Simon Critchley on Teaching
Simon Critchly is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York. He is the author of many books,including On Heidegger's Being and Time and Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance. The Book of Dead Philosophers was written on a hill overlooking Los Angeles, where he was a scholar at the Getty Research Institute. He lives in Brooklyn.
Question: What’s the most important lesson you impart to your students?
Critchley: Teaching is about the formation of autonomy. You’re trying to allow students to think for themselves. That’s what you’re trying to do and you’re trying to get them to think for themselves by accepting a certain discipline of thinking with others. Most of the teaching that I do is concerned with teaching the text of the western tradition, say, I’m very, very concerned with that. So, what students have to learn is to give themselves over to studying, to discipline of that kind and hopefully if the experience is good, that will enable them to see that, you know, thinking for yourself doesn’t mean necessarily what’s just in your head, but it means engaging with the holes of the wider issues which require time and discipline to think through. What I also want them to end the course if they’ve taken a course with me is a certain, maybe frustration with me as well. That’s important. I mean it’s important as a teacher to at a certain point to be, if you like, revered, and then another point to be rejected. So what I’d like, the students that I like are students that maybe, yeah, the students that fight with me and those are the ones that I tend to hang out with most.
The philosopher explains the instruction of autonomy.
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