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 Class Forums - Spring 2013
 PHIL 200-001 - Sokrates and Plato
 Teacher vs. Parent
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Josh Barreras
Fledgling

6 Posts

Posted - Mar 07 2013 :  11:45:05 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
On Monday, toward the end of the discussion, you mentioned a theory that went along something like the following lines: "some virtues can be taught be a teacher, but others are habits acquired in the course of one's upbringing." One example you mentioned of a person who contributes to the formation of such habits was a parent. Since that class I've been wondering: what is the difference between a teacher and a parent? I can't get this question out of my head. The only real difference I can see is that your teachers aren't usually your relatives. I talked about this with my wife, and she mentioned that she had heard that somewhere, at some time in the past, teachers weren't paid because teaching was seen as something done by everyone. I'm interested in your position on the question.

[Lightly edited to enhance readability -TT]

Tom Trelogan
Forum Admin

1418 Posts

Posted - Mar 11 2013 :  11:34:49 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The theory I mentioned is Aristotle's, and it's set forth in his Nicomachean Ethics. The all-important distinction for Aristotle is not the distinction between teachers and parents but the distinction between instruction and upbringing. Aristotle thinks that the moral virtues (the excellences of character he describes in Books III and IV of the Ethics) are acquired, if they're acquired at all, in the context of one's upbringing, whereas the intellectual virtues (the excellences of intellect that he describes in Book VI of the Ethics are acquired, if they are acquired at all), as a result of their being imparted to or instilled in one by a process of instruction.

In our own culture, teachers regularly play a much larger part in forming our character in childhood than they did in ancient Greece where the kind of instruction Aristotle thinks is capable of imparting or instilling the excellences of intellect he's talking about was available to very few people and never (or almost never) in any case available to children.

So setting aside the question of the difference between teachers and parents (the answer to which probably varies in any case from one culture or subculture to the next and within a given culture or subculture from one historical period to the next), what's your own view on the question of how such character traits as bravery or generosity are acquired and on the question of how such intellectual abilities as being able to explain things scientifically or being able to make prudent choices among various possible means to a given end are acquired -- regardless of whether they're acquired in the course of one's interactions with one's parents or in the course of one's interactions with one's teachers?
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Josh Barreras
Fledgling

6 Posts

Posted - Mar 13 2013 :  12:33:29 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I have to say that I think that characteristics such as bravery and generosity are usually formed sometime during your upbringing but not necessarily by your parents -- especially, as you said, in our culture where parents rarely seem to have a large role during most of their children's lives thanks to daycare and school. I do think, though, that it is much easier to "learn" these type of characteristics from your parents due to the natural respect that children have for their parents.

I also think that there are few people who truly have these characteristics. Take bravery. While people have an idea of what bravery is and can display their own version of it in self-selected situations, I think that if it came to an unanticipated situation, a huge majority of us would fail to show true bravery. I think those who do have true bravery would have to have had some dramatic experience, not necessarily as a child, that demonstrated what true bravery is and that gave them a true understanding of "what it is." That is how I believe someone acquires true bravery.

As for intellectual abilities, I think it is more a combination of being taught them and one's natural ability to comprehend and retain information. Not only that but I feel that it also has to be a natural or practiced ability to be able to verbalize these things. I for one am able to understand math very well, but when it comes to teaching someone else, such as a fellow student, how to do it, I seem to fall short. One of the most important things would have to be having a good teacher who uses a style of instruction that the student can easily understand. In learning these types of abilities I feel it is much more important to learn them when you are young. I see it like a language almost. If you learn it as a child you tend to be much more proficent and fluent in it.

[Lightly edited to enhance readability -TT]
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Sarah Chavez
Newcomer

4 Posts

Posted - May 08 2013 :  7:58:45 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I agree with Josh in thinking that some people are born with stronger characters than others (e.g., some are just naturally braver) regardless of whether such dispositions are usually acquired in the course of one's interactions with one's parents or with one's teachers. I believe that when they are acquired after birth, such qualities as bravery and generosity are not really "taught" at all but are learned through mimicking (monkey see monkey do). Such traits really can't be taught in a class. But the combination of nature and nurture can result in such things as bravery and generosity.

As regards such intellectual abilities as being able to explain things scientifically or being able to make prudent choices among various possible means to a given end, these are acquired, I believe, from "teachers," No one is born speaking at a highly intellectual level. We learn to do this from the teachings of those who themselves have become 'expert.'

[Lightly edited to enhance readability -TT]
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