arrival, I staked the claim that my book, Man and His Circumstances: Ortega as Educator, measured up: it shows not only "promise," not only "significant achievement," but "professionally significant arrival" as well. I want here to expand the documentation available for assessing that claim.
Binder A opens with copies of eighteen reviews of Man and His Circumstances, presented in order of their publication—to my knowledge this is a complete set of the reviews, excepting brief notices, among them one by the Saturday Review Syndicate, a copy of which I possess but I am uncertain whether it was ever published anywhere. There then follows in the binder copies of two letters about the book from persons of some significance, and then a selection of material from diverse sources, primarily the newsletter Manas, which shows the resonance in certain circles of "Toward a Place for Study," "Universal, Voluntary Study," and other articles. I want here to speak to three matters with respect to this material: first, my highest hopes for the book and the ambiguities of achievement with respect to them; second, evidence of professional significance in the public response; and third, the relation between an important point that came out in the public discussion of the book and my own developing concerns.
"If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it; for it is hard to be sought out and difficult." Thus Heraclitus, and I confess with Man and His Circumstances to having expected the unexpected. I thought Ortega stood for an important, under-utilized mode of action in the world; I thought I had articulated the importance of that mode of action for my world; I expected that the vision behind the book would be recognized, acknowledged, and celebrated with substantial public resonance—I had dreams of a front-page review in the Times book review section, a big piece on Ortega in the New York Review, and a ripple of articles in the major journals of the intelligentsia. That, of course, did not happen. I felt deeply disappointed. Thereafter, for a long time, I reacted to what reviews that did appear with a resigned uninterestedness—'what does it matter? The book is already an evident failure.' Amor fati: I stand both by the hope and by the disappointment, for the hope was necessary to write the book, and the disappointment necessary to go beyond the book.
From this distance, I can see the hope and disappointment in better perspective: in expecting the unexpected I took a risk, but a not unreasonable risk; rather I took the risk entailed by a Heraclitean prudence. By that I mean that I was not floating free in a fantasy world—I ran a race and did not win my hoped for prize, but I ran well enough, I now see, so that it at least does not appear to me absurd that I should have entered myself in the race. First, through a chance encounter a friend had, I have learned that Daniel Lerner came very, very close to writing that hoped for Times book review. Second, through the reviews that did appear, there is in fact a recurrent recognition that my achievement in the book is one in which I not only interpret Ortega well, but further bring both his thought and my own to bear on contemporary reality—thus Harold Raley, among others: "Dense without being obtuse, powerfully and compellingly written, it is bound to become a landmark and should go far toward rescuing Ortega from the limbo in which devoted but ineffective Hispanisists and imperceptive philosophers would leave him. Beyond this, it should be added that in establishing Ortega's place in the European intellectual lineage, Mr. McClintock has taken an impressive step toward demonstrating his own credentials as a distinguished philosopher of ideas."
Most important as assurance that I was not being absurd in expecting the unexpected, the book earned recognition at a distance that indeed it does speak to those matters, here and now, to which I thought it spoke. From Germany, Günther Böhme wrote in Erasmus: "thus McClintock's work fulfills a many-sided and, as I have shown, very necessary function. It can be read by those who are interested, not in Ortega as metaphysician, but in the philosopher thinking politically; it should be read by those who are devoted to a powerful, effective vivification of philosophy; it must be read by those who will earn a timely comprehension of practical, and that means pedagogical, philosophy. It offers material for those interested in recent history, especially in the place of the Hispanic in the European frame; and it is finally also an impressively instructive piece on how only in a united Europe, in which all the intellectual, moral, and material powers are intensified and culturally founded, is the prosperity of the future to be discovered." And most satisfying of all, a letter came from a man who was clearly a central participant in the dialogue in which I hoped to partake, greeting me as a colleague:
You must be surprised, and perhaps disappointed that I have not responded sooner to your letter of March 22 and not thanked you for your book. But I hold to the principle of never acknowledging a book before I have read it! and I did not have the time before the vacation to read your magnificent work. (Is it a thesis, or perhaps the fruit of your research after having become professor?) I thought I rather knew Ortega, who I like very much and who had inspired my thinking while I was young, but you have made me discover in him new depths and new riches. You have "instructed" me well and I will turn to your analysis of Ortega for my next book on Technique.
