Republic of South Africa, Framework for Institutional Audits. Higher Education Quality Committee. Pretoria, Council on Higher Education 2004, viewed on 11 April 2001, http://www.che.ac.za.
DN Kaphagawani & JG Malherbe, ‘Epistemology and the Tradition in Africa’, in Philosophy from Africa: A Test with Readings, P.H. Coetzee & A.
P.J. Roux (eds), Oxford University Press, Cape Town, 2002.
GJS Dei, ‘African Development: The Relevance and Implications of Indigenoussness’, paper presented at the Learned Society Meeting of Canadian Associations for the Study of International Development (CAISID), Brock University, St Catharines, Ontario, May 31 - June 2 1996, viewed on 12 January 2008, http://www.brocku.ca/epi/casid/dei.htm.
J Muller, ‘Knowledge and Higher Education: Report for Task Group Two’, in National Commission of Higher Education, Government Press, Pretoria, 1995; E Michelson, ‘On Trust, Desire, and the Sacred: A Response to Johann Muller’s Reclaiming Knowledge’. Journal of Education, vol. 30 (32), 2004, pp. 37-49; Republic of South Africa, Council on Higher Education, ‘Community Engagement in South African Higher Education’, in Kagisano 6, Pretoria, 2010, pp. 1-66.
J Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, Heinemann, London, 1984.
M Gibbons, ‘Engagement as a Core Value in Mode 2 Society’, CHE - JET Conference on the ‘Engaged’ University, Cape Town, 2-5 Sept. 2006.
ibid., p. 2.
DA Schn, ‘The New Scholarship Requires a New Epistemology’.
Change, vol. 27 (6), pp. 26-34.
DA Schn, Educating the Reflective Practitioner, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, 1987.
116 The Role of Community Engagement in Higher Education P Freire, Education of the Oppressed, Herder and Herder, New York, 1972.
ibid., p. 7.
Bibliography Boyer, E., Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Princeton, New York, 1990.
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–––, Educating the Reflective Practitioner. Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, 1987.
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PART III The Intellectual and the Cultural Turn The Role of the Intellectual: Shakespeare’s Exploration of Contemplative Life vs. Active Life in The Tempest Unhae Langis Abstract:
In the hierarchy of the Greek city-state, the nobility enjoyed skol, the opportunity afforded by freedom from sustenance labour, ideally to develop virtue and perform political duties. Since the time of Plato and Aristotle, western society has engaged in an enduring debate between contemplative life and active life. While Plato and Aristotle privileged the philosophic life as supreme, their Roman counterparts such as Cicero and Seneca held more ambivalent, subtle, and sometimes convergent views about the two ways of life. This essay presents Shakespeare’s exploration of this ancient debate in The Tempest in the hopes that such an examination will engender selfreflexive insight on the relationship between intellectualism and sociopolitical engagement, between scholarship and service. Prospero learns through a hard-earned lesson the consequences of avoiding civic responsibility by retreating into his books. The Tempest underscores for present-day intellectuals the necessity despite the difficulty of straddling both the contemplative and active worlds: while knowledge sought for its own sake is always valuable, it also can and must be directed to benefit the world surrounding us at the cost of a human debacle.
Key Words: Intellectualism, socio-political engagement, civic responsibility, Shakespeare, The Tempest, education, contemplative life, good life.
***** By way of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, this essay explores the necessity of intellectuals in society yet confusion on how best to deploy their knowledge towards solving increasingly complex problems of political order - within and between nations - in the modern world. In examining the traditional opposition of the contemplative life and the active life and their convergence from a Ciceronian, public-oriented perspective, this discussion touches upon the prospects of a perceived decline of the Academy against the trends to commodify and vocationalise higher education. Indeed, the debate between contemplative and active life has entered our own experiences of teaching: we’ve had to confront the privileging of practical and technical knowledge and a corresponding de-emphasis on humanities and liberal studies in the current climate of economic decline and its imperatives of pragmatism. Going from the academic side to the political side of our role as intellectuals, we face hard self-examination into whether the politicisation 122 The Role of the Intellectual underlying the now indispensable cultural studies approach in academic knowledge effectively translates into action for socio-political change or whether our work continues to be superficial, self-absorbed, socially detached, and largely irrelevant as intellectuals continue to write for each other. In an incipient attempt to broach these issues, I invoke a more recent turn subsequent to the cultural turn: the return to ethics. Perhaps a neoAristo-Platonic ethical approach proposes a workable convergence of the contemplative and active life, of knowledge and socio-political action, of liberal and vocational studies, and lastly of the three facets of our demanding lives as intellectuals - scholarship, teaching, and service.
