_The Ignorant Schoolmaster_, Chapter 3: “Reason Between Equals”
Posted by robf on January 23, 2010
As the discussion leader for this chapter, I suppose I should stand ignorantly at the door, pushing you through to enter and explore with no escape from exercising your liberty, all the while asking each of you what do you see? What do you think about it? What do you make of it?
I’ll try to do that, but as for myself, I found this chapter a great adventure, a veritable playground of ideas. Not a swing set and curly slide type of playground, but a large forest park, with hills to climb and slide back down, caves to explore, and creeks to wade.
In Chapter 3 Ranciere takes on our prior questioning of the equality among intelligences. From the get go he tells us that “our problem isn’t proving that all intelligence is equal. It is seeing what can be done under that supposition” (46). So this is an adventure, not a logical proof. He isn’t here to lead us step by step, keeping one step ahead of us, until we assent to the logic of a superior mind. He invites us to explore the possibility of equality, and see what we can do with it.
So what do you see in this adventure? What do you think about it? What do you make of it?
For my part, I can’t think of intelligences without thinking of Joseph Smith and the Nauvoo days, of the prophet in the woods, spending hours telling his listeners about eternity, and our eternal natures that in some way are “co-eternal” with God. Can we read Ranciere as having something to say about our eternal nature as intelligences, about the project of the Restoration, and building of Zion and eternal Celestial societies?
For my part, as I scrambled over boulders and pulled myself up to through the ravines of Ranciere’s text, I encountered new vistas. Perhaps even an unrecognized and overgrown path to a world where a community of equals could live , where all had one heart and mind, with no poor among them.
Meanwhile, here are some of the hills I climbed, caves I dipped into, and rocks I looked under while playing in the creek. If they sound like fun things to explore, join in–or even better, show us what daring feats of adventure this chapter made possible for you!
1) Not inequality of intelligence, but inequality of attention. As I looked at this gem, I compared it to Joseph Smith’s teachings about the souls of men–that “We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect.” And again from the Prophet: “All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement.” What do you see here? What do you think about it? What do you make of it? Is Ranciere, like Joseph Smith, recognizing that there is something equal in all of us that is even “co-equal” with God, something equal to all other similar beings in its being “susceptible to enlargement”?
2) “Man is a will served by an intelligence” (51-52). What do you see here? What do you think about it? What do you make of it? I daren’t say what I think, or how this makes me feel, save that it resonated deep within me, in chambers usually reserved for the most sacred teachings. I am in love with this.
3) “Intelligence is attention and research before being a combination of ideas. Will is the power to be moved, to act by its own movement, before being an instance of choice” (54) What do you see here? What do you think about it? What do you make of it? What would it mean to accept this, and to how might it lead us to treat one another if we recognized this as the foundation of our existence? How might this influence the way we teach in church? What is the importance of attention? Are we really paying attention to what Ranciere is saying in this book, or have we perhaps been at times too quick to dismiss his project as the delusion of an inferior mind? Do we do the same with those we teach at church? Those who just “don’t get it”?
4) “It is the lack of will that causes intelligence to make mistakes. The mind’s original sin is not haste, but distraction, absence.” (55) What do you make of this? Can you see Adam and Eve in the garden making this “original sin”? Can you play out that drama as if you were each respectively Adam or Eve? What more do you see here? What do you think about it?
5) “The first vice is laziness. It is easier to absent oneself, to half-see, to say what one hasn’t seen, to say what one believes one sees.” (55). What do you see here? For my part I wondered, how are we lazy in the gospel? What is the relationship between exercising faith and exercising will to direct intelligence?
6) “The principle of evil lies not in a mistaken knowledge of the good that is the purpose of action. It lies in unfaithfulness to oneself” (57). What do you see here? What do you make of it? What is “unfaithfulness to self”? I wondered about taking this beyond some Ayn Randian notion, to those intelligences that God sent into the world?
7) “The wrong is in diverging from, leaving one’s path, no longer paying attention to what one says, forgetting what one is. So follow your path. This principle of veracity is at the heart of the emancipation experience. It is not the key to any science, but the privileged relation of each person to truth, the one that puts him on his path, on his orbit as a seeker. It is the moral foundation of the power to know” (57). What do you see here? What can you make of it? What is veracity? For Latter-day Saints, what s the difference between honesty and veracity? Is there a difference? Do our temple covenants help us with this kind of veracity?
8) “What is essential is to avoid lying, not to say that we have seen something when we have kept our eyes closed, not to believe that something has been explained to us when it has only been named (59). What do you see here? Couldn’t we spend a whole year on this one? Can we see how everything Ranciere is saying is contained in this statement? Does this shed any light for us on our stories about the Father of All Lies?
9) Ranciere claims that the Socratic method “apparently so close to universal teaching, represents the most formidable form of stultification” because it forces a teacher’s orbit of the truth upon his students. Wow. Am I doing this here by listing so many possible discussion points? What do you see here? What can you make of this?
10) Truth “doesn’t rely on philosophers who say they are its friend: it is only friends with itself” (60). I would love to play in this creek all day! What do you see here? What can you make of this?
11) “Thought is not told in truth; it is expressed in veracity. It is divided, it is told, it is translated for someone else, who will make of it another tale, another translation, on one condition: the will to communicate, the will to figure out what the other is thinking, and under no guarantee beyond this narration, no universal dictionary to dictate what must be understood. Will makes out will.” (62). What do you make of this? What do you see here?
12) Understandings are “the effect of two wills helping each other out” (63). Anyone want to explore this cave with me? What do you see here? What can you make of this? Is this kind of helping work or play?
13) “In the act of speaking, man doesn’t transmit his knowledge, he makes poetry; he translates and invites others to do the same. He communicates as an artisan; as a person who handles words like tools.” (65). What do we see here? What do you make of it? Can we play around with this one? How does it make you feel? What can you do with it?
14) “it’s not a matter of making great painters, it’s a matter of making the emancipated: people capable of saying, “me too, I’m a painter.” (66-67). What can you make of this? What do you see here? Is it enough to just be a painter, or do we want to be great painters? And if we want to be great, what can we make of this: “there are no men of great thought, only men of great expressions” (69)?
15) “We can thus dream of a society of the emancipated that would be a society of artists. Such a society would repudiate the division between those who know and those who don’t, between those who possess or don’t possess the property of intelligence. It would only know minds in action: people who do, who speak about what they are doing, and who thus transform all their works into ways of demonstrating the humanity that is in them to everyone” (71). What do you see here? What can you make of this? I’m gazing out at this vista wondering if Zion is a Rancierian “society of artists”?
16) Is Ranciere crazy? Is this all just pie in the sky? Fuzzy thinking? Or might it be more helpful to accept the assertion that “There are no madmen except those who insist on inequality and domination, those who want to be right. Reason begins when discourses organized with the goal of being right cease, where equality is recognized” (72). What do you see here? What can you make of it? How might this impact our teaching in the church? Do we have to be “right” as teachers? What is the difference between being “right” and being “true to ourselves”?
OK, there’s a lot more in there, but these were my favorites. What were yours? I’d especially love to hear thoughts about eternal intelligences, will, and how Ranciere might help us with building up the Kingdom of God on the earth and establishing Zion. Do we find anything here in Ranciere that can help us better appreciate the following from Joseph Smith:
“The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits.”
Come. Let us reason together. After a couple weeks now with Ranciere, what do you see? What do you think about it? What do you make of it?