I have also been truly honored by the way you have taken my own work seriously and am very happy to be so well understood! There are generally so many misunderstandings surrounding my books that I am stupefied, moved, each time that a colleague truly understands what I try to say. But surely, the fact of having understood the thought of Ortega well, must have helped in the comprehension of my work, which attempts to continue the same path.
It was a great privilege to read your book and I thank you again for your thought, for your good-will toward me. Vous prie de croire a l'expression de mes sentiments des cultures,
Enough with respect to my expecting the unexpected: Man and His Circumstances did not fully enter the circle of discussion I had, in my highest hopes, thought it might. There were, however, sufficient hints in diverse reactions to the work that knowledgeable people found enough to the book that it could have held up in that circle had it ever arrived there; with those hints, I could retreat, confident that at least I had not hoped for the absurd.
Next, I want to say a bit about the recognition of professional significance in the work. This, I suspect, may be a matter of concern to some. Where a functioning geisteswissenschaftliche Pädagogik exists, no question about the professional significance of Man and His Circumstances would arise. Thus Günther Böhme, a professor of pedagogy, opened his review: "among the many excellences of this, perhaps too ambitious, book belongs this one: it has a title that, with all desirable precision, tells the reader what to expect." To Böhme, I presented Ortega consistently, konsequent, as the educator and showed, konsequent, how the thinking person can not be sundered from his circumstances. To him, genau genommen, strictly speaking, it was a book on education. To some reviewers in American educational journals, the professional significance of the book seemed less evident: Merle L. Borrowman in the Comparative Education Review warned possible readers that "one learns virtually nothing about schools from either Ortega or McClintock," yet there was matter in it significant to educators; Christopher J. Lucas in Educational Forum was somewhat apologetic about my classical use of the term "pedagogy"; and Manuel Maldonado Rivera in Educational Studies was blunt, "the title notwithstanding, this is not a book in the Foundations of Education."
Where Schleiermacher can be recognized as an educational thinker equal to Pestalozzi, where Dilthey can be put on a par with Dewey, where Otto Willmann can be the peer of Cubberley, where Spranger can stand beside Thorndike, where Flitner can rank with Kilpatrick—there, no question of the professional significance of Man and His Circumstances will arise. In the draft of Rousseau and American Educational Scholarship I investigate the historical reasons why, among other things, the first named in these pairings are virtual unknowns to professional students of education in the English-speaking world, particularly in the United States. A copy of the draft of that study follows the reviews in Binder A, and I hope it will be considered if there are any doubts about the professional significance of Man and His Circumstances, for although far from complete, and much in need of expansion, tightening, polishing, it is adequate to indicate the trajectory of an argument, one upshot of which would be to suggest that any appearance of professional irrelevance to Man and His Circumstances evidences, not its lack of professional significance, but the existence of a deficiency in the profession. We have no geisteswissenschaftliche Pädagogik, so the proper context of the professional significance of the book is not apparent to all. We do have, however, geisteswissenschaftliche Pädagogen, whether we recognize them as such or not, and what I want to point out here is that all of them who made contact with the book asserted its professional significance.
Who are these geisteswissenschaftlichen Pädagogen who have made contact with my book: Henry Geiger writing in Manas, Karl Kroeber in the Teachers College Record, Michael J. Parsons in the Journal of Aesthetic Education, G.H. Bantock in the History of Education Quarterly, and Bernard J. Looks in the Teachers College Record. They all agree that there is something of professional significance in the book, much of professional significance, although they are not of precisely the same mind about what that is. Geiger and Kroeber may be characterized as men not of the educational profession in the narrow sense, but, from their respective life-situations, deeply concerned with it; while Parsons, Bantock, and Looks are, in their diverse ways, representatives of the geisteswissenschaftlichen outlook in the educational profession. Let me call attention to the professional significance they see in the work.
