Monday, May 05, 2008

Pros and cons

On the downside, today is a Bank Holiday but the Cambridge term carries on regardless. Worse, it is a lovely day today in Cambridge and it would have been great to be at home with the kids.

On the upside, I had two major teaching commitments today and they reminded me of the good parts of the job. First, this morning I was convening the PhD ancient philosophy seminar. One of our current students took us through the sections of Theophrastus' De Sensibus devoted to Democritus. This is the subject of her doctoral thesis so she knows the material really well. Also, it provoked what I thought was a really interesting discussion which ranged over a variety of philosophical and historical issues, paid attention to linguistic and textual problems and, I think, managed here and there to make some good progress. That, it seems to me, is what research in ancient philosophy ought to be like and was also a good example of what can happen in a community of bright and committed students.

Second, this afternoon I ran a revision session on Plato Republic V-VII for the students at Corpus I have supervised both for the Classics and for the Philosophy Triposes. There were four students, more than we normally have in a supervision, but over the two hours again we made some good progress, aired some genuine and reasonable disagreements, and did some good thinking. I was particularly interested in how students from different courses had come to the text with different areas of interest and expertise but still managed not only to engage in close and engaged discussion but were also, or so it seemed to me, really listening to one another. They had also, evidently, been talking about this material outside the lectures and supervisions. That, is seems to me, is what undergraduate study ought to be like and was a perfect example of what can happen in a college environment in which students from overlapping disciplines live and work and learn together in a community.

Now I might head home and hope the good weather holds just a little longer.

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