Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Teaching and Learning at the Autonomous University during Barcelona’s Seventies: The Remains of Philosophy

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Teaching and Learning at the Autonomous University during Barcelona’s Seventies: The Remains of Philosophy

Article excerpt

The opening pages in the traditional edition of Aristotle's Metaphysics are focused on the test that may be used to distinguish ordinary knowledge (aisthesis or sensation and empeiria or experience) from science. The elementary form of science is what Aristotle calls technê, i.e., art in the family of the Latin translation. The essential difference between the sensations and the experiences elaborated from the repetition of sensations, on one side, and art, on the other side, is evident when we perceive that animals are reduced to the first two kinds of knowledge, while art is a human affair. If a deeper distinction must be underlined, the clearest is that when somebody is in the domain of art, he or she is necessarily able to teach it. And teaching, adds Aristotle, is equivalent to stating the why and the cause.

Leaving aside the details and the conceptual analysis of this classical text, it seems to me interesting that, in a book in which the word philosophy is first used meaningfully, the teaching and learning game is already present in the definition of the first characteristic of, in Aristotle's words, the searched for science. Philosophy and teaching/learning are concepts that belong one to another in a mutual embracement.

In some way, this reflection allows me to recognise that the remains of Philosophy, in our times often deprived of any shadow of it, are for me the remains of my teaching and learning. By now just my learning will be treated, i.e., their teaching, the teaching of my beloved old colleagues at the Autonomous University of Barcelona forty years ago.

I have had other masters, and very close friends that have influenced strongly my attachment to the study of philosophical texts. Seneca's quotation "Dum docent discunt" opens, even more, the possibility of being oneself a kind of insufferable and constant teacher of oneself. I learn while I teach. It's absolutely true. But let me leave aside the possibility of an elegant lesson. I'll forget for a moment this real nightmare, and I'll stay just with what remains of the teaching of some of my professors at UAB.

The Philological Perspective

The first one I ever had (yet a neighbour, a friend, a marvellous presence in family life) is Josep Montserrat. In 1975 he used to teach Ancient Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy of UAB. He was quite famous at this moment for his heterodox versions of Christian History, based in his deep knowledge of several ancient languages (including Coptic). In the last moments of the dictatorship of Franco and some of his foolish bishops, this profile was not for amusement. But this is not our subject. I would like to distil honestly the remains of his teaching. Not the one nowadays, full of an elegant lesson: it doesn't matter who you are and who you have become; he stayed always at his place beside you, always the same person, clever and simple for his real friends. This is more real and a very private subject. Philosophical subjects become more and more private with age. No, I want, as in all the other cases that I'll try to report here, to find out a distillation of my memory with the concrete teaching of that time, even if the best lesson is the private one. Certainly it is a memory of the present, but memory in any case.

The best lectures of Josep Montserrat that I have in my mind were on a few dialogues of Plato: Parmenides, Sophist, and Philebus in particular. This is not the field in which he has been more celebrated and conspicuous, because his works on the thought around the first centuries of Christianity are really well known. But those lectures on Plato's mature writings were developed with an intellectual elegance and daring, and at same time so close to the original texts that I felt the taste of the truth, for the fist time, far from the vitalist and speculative conceptual preferences that two or three years ago had inclined me to leave a scientist career and fall in love with Philosophy. …

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