Years ago, Henry Geiger, one of the unsung heroes of American intellectual life, a self-educated printer, founded Manas, a weekly newsletter centrally concerned with education from the view-point of the humane, libertarian left. Plato and Ortega have always been among those thinkers from whom Geiger draws his inspiration. Manas reflects Geiger's continuous odyssey of self-development; it conveys to readers a conviction in limitless human potential, the joy and worth of cultivating it in oneself and others, and the importance of continuously reaching out to the cultural heritage for stimulation in that effort. Geiger aims his message at the educator in all of us and especially the educators in the schools, asking them not merely to do their jobs, but to do them well, with the highest values and deepest resources continually in mind. I am proud that early on Geiger discovered my work and has consistently given it resonance in Manas, which, if there was a geisteswissenschaftliche Pädagogik in the United States would be one of its acknowledged and respected clearinghouses for ideas and concerns. Geiger saw in Man and His Circumstances, not merely a book about one of his favorite thinkers, but a book that spoke well and movingly to the educational concerns inspiring his own life work: "this book might well be made the philosopher, guide and friend of every teacher." To him, at least, it was professionally significant.
Kroeber, Parsons, and Bantock all recognized the value of "exemplarity and aptness," the central concepts in my analysis of Ortega's conception of the pedagogical relationship, civic and personal. They all recognized these concepts as very helpful in defining what, in geisteswissenschaftlicher Pädagogik, is called das pädagogische Problem, the pedagogical problem that must be solved in a culture if the humane educational possibilities open to it are to be achieved. Kroeber drew attention to my exposition of these concepts and then asserted the professional significance—"the principal attraction of McClintock's exegesis will be the fashion in which he extends it into a critique of current American cultural-educational circumstances." Parsons did the same, although within greater constraints of brevity. So too did Bantock. Bantock is probably the most konsequent thinker in the tradition of geisteswissenschaftliche Pädagogik writing in English, grounded in the austere literary criticism of F.R. Leavis, consistently dedicated to uncovering the implications for humane life in educational thought and practice. He did Man and His Circumstances the honor of taking it seriously, of calling attention to the importance of "exemplarity and aptness" as a conception of the pedagogical relationship fundamental to the liberal tradition in Western experience, and of raising important questions about whether the conception of it that I and Ortega share is adequate for the current cultural juncture. I think there can be no question from Bantock's review that to him at any rate, the work addressed, in a basic way, what should, perhaps, be recognized as, not merely an issue of professional significance, but the issue of professional significance.
This brings me to the final matter I want to speak about with respect to the reviews, namely, how the course I have chosen to follow over the past ten years relates to a basic question eventually raised in the critical reaction to Man and His Circumstances. This question first began to appear in the review by the political theorist, Benjamin R. Barber, and it became relatively well defined in the disagreement articulated between G.H. Bantock and Bernard J. Looks. This question centered on the problem of power and effective leadership. Bantock put the question best, if I understand him correctly. Yes, he granted, a non-coercive relationship of exemplarity and aptness has been the fountainhead of historic initiative in the Western tradition of liberalism in pedagogy and politics. But, he noted, the crisis of the twentieth century, as he sees Ortega and I diagnosing it, with his own concurrence, has been one in which the spirit of aptness has deserted people, with the result that there are no effective exemplars and historic initiative shifts to those eager to wield coercive power. Bantock is not convinced that the ideal of Europe will create a new context of exemplarity in which the spirit of aptness will return to people, and he concludes that liberals in politics and pedagogy must therefore recognize the realities of power and consider resorting to means they have always tried to eschew: "paradoxically, to preserve itself, liberalism must risk using those weapons which constitute a seeming negation of its principles—or else it is lost anyway."
Looks found Bantock's conclusion troubling and sought another way to respond to the difficulty. In his view the problem of liberalism in its best sense in the twentieth century has not been a failure of aptness on the part of the many, but a miscalculation of major proportions by reforming elites, namely their proclivity to by-pass the established institutions, to contrast a "new politics" to the "old politics," with the result that they polarize efforts to initiate concrete improvements in pedagogical and political life. He saw Ortega exemplifying this miscalculation and he thought I was too sympathetic to it. Rather than resort, as Bantock suggested (although as Looks pointed out, Bantock has not himself yet done) to an authoritarian politics and pedagogy, exponents of a non-coercive leadership should, in Looks' view, concentrate on working within, not outside, established institutions, which offer, however imperfectly, effective modes of organized action for those seeking to improve pedagogical and political life.
