Monday, February 27, 2006

Good one by Jason Stanley at Leiter's World. At the bottom he links to a post by his brother (one I missed). Also good.
Here's my bit.
This began as a question about what kind of specialist is better equipped to handle a specific instance of a medical and moral dilemma. J. Stanley responds by arguing commonsensically if in unphilosophical terms that specialists are not often capable of being specific enough when dealing with real world issues.
Specialists are only specialists within the context of the wider pool of knowledge: they are by necessity generalists concerning their fields themselves. Doctors know diseases more than patients just as generals know warfare more than soldiers [enlisted or inductees]; though good doctors and good generals know both. Still, in our democracy we don't let generals decide when to go to war.

"The people I would turn to for aid in such a decision are those friends of mine whom I regard as having a certain kind of wisdom and insight about the human condition"

That begs a lot of questions.
A 'humanist' education, referring to M. Stanley's post, has less to do with knowledge per se -and less with teaching than with learning- than with the appreciation of these varieties of scale. Works of art are works of articulate hyper-specificity, mapping out not rules but exceptions. They refer to one instance of an act, or to one response: that's why literature is forever offering up strangely sympathetic murderers. It's also why artists' attempts at philosophical generalizations are generally laughed at, as much as philosophers' attempts at art. A humanist education is the learning not only of medicine but of a bedside manner. That's not as simple as learning how to be nice and it's something worthy of philosophical discussion. (Good lawyers have good bedside manners too )
But that discussion would not be one from specialization but merely concerning it.

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