What the teacher says and what the student learns.

This from Gillian Clark’s introduction to her Cambridge commentary on Augustine’s Confessions:

[Augustine’s] own experience as a teacher made him doubt that there was any obvious connection between what the teacher said and what the student learned (On the Teacher, 38–44).


What more is there to say? The experience of the teacher militates against the commonplace prejudice of our time, that knowledge can and must be disseminated to all as easily and as freely as possible. What is it for? And how is it acquired?

It is deceptively easy to say, for example, that knowledge is easier than ever to acquire today by means of Google and Wikipedia. Unfortunately, it has been observed with only too little incisiveness, so that even comments like the one I’ve just made have become disarmingly saccharine.

This, with MacIntyre’s After Virtue and a summer of reading Byzantine hagiography, led me to the greatest depression I have ever felt, which lasted a year. I was blessed to have been led to Plato in the Phaedrus and to the Parable of the Sower and Thomas Szlezák’s Reading Plato.

The message was simple: technology for the dissemination of knowledge leads to its trivialization and, ultimately, to ignorance of it. But by goodwill and the patient dialectic of friendship, two souls seeking truth together can find it.

We would be able to live this truth better, I think, if we didn’t have things like this blog I’m writing, or newspapers, or television, or syndicated media.

Thanks, dear reader, should you ever find me, for not having found me yet. You and I are better off for it: how much worse if there were a combox!


About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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