[§§] For the problem of brevity of tenure of HEW Secretaries, see George D. Greenberg, "Constraints on Management and Secretarial Behavior at HEW, Polity, XIII:l (Fall 1980), pp. 57-79.
To my mind, Looks made a valid point, but did not quite meet Bantock's argument. I do not want here to debate the appropriateness or inappropriateness of Ortega's nueva for Spanish circumstances to my mind, one must take whatever routes open within or outside of established institutions. Thus, the clearest answer I could give to Looks would be to note that his article greeted me on my return from an eight-month effort to bring "civic pedagogy" to bear, on and through, HEW. At least one Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, saw Man and His Circumstances to be fundamental to his long-term agenda for the leadership of that Department and sought me out as a central member of his immediate staff because of that. My articulation within my context of this relevance, along with annotations by Secretary Mathews, can be found in my memo—oh, how horrible a title—"Organization of a Network for Collecting and Refining Ideas" (B30). To be sure, the long-term agenda, like all long-term agenda's for HEW, got cut short. Nevertheless, this undertaking shows, pace Looks, that the book has not necessarily been taken by all to prescribe a course eschewing action through established institutions, and it should show, pace those who would hold the book not to be professionally significant, that it has been recognized as otherwise by someone occupying one of the citadels of professional significance.
Bantock's question remains, however. It is a question that faces us all whether we are working inside established institutions or outside them. A problem of power does exist; of this I have been long aware, from long before Bantock wrote, for since 1968, I have been sure that I must address myself in a sustained way to the topic of Power and Pedagogy (see B1 & B2), and my search over the past ten years has been largely a search for a way to do this effectively. I agree with Bantock when he observes that "the blunt fact is that both politics and pedagogy constitute forms of power." I do not agree, however, with the implication that there must be, therefore, a dimension of arbitrary coerciveness in either politics or pedagogy. This is a profound difficulty that could take us through all the central questions of political and educational theory. Suffice it for here to note a few points relative to Bantock's argument. He emphasized the failure of aptness in setting up his question, and surely such a failure is a fact of life, and if the difficulty is simply and solely a failure of aptness in the many, then his conclusion, that recourse to arbitrary coerciveness in the conduct of politics and education is necessary, follows ineluctably as an unfortunate necessity. What he did not consider, in setting up his argument, however, is the possibility of a consistent, repeated failure of exemplarity on the part of public leaders in politics, culture, and education.
To me, the problem of liberal power, something that must be at once truly liberal in its respect for the dignity and autonomy of every person, and at the same time effective power in its capacity to shape the course of events, may not lie primarily in the decline of aptness, but rather in the absence of genuine exemplarity. Have the putative exemplars been sufficiently exemplary in the twentieth century to extend the liberal tradition in politics and pedagogy effectively? Liberalism, when in form, has been a creative, inventive tradition; it has emerged in history as men have found unexpected solutions to their pressing problems. This is the way; inventiveness, the creation of unexampled exemplarity, is the task of liberal power. To Bantock's conclusion, "to preserve itself, liberalism must risk using those weapons which constitute a seeming negation of its principles—or else it is lost anyway," I counter with the alternative conclusion, "to preserve itself, liberalism must invent and use new weapons which constitute an effective extension of its principles—or else it is lost anyway." Since well before finishing Man and His Circumstances, I recognized that, for me, this task leads inexorably to another work, Power and Pedagogy. But I have come more and more to take Ortega's words to heart with which I closed the first book:
We have arrived at a moment, ladies and gentlemen, in which we have no other solution than to invent, and to invent in every order of life. I could not propose a more delightful task. One must invent! Well then! You the young—Lad and lasses—Go to it!
We must invent—Power and Pedagogy. Under that imperative I have seen that this work can not merely be about power and about pedagogy; rather it must somehow become a powerful pedagogy in the fullest, most liberal sense—thus the twelve-year evolution recounted above of a work, perhaps now conceived, but yet to be begun. Pace Bantock, the present juncture requires, not coerced aptness, but an unexampled exemplarity. That is the liberal road; it is better than the authoritarian inn.