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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 10, No. 9. June 25, 1947

"Learned Ignoramus"

"Learned Ignoramus"

At this point we must consider our second proposition. What guarantee have we in any case that such an orientation course will be little more than another example of academic isolation? Even if our maturing graduate does look back to the broader sweeps of knowledge, will he be so conditioned as to create in them relevance to the concrete problems of his present living? Before answering these questions we will consider again the propositions above. These indicated two needs. First, orientation. From what has been said it will be apparent that I believe this can only be attained when it is approached through some specific angle. i.e., the economist must see the world as an economist, the historian as a historian, and so on. Without the special viewpoint there is no enduring frame of reference, yet on the other hand, without the general orientation we have that tragedy of the twentieth century, Ortega y Gasset's "learned ignoramus"—the specialist.

But, secondly, as the questions above suggest, such an orientation lifts us little above the mere "academic" unless it has some definite relation to life in the concrete, the urgent and the immediate.

The solution of these problems of orientation and relevance lead us quickly to the business of abolishing the Philosophy Department. A proposal guaranteed to shake its very foundations, from the minors fascinating themselves with that great new twentieth century science, "Psychology," to the more dignified elders communing with Berkeley. Kant and brother muses on the top floor.

This abolition of the Philosophy Department is calculated to help us as follows. From henceforth every other department will have to consider the philosophic implications of its study. Who else is more suited to do so? Any attempt to develop philosophy in this century has necessitated a study of some special, previously non-philosophic field, particularly one of the natural sciences. (Consider, for example, the cases of Russell and Whitehead.) It is my contention that by demanding that the various concrete bodies of knowledge make a sophisticated development of their own philosophic aspects, gradually the isolation between the various departments will be broken down. Thus will orientation be effected.

But this is not all. If there were a department of sociology it would also have to be abolished. Thus it is demanded of each sphere of knowledge that it develop its social aspects and implications as well as the philosophic. In this manner, besides the orientation, a more realistic connection with contemporary life would be established. At present, to my knowledge, the only department in the College admitting of a sociology course is the Education Department. But here, God forbid, it is treated as a somewhat mysterious and unrelated imposition involving little more than a set of arbitrary definitions imposed on a mass of common knowledge. The explanation is probably to be found in the fact that the philosophy section of that department most fittingly serves the sociological as well as the philosophical aspects of education in relation to contemporary problems.