We have all admired someone who, step-by-step, works through a problem and demonstrates the answer. How many times have we looked back and said, "I wish I could do that again. If only I had thought through that better at the time." While we can admire a strict step-by-step analysis of a problem, we cannot spend more time analyzing life than actually living. We need a messy wisdom, a wisdom that speaks in a timely and concerned fashion to our everyday lives.
By 1709, Descartes's push for certainty was in full bloom. Extolling the exactitude of mathematics, scholars subjected life to rigorous logical analysis. Giambattista Vico responded in 1709 with his On the Study Methods of Our Time. In this work, Vico, without denying the value of rigorous analysis, argued that Descartes's method ignored the needs of students. "But the greatest drawback of our educational methods is that we pay an excessive amount of attention to the natural sciences and not enough to ethics" (33). If our schooling has to wait 22 years to teach students how to be good citizens, then that's too long. Logic is good, necessary, and helpful. However, it often moves too slow, and it cannot grapple with tremendous gaps in our knowledge, an ignorance which is all too common and unavoidable. When we act with patience and a sensitivity to the particulars of a situation, the hindsight of rigorous analysis will often reveal that we may have acted with more wisdom than we knew.
|From the Holocaust|