In The Tempest a dozen years prior to the opening act, Prospero was Duke of Milan, a prosperous Italian state flourishing in the liberal arts. As a philosopher, a lover of wisdom, Prospero relegated the governance of Milan to his brother Antonio and ‘to my state grew stranger, being transported / And rapt in secret studies.’1 According to the classical tradition, the happiest human life is one that resembles the life of a divine being, who enjoys a ‘single and simple pleasure’ - the unchanging pleasure of pure thought.Prospero accordingly sought the divine pleasure of contemplation per se over the fleeting pleasures and anxieties of thinking on worldly and human matters. Lost in this divine pleasure, he forgot the moral and civil duties for which the ancient Greek tradition of skol - the opportunity afforded by freedom from sustenance labour - was designed.3 Leaving himself vulnerable to his brother’s machinations, Antonio usurped his throne, and Prospero and his daughter were cast off to sea in a ‘rotten carcass.’4 Prospero’s situation illustrates the vexing political phenomenon that ‘the evil characters push their way to the top of the political order, while the moral good and humane characters either fail to achieve rule, or, if they do, cannot maintain it properly.’5 Furthermore, Prospero’s case poses the following critical question: ‘How does a regime combine both wisdom and power when the wise are disinclined to rule and the rulers are disinclined to consult the wise’6 The very attribute of wisdom that makes the philosopher fit to rule disinclines him to do so. Paul Cantor, Nathan Schlueter, and others have seen Prospero as a Philosopher-King, who ‘would guarantee justice by uniting wisdom and power in a person who rules more from duty than desire.’7 This is indeed what Prospero aims to do when chance brings the usurpers of his throne within the scope of his magical power and gives him an opportunity to recoup his loss and restore just leadership. Schlueter argues that Prospero’s convergence of wisdom and power as a Philosopher-King is effectuated through his exercise of Machiavellian ‘ordered virtue.’8 Insofar as ordered virtue is ‘prudence, understood as the ability to suit one’s actions according to the necessity of the time,’9 Prospero exercises Aristotelian practical wisdom, or the art of politics, the art of steering oneself effectively within the polity, whether as a ruler or a citizen.10 This practical wisdom entails acting Unhae Langis at the right time, in the right way, and for the right reason in the varying situations of temporal life.11 The convergence of wisdom and power in the Philosopher-King entails knowledge about the ends in life and how to secure them for the common good.
Prospero’s return to active life reflects the Stoic counter responses to the Platonic belief that philosophic contemplation is the highest activity of life. The Romans with their strong sense of public service chipped away at the Platonic and Aristotelian bias for contemplative life. According to Richard Tuck explains, the Stoic rendition of the debate reveals much more ambivalence: Cicero and Zeno leaning more towards civil action and Epicurus and Seneca weighing in more on the side of philosophy and contemplation.12 It is within this context that Prospero’s actions as philosopher and ruler situate themselves.
The Tempest portrays ‘what would happen if the wisest of men actually had sufficient power to make his rational and humane vision real.’Here, two qualifications are in order. As Peter Lawler notes, ‘It becomes real, of course, only imaginatively, on an enchanted island, a utopia or place that is not and cannot become real.’ More pointedly, the problems of political rule within and among nations in the modern world are cranked up considerably from those depicted in The Tempest by increased terrorism, economic competition, resource wars, and environment degradation - without Prospero’s magical powers to solve them. The play, nonetheless, addresses a number of fundamental questions about political rule that merit attention for anyone engaged in statecraft, acting in an advisory capacity, serving as public intellectuals informing the general citizenry or as educators imbuing students with technical knowledge, existential wisdom, and civil responsibility.
Shakespeare does much to illuminate us on ‘the essentials of human nature, not the accidentals of human history.’To illustrate, Prospero’s relationship with Caliban, lying at the nexus between education and political rule, examines the freedom and bondage within a political body that the rule of reason entails. Focusing more narrowly, the Prospero/Caliban relationship comments upon the roles and the rights of students within the academic setting. Shakespeare’s meditation on political rule asks Aristotle’s fundamental question: ‘is there any one thus intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom such a condition is expedient and right, or rather is not all slavery a violation of nature’15 Aristotle defines a slave by his inferiority in deliberative powers: ‘he who participates in rational principle enough to apprehend, but not to have, such a principle, is a slave by nature.’16 By this dubious reasoning (unlike his sound ethical conceptions), Aristotle concludes that ‘some men are by nature free, and others slaves, and that for these latter slavery is both expedient and right.’Prospero’s master/slave relationship with Caliban is, more or less, founded upon this reasoning: ‘Prospero’s claim to rule Caliban despotically,’ as 124 The Role of the Intellectual Lawler states, ‘is partly the philosopher’s wisdom and partly the monster’s incorrigibility.’18 Given the abolition of slavery in the present day, the plight of Caliban as a slave is less pertinent to us than certain political and legal restrictions imposed upon all citizens of modern states.
While generally agreeing that Prospero rightly returns to political rule, some scholars have justifiably been critical of his methods of control and education and note that the play testifies to Prospero’s education himself as a ruler. Prospero’s endeavour to educate Caliban epitomises the colonialist endeavour to ‘civilize’ the savages with all the self-exalting, ideological trappings of this enterprise: Prospero taught Caliban to speak, to ‘name the bigger light’ and, by allusion to Genesis and to Christian logocentrism, to love and serve as master the one who gave him the gift of language.19 But when Caliban makes sexual advances on Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, the ruler spurns the creature as a natural brute: