The Philosophy that I Liked to Teach (I)

By Erasmo Calzadilla

The educator cannot teach the answers, because then we would not be in the presence of an emancipatory knowledge, of a philosophy.
The educator cannot teach the answers, because then we would not be in the presence of an emancipatory knowledge, of a philosophy.

As a result of what I have written about my expulsion from the university (the ruling on my appeal is still pending), some people have wondered about the philosophy that I uphold and the concrete grounds for the accusations of me being “right wing.” They also questioned whether I had given the institution more rope by speaking out on the issue. I immediately put pen to paper.

An unnamed reader, apparently someone from the university, commented here in Havana Times that the proof of my inability to teach was that my students could not answer such an elementary question as “What is philosophy?” Damn, thinking about it carefully, if they asked me that same question I might spend several years dedicated to the matter, and I too would find it difficult to answer.

One of the most interesting aspects about philosophy is that it must be rediscovered by each person who is interested in it. The person learning it must re-create it. The educator cannot teach the answers, because then we would not be in the presence of an emancipatory knowledge, of a philosophy.

If such an approach to teaching does not fit within the institution of a socialist university, it would be preferable to eliminate the program of studies. However, what is paradoxical is that any self-described socialist or leftist university should in fact be the first to adopt this method, the only manner capable of de-colonizing the minds of the future intellectuals of the nation.

To develop an idea of what is philosophy requires a long period of reading and reflection, during which time each person slowly forms their ideas in accordance with their personal experiences and interests. Yet those who contrived the program that I am accused of violating, and many of those who teach the subject, believe that the concept of philosophy discovered many years ago by the groundbreakers and their continuators, should be handed to the students by the teacher during one of their first classes.

The program asserts that all students of higher education in Cuba should know that philosophy is a science, the mother of all others, studying the most general laws of reality and thought, and that it establishes the relationship between being and thinking. This science, they say, is above all concerned with establishing whether the material or the spiritual is primary, and that true philosophy-ours, Marxist and revolutionary, confirmed by the advances of science-establishes that being determines thought.

This, with few variants, is the precept that appears in the official bibliography so that all teachers, without exception, instruct it. With hardly any modifications, its content was copied from the Soviet manuals, which nonetheless were officially declared obsolete. Anyone who differs from this “philosophy” and this manner of teaching it are put on a list, added to a collection of others (I am certain that mine has not been the only case).

Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

11 thoughts on “<em>The Philosophy that I Liked to Teach (I)</em>

  • Another point about the philosophy that is required to be taught at Cuban universities. There is no more a true philosophy than there is a true religion or a true science. Philosophy is about using logical reasoning in the search for truth, but there is a lot of wisdom in the old maxim that “nobody has a corner on the truth.” This maxim should keep all philosophers (and theologians and scientists) a bit humble and modest in our claims.

    While I wish Erasmo the best in the court ruling…

  • What is philosophy? I think the best definition is the Greek translation, literally, ‘the love of wisdom.’

    And I don’t agree with the Cuban authorities that philosophy is a science. Philosophy seeks truth using logical reasoning. Science seeks knowledge using empirical methods.

  • Ermenegildo says people at his university are happy about HT writer Professor Erasmo Calzadilla being expelled from the university. Erasmo was accused of straying from the time-worn methodology, while trying to make his classes more interesting and thought-provoking for his students. The case is currently before the municipal court where Erasmo has sued the university for being arbitrary and unjust in his firing. A ruling is expected next week.

  • Abajo a los traidores!
    Abajo a los farsantes!

  • Compadre no sabes la alegria que hay en el instituto después de tu expulsión.

  • Erasmo, I am very sorry about your expulsion. I studied Greek Philosophy at Gonzaga Unversity. I loved Plato’s Republic. Playto was always looking for what is really real. Now I am studying Tibetan Philosophy. To become enlightened for the sake of all sentient beings is their highest goal. Guess what?? The Democratic Party in the US is now calling the Democratic Party Socialists. I am very happy about that. Soon we will have affordable healthcare for all our citizens, etc., but no…

  • The excerpt quoted is from Mr. Jack Owens, Class of 1937, St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland, in the latest (Spring, 2009) issue of “The College,” Alumni magazine of St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

  • Erasmo, thought you’d be amused, re: the definition of philosophy; an excerpt from the latest issue of the alumni magazine of my alma mater: “I recall the first day of the philosophy course [in 1933]. The professor entered the room smelling a little flower, and said: ‘Little flower, as I look at thee and smell thee, I wonder what the world and thee are all about. Sitting down, he said, ‘That’s what this course is about.” We students looked at each other and gulped.” …Mr. Jack…

    There is one thing that i know and that is ..respect given is respect recieved and that people die for lack of knowledge,also power gives up nothing without struggle never did never will

  • Hell! What would Socrates think??!! Both current and future students at the U. of Habana are being denied a teacher who, to use the metaphor oft used by Socrates, would be as a midwife, bringing to birth the potential which is within their souls. Instead, this potential is now stillborn, destroyed by the educrats. Still, you are now facilitating a dialogue with others through the Havana Times, and, in the long run, may reach more learners.

  • What would Paulo Friere think of your expulsion?

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